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260. Yearly Review Series: Utilizing Customer Feedback for Better Business Decision-Making

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260. Yearly Review Series: Utilizing Customer Feedback for Better Business Decision-Making

Customer feedback. It's one of those things I think we all know we SHOULD do and often have plans to do… but typically struggle to take action on.

But getting feedback from your customers is such a powerful tool for your business. It can give you insights into what you're doing well and not so well. It can highlight ways you can improve your messaging or your products. It can give you hints on how to expand or deepen your product line. It can show you where you should be spending your time and allocating your resources.

Customer feedback is especially important because a lot of the time we think we know what our customers want from us, but we end up being completely wrong. 

A study by PWC found that nearly 80% of American consumers consider speed, convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service the most important elements of a positive customer experience. That outweighed things like charity, fun, design, and a whole lot of other things by a huge margin. 

It’s so easy to get caught up in all the shiny objects around us, thinking we need to do all these cool flashy things to make our customers happy. In most cases though, what we need to do is just ask them what they want.

At the end of the day, unhappy customers come from unmet expectations so the best thing you can do is get clear on what those expectations are through thoughtful customer feedback.

Prefer to listen to the episode? Click here.

Types of Customer Feedback

There are a lot of different types of customer feedback, and if you were to google how to collect customer feedback, etc. you’d come across some fancy acronyms like NPS and CSAT (Net Promoter Score and Customer Satisfaction Score respectively.) 

These are aggregate scores that are calculated after having a high volume of inquiries, often based on one-question surveys that are asked after a customer interacts with a brand. You’ve probably answered these before, you know after a chat when it asks how did we, or how satisfied were you, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend, etc. 

If you do have the volume to make those relevant. Awesome, keep using them. But they don’t replace the value of the old-school methods we’re gonna talk about today which are Surveys, Product Reviews & Customer Inquiries. 

Analyzing Customer Feedback

Before we get too deep I do want to give you a few things to think about, remember, and consider when it comes time to analyze the feedback you’re looking at.

The first and most important one is that if someone expresses that your product is too expensive… 99% of the time you can, as in the words of Ted Lasso, be a goldfish and forget about it. 

Price is rarely the problem, it’s more about perceived value, and if someone thinks your product is too expensive, it just means they’re not your customer right now. We already know that competing on price is just a race to the bottom. 

Now of course, if your prices are super inflated, or your brand experience doesn’t match the prices you’re asking, that’s a different story – but rarely do I find that to be the case. 

Two, just because someone says they want something, doesn’t mean they’re willing to pay for it. 

Three, one, or two voices, no matter how loud they are, are not enough to justify making big changes in your business. 

Customer Feedback: Common Questions & Customer Service Inquiries

My favorite place to get insights into the customer experience is through customer support requests & common questions. These might be inquiries that come in through a live chat widget on your website, emails you get, or even questions and comments people ask on social media. 

This feedback is typically the most valuable in terms of understanding where you’re falling short in communicating important information to your customers. 

A great example of this is when we saw a spike in customer service inquiries, return requests, and poor reviews for a specific product at my previous day job. 

It was new to the market, it was selling like crazy everywhere, and bloggers were going nuts about it… but customers who bought the product on our website vs. those who purchased it in-store were very unsatisfied with the item. 

After chatting with those customers we quickly realized the reason they didn’t like the product was because they were using it incorrectly. Luckily we were able to talk them through it and eliminate that return – but we also realized we had to do a better job of showing them how to use it properly.

In response, I set up a post-purchase education flow that was sent to anyone who bought that particular item. Once we implemented that, the return requests stopped and we had a flood of positive product reviews. 

A non-product example but still a really valuable one is when I get questions from Lounge members that I know have been answered in one of the courses or content that is shared there. 

Of course, there are always going to be a handful of people who don’t pay attention to what’s around them, all my years working in retail stores prove that… 

But when I see multiple students asking the same thing – that’s a flag to me that says something about the way the content is presented is making it hard for them to find what they’re looking for. As the educator, it’s on me to figure out how to do that better. My resolution for that is to switch to a new platform that will allow me to better organize the content and revamp the content to be more digestible and searchable with shorter lessons.

The same can be true in your product-based business. If you’re getting the same question from multiple different customers about a particular product – maybe something is missing on the product page, or in the images; you might even need to add an FAQ section for that particular product. 

Pro Tip: These types of questions and inquiries also make great email and social content. And these are things that you can repeat again and again and again. 

If you’ve never checked out Glass Ladder & Co on Instagram, you should. Megan has been on the podcast, How to Consistently Improve Your Marketing, and you’ll see that the majority of her content is answering the most common questions people have about her product. Comparing items to each other, showing the customer what fits in the different sizes, all the ways they can be configured, etc. 

The thing to remember about this type of feedback is that for every person who took the time to reach out and ask the question, there are likely 10 more who didn’t bother and decided to just go somewhere else instead. 

While you may feel like you’ve explained all the things in as many places as possible, if the questions are still rolling in, there’s likely more you can do. 

How to Encourage More Open-Ended Feedback

While this type of open-ended feedback is some of the most powerful, it can be the hardest to get because it’s not necessarily based on your asking for it. 

And not that you necessarily want to flood your customer service inbox with requests there are some ways you can encourage this type of feedback. 

Adding a Chat Bot to Your Store

Using an automated chatbot is a great way to get information from your customers without having to invest additional resources. Sure, you’ll need to get the chatbot set up but after that, most of the heavy lifting will be done automatically. 

Even if you just get started with frequently asked questions that are already answered on your site somewhere else, getting to see the actual data on which questions are coming in most often can be super eye-opening. 

Most of these tools will allow you to set a delay and then have the chat box open up automatically to encourage the customer to engage with it. You’ll want to be careful with this so you don’t annoy the customer, but it can be super helpful to bring it to their attention. It’s likely they don’t know all the A’s to their Qs are at their fingertips with the help of this chatbot, ya know?

If you do add a chatbot, whether you have it pop up automatically or not – please make sure to look at your site in incognito mode on desktop and mobile. A lot of times we have widgets and pop-ups triggering that we don’t even realize, often overlapping each other. Just be aware of that. 

Ask for a Reply in Your Post-Purchase Emails

If you’re still new to business and it doesn’t make sense to invest in automation tools just yet, even asking for a simple email reply in a post-purchase thank you email can go a long way into getting some information from your customers.  

Not only will it feel super personal to the customer making them feel special, but it’s also a great signal to the email service providers and will help you deliverability. 

Add a Product Recommendation Quiz

Utilizing a product recommendation quiz can also be a great way to gather customer feedback. It won’t necessarily tell you much about the customer experience, but it will give you insights into what your customers are looking for from a product perspective. 

This can be especially powerful in figuring out what might be missing from your product assortment. Not that you need to go out and add everything under the sun, or add something new when one person has asked for it… but if you see a pattern in the answers like lots of people are looking for a specific color or style of item that you don’t have a lot of, it might be worth taking some time to think through what that could look like for you. 

Ask for Feedback on Social

If you’ve got a solid social presence and an engaged audience, utilize things like the question box on Instagram stories, polls, or even setting up a chatbot on Instagram to answer FAQs. 

Customer Feedback: Product Reviews

Another great way to get insights from your customers is through product reviews. You can take a deeper dive into everything you need to know about product reviews on episode 16 of the podcast, but I do want to touch on a few important things here. 

First, there is SOOO much that we can learn from our product reviews. People will tell you why they bought something, what they loved about it, what they didn’t love about it, what they wished was different, what they were surprised by. You’ll also get insight into your overall customer experience with things like shipping times, packaging, etc. 

Honestly, customer reviews are gold. Not only for your own insight, but also to convert other customers. 

Pro Tip: Use screenshots of positive reviews in your emails to increase conversion and use the words your customers are using in your marketing. If someone says they love the packaging, use that as a selling point. If they talk about how it makes them happy to see your art on their wall or makes them feel powerful when they wear your clothing – use those words when you’re selling your product. 

Dealing with Negative Reviews

While positive reviews are a good thing, negative reviews can be a good thing too. Like open-ended customer feedback, negative reviews can tell you where you’re missing the mark on educating your customer, holes in your customer service process, or even defects in your product. 

Maybe you have a customer who complains that your candle didn’t burn for as long as it was supposed to, or that something fell apart with normal use. Sure, they might just be a negative Nancy, but I would approach all negative reviews as if they’re valid first and make sure you investigate and see if you can replicate the issue. 

If you do get a negative review it’s really important that you respond to it. Not only to provide a good experience for the person who is leaving the negative review but also for anyone else who might see it. You’ll want to avoid removing reviews even if you can, as that might just make the customer even more angry to see you “suppressing them.”

Instead, you’ll want to respond and either let them know you’ve reached out to them directly through email if you have that information or ask them to contact you directly. 

When potential customers see that you’re quick to respond and resolve issues, that will go a long way in building trust with them. 

What if You Don’t Have Enough Reviews?

If you’re newer to business and you don’t have a lot of reviews yet, looking at reviews of other similar products and businesses can still be super helpful. If you resell other people’s products and you can get reviews on the exact item you sell, awesome. 

If you make your product, find something similar to see what customers are talking about. What do they love and hate about the product? This can be super powerful for product development as well. If you see a pattern in what customers don’t like about something, not only can you make yours better, but you can use that as a point of differentiation in your marketing. 

Customer Surveys

Surveys are super powerful because they give you a lot more control over the information you can collect. Surveys can give you the most well-rounded set of information depending on where and how you present it to your customers. 

I recently sent out an end-of-year survey in the Lounge. I wanted to get a general pulse on what members got the most value from and I’ve some other ideas floating around in my head that I want to implement or facilitate better in the program, so I wanted to see if there was any interest before I went all in those things. 

While a lot of the information I received confirmed what I already knew, some of the new things I was thinking about didn’t seem to be all that important to them

I’m so glad I got that feedback first. It doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t still implement those things for the people who’d appreciate them, especially if it’s relatively simple and doesn’t require a ton of resources or ongoing maintenance… but now I have a better handle on what I need to be prioritizing and where I should put my energy. 

There are multiple different types of surveys and we’re gonna touch on a few here. 

The General Survey

The general survey is essentially what I just talked about with the Lounge. I asked a mix of multiple-choice and open-ended questions about a few different topics related to the program. It was positioned as an end-of-year survey based on how I wanted to evolve the program in the new year and offered an incentive for everyone who completed it. 

These can be the most insightful, but they will also typically get the fewest responses because they’re more in-depth have more questions, etc. 

I’m not a survey expert, and there are all sorts of stats and strategies out there for creating great surveys, there are resources at the bottom of this page… but ultimately, this is the one you’ll want to use very intentionally; when it really matters. 

This is making me think of the Friends episode when Pheobe starts playing out front of Monica’s fancy restaurant and they end up fighting and polling the people in the restaurant ultimately ruining their experience. 

Okay, so it’s not quite that dramatic, but you get the point. Try not to be annoying with your general surveys. Quarterly, or end of year/beginning of year is a good cadence for something super general. 

If you wanted to do something more targeted and specific around getting insights on specific products you’re thinking about bringing in or anything like that – you can certainly do that more often. I probably consider that more of a poll… but you get the idea. 

The Purchase Survey

This is typically a one question open-ended survey you stick on the thank you page after someone places an order simply asking them what made them choose this particular item. 

This is often implemented with a higher-tier review platform, or even some post-purchase cross-sell platforms, I think ReConvert has this. 

Asking questions at this stage is super powerful because customers are most engaged with your brand the moment after they buy from you, and they’re in a good mood because they just got something they wanted or needed. 

This can give you great insight into the type of language your customers use and what to say in your marketing. 

The Cancellation Survey

If you offer any sort of recurring subscription the cancellation survey is a must-have. Not only does it give you insight into what you can do better, but it also tells you how to follow up with that customer in the future. 

One of my first email clients was a subscription product and we used the cancellation survey to create different follow-up automations based on their answers. If they said they had too much product, we added in a longer delay to follow up with them in the future and bring them back. 

If they didn’t like the product, we sent them a follow-up survey to get feedback about how it could be improved. 

If they said they couldn’t afford it… well, first we discussed offering a discount to get them to stay and then we decided that while it’s a luxury product for that market, it’s a low-priced product overall and if they were citing price as the issue, then they weren’t our customer and we were happy to let them go. 

Pro Tip: As mentioned earlier, you need to take any negative feedback about price with a grain of salt. 

Here are some additional tips & tricks for creating a great eCommerce subscription customer experience.

The Exit Survey

The exit survey is typically presented to a customer when they’re leaving a website without taking any action. You’ll mostly see this on SaaS products or larger chain websites, but you can still utilize this strategy. 

Ideally, you’ll want one multiple-choice question that’s super simple to answer.  Don’t ask an open-ended question here, you likely won’t get a lot of responses because it will feel like too much work. Here is a great example of an exit survey to use on your eCommerce website.

Maybe, instead of a survey, it’s an assist. Ask yourself, how can you help the customer find what they’re looking for? Maybe it’s directly them to your quiz, maybe it’s encouraging them to engage with your customer service, or maybe it’s sending them to a product FAQ page. 

The Why You Didn’t Buy Survey

You’ll mostly see this type of survey in businesses like mine, often at the end of an evergreen funnel or after a live launch, but you can absolutely use the concept in your product-based business too. 

The trick here is to be intentional about when you implement it. Customers are going to be engaging with your brand a lot and not making a purchase, you’re not necessarily going to ask them this every single time. But it could work great for first-time customers who go through your welcome flow and any follow-up best seller flow, or even after you launch a new collection. 

And it doesn’t only have to be in survey format. You could ask this in a poll on Instagram, ask for a reply to an email, or even just ask them to click on their answer in an email. 

Again, you’ll want to be sure to take any price objections with a grain of salt, but the why you didn’t buy survey could uncover a disconnect in your messaging or the product you were offering, or a host of other insights. 

The Data

There is one other type of customer feedback I want to talk about before we go and that’s the data. Yep… you know I love me some data. 

Even though this isn’t direct communication from the customer, there is still A LOT of insight that can be pulled from the numbers you’re looking at. And this isn’t just limited to your website and email data. There are major clues in your product sales too. 

Check the resources at the end of this page for more support around pulling insights from your data.

Your Next Steps

First, I want you to dedicate some time to reviewing any of the insights you already have from your customers. Dig through those reviews, social comments, customer service inquiries, etc. 

Then start thinking about where and how you can actively insert more opportunities to get feedback from your people. 

You don’t have to try and implement these all at once. Please don’t. 

Ask yourself what is the most important information you want to know about your customers right now, what are the biggest question marks you have, what is the most urgent thing you need answers to?

For me, it was getting feedback on the Lounge so I knew where to focus in the new year. For you, it might be getting more product reviews, or solving a common question that is flooding your customer support email. 

Once you have that in place, then you can move on to the next thing. 

Hey, I'm Jessica

I support scrappy female entrepreneurs with actionable steps & strategies to grow and scale the traffic, sales & profit in their eCommerce businesses. 

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