Leveraging Feedback and Referrals for Growth
Operating a small business can be difficult. Usually there are many moving parts managed with limited resources. One has to wear several hats, and time is limited and valuable. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way you could ensure that once a customer purchases your product or service and has had an amazing experience with you, that they are now a loyal customer for life? That they keep coming back again and again, and on top of that they tell all of their colleagues, family and friends about how great you are so they do the work of getting people in the door for you? Unfortunately, nothing is so easily guaranteed; however, being sure to collect feedback and referrals once a transaction has taken place is a solid step in the right direction.
What happens after a successful transaction opens the door to create new business for yourself, but it’s often overlooked because it happens after the exchanging of money for goods and services, which is often where some people leave off. Gathering and promoting feedback can lead to big wins, content for marketing and promotion and insights into paths for improvement, but what kind of feedback should you be looking for and how do you get it?
What’s the most important feedback to get?
Ratings and reviews.
How many stars do you get on a scale of one to five? Do you get a thumbs up or a thumbs down? There are so many rating and review sites on the Internet. Google, Facebook, Yelp!, Trip Advisor… those are some of the biggest, most trafficked ones, but the list goes on.
As much as people depend on these sites when evaluating alternatives, we would venture to say that many don’t actually post ratings and reviews themselves. Encourage your customers to rate their experiences and leave feedback on the sites most important to your business. You can do so at many different customer touch points, whether it is at the point of purchase with your staff, on signage in your establishment, through an email campaign, or via social media.
When customers do leave feedback, thank them appropriately. Note that while compliments are great, and everyone wants to hear affirmation of their hard work, negative feedback is often more valuable. Negative feedback offers an opportunity for improvement on a problem you may not have noticed, and it can also be an opportunity for customer recovery, which if you can meet or exceed expectations for customers on a second try, these customers are proven to be more loyal customers in the future.
Net Promoter Score.
The Net Promoter Score is a business metric devised by Bain & Company that asks one simple question: “On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being not likely at all, and 10 being extremely likely) how likely are you to recommend us to colleagues, friends and/or family?” Knowing your NPS gives you a simple performance metric that you can easily see moving. 9s and 10s are customers you want to identify and work as closely with as possible.
Referrals are the best possible feedback you can get. Customers who were so happy with their experience with your product or service that they brought another customer to you. If you are getting a lot of referrals you know you are doing something right, so keep it up! If you’re not seeing a lot of referrals, it could be that you’re not correctly identifying your lead funnel, or it could be that you are simply not asking for them.
How do you get feedback?
Put a process in place.
Gathering feedback is a task that often slips through the cracks in small businesses because there are so many other things going on. If you make collecting feedback a part of a process it starts to become automatic and you don’t have to think about it any longer. Determine the best time to collect feedback post purchase and implement a method that makes the most sense for your customers.
Ask for it.
One you’ve figured out the appropriate time and way to gather feedback, the most important thing to do is actually ask for it. Many businesses don’t get feedback they want and need simply because they don’t ask for it. Ask and you shall receive!
Use tools that can automate the process for you.
Have you ever visited a website and when you either landed there or tried to leave, a dialog box popped up asking if you had a few minutes to spare for feedback? While most people dismiss this dialog box, some people actually do leave feedback, and if someone is willing the take the time to give you feedback, odds are what they have to say is pretty important. You can easily implement tools like this to gather feedback from your customers that gets emailed directly to the appropriate party. Wordpress sites have widgets for collecting feedback. Or you could use a tool like Survey Monkey along with your email marketing tool to administer a survey for feedback.
Incentivize customers for leaving feedback and providing referrals.
Offer customers a discount during their next visit for providing feedback, or implement a graduated referral program that provides customers with more perks with the more referrals they bring to you. Brand evangelists will often be responsible for getting a larger percentage of visitors through the door. Try to identify your most avid users and reward them with special gifts greater than the average incentives.