Are your customers truly happy with your products or services? It's important to know -- the answers could shape what you offer in the future, how you price it, or where you sell it.
But everyone is sick of those annoying pop-up online surveys, and of auto-robot phone surveys, too.
How can you get more honest feedback from your customers? Here are some tips from marketing consultant Carol Beesley, who works with the Small Business Administration -- plus a couple ideas that have worked for me.
1. Take an online survey. You might include a link to a survey on Survey Monkey -- or one of the other free, easy survey tools -- in a product receipt, for instance.
2. Take an online poll. There's a reason polls are popular -- people love to spout off their opinions! Polls somehow seem more intriguing and less compulsory than customer surveys. Create one as a blog post on your company blog, or post it on your company Facebook fan page -- Facebook provides a super-easy tool for setting it up, and there are a few outside apps that work well, too.
3. Ask what else you should do. Many companies are all about getting feedback on that thing the customer just bought. But chatting up customers about what else they'd like to see from your company can open the door to great new revenue-generating ideas.
4. Offer a prize. I've had a lot of success combining surveys with a contest, as in "the person who submits the most interesting question (or answer) wins a ticket to my bootcamp." Or a free half-hour consultation. Or a free lunch. Or a chance to take home the first one of your new product. Be creative.
5. Give every participant something. Do a one-day giveaway for every customer who offers you some feedback in a 24-hour period. This can be a great way to find out what's on customers' minds that could help you design a new product. For instance, I got great information by doing free blog review days on my writing blog, in the process gleaning information about my prospects' problems that helped me create Webinars tailored to meet their needs. In exchange, all the prospects got a little free advice. These may take a time or money investment, but they are terrific for engaging customers and building their loyalty to your brand.
6. Check your feedback on other platforms. If you sell on eBay or Amazon.com -- or have the kind of product that might get a review on Yelp -- keep an eye on the customer reviews. Also watch Twitter for mentions of your company or product name to spot complaints.
7. Create a community. One of the best ways to learn what people really think is to eavesdrop. If you create a community forum on your website, Facebook, or even on a site of its own, you can simply read the forum chat threads and learn how customers use your products or services, and whether they're pleased with the experience. The advantage here is the market research angle is much less overt, and customers may be more honest with each other than they might if they talked directly with you.
How do you get good online customer feedback? Leave a comment and tell us your approach.