How to Use Customer Feedback to Unlock Growth and Loyalty in 2024 and Beyond As businesses set new goals and standards for themselves in the new year, they should place extra emphasis on retaining customers and acting upon the valuable feedback they receive.

By Tiffany Edwards

Key Takeaways

  • Embracing customer feedback is crucial for brands aiming to stay competitive and increase loyalty in 2024.
  • Companies can harness the full value of customer feedback by setting systematic processes across the customer journey and pairing AI analysis with qualitative insights.
  • Continuously improving with your customer feedback and responding actively to customer needs will help brands offer personalized experiences and secure a leadership position in the market.
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It's time to retire the "faster horses" quote, particularly if you want to stay competitive in 2024. The quote in question has been attributed to automobile mogul Henry Ford and goes something like this: "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." In essence, it's a brush-off to customer sentiment and desire. It's also completely off-mark in an era where buyers are getting exactly what they want from brands — and moving on if they don't.

According to research from McKinsey and Company, consumers want a collaborative exchange with brands. Nearly three-quarters are asking for personalization in their interactions with companies. They're also being selective with their splurges, making it essential for businesses to listen to their needs and respond accordingly. Brands that remain in tune with shoppers will win their loyalty. Brands that don't? Well, they'll be as outdated as the Model T.

In other words, marketers and customer service professionals have to put a premium on the importance of customer feedback. Customer feedback is one of the most valuable sources of information that any organization can glean. When you have real-time feedback from your buyers, you have the inside track to pivot rapidly. You can spot new sales opportunity ideas, chances for product or service improvement, better ways to keep in touch with purchasers and so much more.

Your feedback won't always be rosy, of course. That's to be expected. Negative feedback and unhappy customers are a source of wonderful data, though. They'll tell you right away what isn't working and what may be hurting your relationship with them. As long as you act on the feedback they give, you may be able to restore the bond between your brand and a displeased buyer.

How can you start implementing a customer feedback management program that will allow you to quickly identify customer-based problems and possibilities? Try putting a few steps in place to gather, parse and act upon different types of customer feedback.

Related: How to Really Hear and Use Customer Feedback

1. Set up feedback mechanisms throughout the customer journey

If you don't already have a systematic customer feedback process, you owe it to your team to pull one together. You can use a variety of vehicles to elicit feedback, from point-of-purchase polls to review requests. Remember that feedback can be organic, too, as in the case of social mentions on Facebook or X. Together, the feedback you receive needs to be funneled into your company so you can begin to evaluate it.

Your goal shouldn't just be to take in data, though. You need to reflect upon it and react appropriately. Gartner points out that 80% of growth-focused businesses use their customer experience information proactively. Therefore, you can assume that by taking the appropriate steps to learn about what your customers want (and delivering on those desires), you're positioning your organization to get bigger. And better.

Make sure you understand the actual problem and avoid simply gut-reacting to feedback. When a customer says they want a faster horse, take a step back and think about the real problem, which in this case is that they want to get from point A to point B faster. In one Alida survey, a whopping 75% of consumers said they didn't think businesses used their feedback. Accordingly, be clear when you're doing something in response to what your customers have told you. That way, they'll realize that you're not letting their input collect dust.

2. Overlay quantitative data with qualitative data

Chances are strong that you'll use an AI-fueled system to collect and analyze customer feedback data. AI can be highly useful in finding the most common patterns around specific products and services within your customer service feedback. It can deliver fast customer retention metrics, too. That said, you can't solely rely on AI to tell you all the opportunities that lie ahead.

What's the problem with allowing AI to guide your customer feedback reactions? It isn't always able to "read between the lines." Even predictive AI systems can't tell you the "why?" That's where qualitative data comes into play. Qualitative data teases out the nuances in quantitative data. It reveals the hidden "pain points" that might not be immediately apparent in the quantitative data. You can then use both types of data to plan out your strategy.

Not sure which kind of qualitative data mechanism would give you the most comprehensive understanding of customer experiences, preferences and perceptions across your brand, products and services? Statista shows that 44% of organizations opt for in-person focus groups. Online focus groups nabbed 39%, coming in second. Sometimes, just getting people talking can answer how to make customers more likely to return, refer and review your brand.

Related: This Is Why You Should Never Ignore Customer Feedback

3. Aim for continuous improvement

Just a generation ago, businesses' customer feedback channels were far more limited than they are today. From social media to branded apps, you now have expanded ways to gather data about your buyers. Your job, therefore, is to keep your eye on trends in the customer feedback ecosystem. Those trends will help you remain on the leading edge when it comes to amassing a wealth of feedback.

Case in point, personalization is a growing trend in the customer feedback world. As mentioned, McKinsey research has shown a desire across the buying population for personalized brand engagements. Today, software can allow customers to receive polls, surveys, etc., that are specifically designed around their purchasing journey. For example, Amazon leverages customer feedback to personalize recommendations and enhance the shopping experience by suggesting products that align closely with user preferences and past purchases.

If you're not continuously improving with your customer feedback, you won't be able to give the best possible customer experience. Take a look at how you're collecting and using feedback currently. Are there gaps you could close, such as the lead time for feedback to be perused and contemplated by your team? Addressing those gaps can move your customer feedback system forward and put your company in a leadership position.

Consumers are savvier than ever and have plenty of choices. In Ford's day, they were limited in their options, allowing him to avoid the need to collect feedback. Rather than take an antiquated approach to your customers, treat them as a gold mine for the information that will take your brand from zero to 100 in no time.

Related: Transforming Customer Feedback Into Actionable Business Outcomes: The How-To

Tiffany Edwards

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Digital commerce & capabilities manager, Hallmark Business Connections

Tiffany Edwards is the digital commerce and capabilities manager at Hallmark Business Connections. This wholly-owned subsidiary of Hallmark Cards helps businesses strengthen relationships with their customers and employees by deepening emotional connections with them through life event marketing.

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