Customer Values; Feedback; and Listening to Their Needs
There is an old adage that the customer is always right, mostly this relates to seeing things from a customer's perspective. The need for feedback stems from a desire to learn. Ultimately each business produces products or services that are of use to others, yet not all clients view the end result in the same way. We need feedback in order to improve which is an important factor in adapting our business to meet the challenges of the day.
- How the Customer Feels
- Customer Feedback
- It is The Customer's Own Perception that Matters
- The Challenge of Social Media
- So, Are We Listening?
How the Customer Feels
The average "wronged" customer is likely to tell between 16 and 20 people how dissatisfied they are with any provider's service. This figure can be much higher when the client feels all the more aggrieved. It is a sad fact that few people write glowing letters of praise when you do something well and for many companies when they receive them feel obliged to frame them on their 'wall of fame'.
The problem: This is quite a gap in feedback!
The truth is that for the vast majority of sales transactions, whether between businesses and consumers or between businesses, there is very little that goes wrong. The product performs satisfactorily or the service was of a reasonable standard. An occasional problem (e.g. something occurring once in 300,000 products) can be an annoyance and normally either the seller or the manufacturer will do whatever is necessary to resolve the problem. However the situation can all too easily become aggravated when for whatever reason both side butt heads, each convinced of their own righteous position.
Every business needs customers to survive, they also wish to analyse and forecast what their customer desires, yet this often fails to take into mind the customer's own special perspective that makes them unique. Closing that gap is a big challenge for any business.
With customer feedback there is one important reality: if you need to know what your customers are thinking then all you need to do is ask them. Yet this can sometimes be challenging. Most caring organisations simply ask "How was our service?". This question when used alone is unlikely to provide any useful information to the product or service provider.
Faced with such a question then customers are more inclined to be polite about the benefits of the product/service rather that providing a critique. The net result is that the feedback may not be all that helpful. It is not the type of feedback that can be used as a part of the product development cycle for example.
That question has its uses, but needs to be combined combined with the question "Is there anything we can do to improve the quality of our service?". This is the type of open question that will allow for a more comprehensive and reasoned response. It allows the customer to feel that they are contributing to the future development of the service. However it is also the type of question that may be better asked in a face-to-face situation.
It is The Customer's Own Perception that Matters
Overall it is the customer's own perception that counts most, even if they are misunderstanding the supplier's intentions in any particular situation. In part this reflects the old adage that the customer is always right. This statement is of course not true, but it does highlight the importance of the client towards developing any business. For example if we are selling accounting software then it will meet our understanding of all the appropriate laws, but our interpretation may differ to the client's, which can be an important distinction. Here is where care is needed, yet the majority of situations are rarely this complex.
The Challenge of Social Media
Peoples reactions have always been instant, yet we have not always gotten immediate feedback. In the past it took time to draft a letter or email to complain - and often in the intervening time the temper cooled and the letter/email was never sent, no matter how damning the contents. Social media is making people's responses so much more instant and visible than is days gone by. Every company needs to be monitoring for discussion about their brands and involve themselves with relevant discussion.
This acts as a double edged sword in that it is both a customer services related effort as well as providing a marketing impact. Social media intervention should act to build the trust in your marketplace, yet it is not all about hard core selling, much more thought should go into the general discussions that add value to the marketplace.
So, Are We Listening?
Here we can see that there are many ways in which a customer can react to their recent purchases both within the business and consumer realms. It is important to have a feedback loop and to gather their view. at the same time we should remember that we can often learn more from the most critical of feedback than we can learn from the letter of praise. Ultimately we must recognise that things do go wrong from time to time and that this provides us with an opportunity to learn lessons, but with the customer in mind.