“The basic of business is to stay as close as possible [to] your customers,” said Indra Nooyi, former CEO of Pepsi Co, “understand their behavior, their preferences, their purchasing patterns, etc.”
When Nooyi said this, she was touching on what should be the chief driver for innovation and growth in businesses of any size: customer feedback.
Customer feedback is one of the most important and valuable sources of information for improving retention rates, outlining marketing and sales strategies, directing product development and accelerating business growth.
However, once you’ve collected that feedback, the best way to respond to it isn’t always immediately obvious. Some customer feedback comes in the form of a score or a number, like with the Net Promoter Score (NPS) Survey. Other feedback comes in the form of detailed, lengthy reviews.
So how do you aggregate all of this information and turn it into a tangible action plan for improving your business?
How to Translate Customer Feedback Into Action
Start with a goal in mind.
As with any business endeavor, you shouldn’t just be throwing stuff at the wall and hoping something sticks. The process of collecting customer feedback should be intentional and driven by specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and timely goals.
For example, in the early stages of product development when you’re trying to create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), customer feedback will be essential for understanding how to build a product that customers love. As you enter the growth stage and begin to compete in earnest with other companies, you’ll start widening and refining your feature set.
On the other hand, maybe you have a product or service that’s found product-market fit and is growing quickly. If that’s the case, then your goal from customer feedback could be to find ways to ensure that customers are getting as much value from your product or service as possible. Feedback at this stage should be focused on understanding the entire customer experience including the onboarding process and the ongoing relationship. Staying on top of this can help ensure that your customer happiness doesn’t dip as your company scales.
At every stage, you should be soliciting customer feedback based on the details of your existing product or service and the vision that you have for your product moving forward. Ideally, you’d always have the next evolution of your offers in mind, and by asking customers what they’d think about it, you can figure out whether or not that would be a profitable path to pursue.
Solicit different kinds of feedback.
Good, actionable customer feedback must go beyond the NPS. Although the NPS is a great way to benchmark your performance against competitors in the industry, the score itself doesn’t really tell you what to do to make your product better.
Feedback can take the form of everything from scores and smiley faces to detailed surveys and behavioral data. By soliciting a mix of these, you can get comprehensive, quantitative feedback on both general customer sentiment and the reasons behind that sentiment.
For example, whenever HubSpot releases a new feature, they send a survey to their customers with a red, yellow and green smiley face, indicating dissatisfaction, ambiguity and happiness respectively. When customers respond, they ask a follow-up question and give customers the chance to type feedback into a comment box. Depending on the type of feedback they provide, a representative from HubSpot will reach out to them for more information.
This is a great example that demonstrates the different layers of customer feedback. The smiley faces provide measurable data (i.e., the ratio of red faces to green faces), while the comment box provides the context for that data. When HubSpot notices commonalities across comments, their follow-up conversation can dive deeper into the specific needs, challenges and desires of each customer and use that to form a strategy for improving their product.
Ask for feedback at every stage of the customer lifecycle.
Feedback doesn’t have to be restricted to only customers — and it doesn’t only have to deal with your product either. You can solicit feedback from every stage of the customer lifecycle about every part of your business, from your product or service to your marketing content.
For example, when a sale closes, you could solicit feedback from the new customer about which pieces of content they engaged with, how that helped them make an informed decision during the sales process and how they felt about the overall sales process. Once they’ve been using your product or service for a few months, ask them if their expectations during the sales process have been met. This will help you align the marketing, sales and service departments of your company to create the smoothest possible customer experience.
At New Breed, we solicit customer feedback after every stage of our web development process. By breaking this down into stages and tracking customer sentiment over time, we can understand exactly which pieces of the process need to be improved upon.
Figure out the “why” and “how.”
Implicit data can tell you that only 10 percent of your customers are using a specific feature within your product, but if you really want turn that data into action, you need to dig into why customers are behaving that way and how you can alter the product to make it more appealing to them.
The answers to those two questions will paint a picture of the issue and help you understand how best to solve it. The HubSpot example I used above is a great illustration of taking the what to the why to the how:
The smiley faces reveal what customers are feeling.
The comment box tells you why customers are feeling that way.
The follow-up discussion digs into how you can improve on that feeling.
We’ll leave you with this statistic: 70% of unhappy customers whose problems are resolved are willing to shop with a business again.
That means you can prevent 70 percent of customer churn by simply translating their negative feedback into action to solve their problems.
As the end-users of your product or service, customers have a unique perspective on your product, service and overall business, and they can tell you exactly what you need to do to make the experience better for them.
If you’re not soliciting customer feedback and actively shaping your business strategy around that feedback, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to transform your business, delight your customers and reduce churn.
Guido is Head of Product and Growth Strategy for New Breed. He specializes in running in-depth demand generation programs internally while assisting account managers in running them for our clients.