Customer Feedback And The Building of Solid Relationships
For this relationship to work, the e-tailer must collect customer feedback. But how? Where should that feedback go? What should the business owner do with that feedback once it is collected? Most importantly, how can an e-tailer demonstrate to her customers that she is acting on their input in real time?
Listening is key to building a relationship with customers. Their satisfaction, loyalty and repeat business are dependent upon proof that you are not only asking for their feedback, but that you are acting on it. You might offer several options for customer engagement, but finding a channel that reaches the customer in a personalized way on his time schedule isn't always easy.
Web analytics meet this need, but only partially. These tools and platforms provide you with four out of the five W's: who, what, when and where. But they leave you guessing about the "why" in customer behavior. Understanding that "why" is crucial to your relationship with customers. Acting on that understanding in a timely manner is even more important.
Before you invest in a customer feedback solution, consider what you hope to gain from it. How will you solicit customer feedback? What kind of information do you expect to receive? What will you do with it once you have it? Once you answer these questions, you can begin finding a customer feedback mechanism that you can integrate into your business. The right selection can help you increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, retention and conversion rates. In short, the right feedback tool can help you build positive, mutually beneficial relationships with customers.
So what tools are available? Perhaps you've experimented with a few. If so, you might already know that there are some options out there that only do part of the job.
Many companies have long used traditional outreach tools such as surveys and polls. Surveys -- which come in a variety of formats including emails, online pop-ups and survey landing pages -- give you a surface-level understanding of activity on your Web site based on a statistical review of answers to pre-set questions.
Surveys can be useful in extracting information about "site-level" issues, such as: "Where did you hear about our site?" "What are you looking for?" "Who are you?" Responses help you know your users better, but they don't give you qualitative information about user behavior.
Surveys also deny your customer the opportunity of steering the conversation; if he wants to talk about product selection, but you only ask him about site functionality, your feedback tool is not serving to strengthen that customer relationship. Furthermore, survey data are reviewed from a statistical analysis view, which makes it relevant mainly to large Web sites with heavy traffic or to a specific user group. Other businesses may find fewer benefits from survey tools.
An online customer feedback mechanism is an option for establishing a managed communications channel. With this type of solution, you provide your customers with a feedback button on each of the site elements you wish to monitor. This invitation to customers to begin the conversation and discuss what is important to them elicits honest, timely and unique user feedback.
Based on where you place your feedback buttons, you'll receive process-level and Web-site-level, high-quality (i.e., specific comments) and actionable data, allowing you to read and manage feedback, as well as respond to individual users. When visitors or customers wish to raise an issue, they can simply click on the feedback icon.
Customers then rate their overall impression of your site from a selection of emoticons; select their issue category from a graphical menu; and provide a brief synopsis, giving you insight into their behavior in that instance. With little effort on their part, customers deliver specific and critical information to Web site owners: the answer to why they behave as they do.
This online feedback channel not only delivers site owners the elusive "why" regarding customer behavior, it does so in a manner that is less intrusive to users than some other options. The user decides when and where and for what reason she will reach out to you. When you give the customer this power in your relationship, she is more likely to communicate with you and give you candid, actionable feedback.
Once users provide feedback in certain areas of your Web site -- the shopping cart, for example -- you can gain critical information about why users are leaving these areas. Once customers provide feedback, you can personally respond and let them know your company cares about their experiences and is available to help. By doing so, you've met the two key criteria in building strong relationships with customers: you have listened to what they have to say, and you have shown them that you are responding.
An online feedback mechanism lets you prioritize your efforts to collect user input. You can choose to actively ask your customers to submit feedback in the locations in which you need it the most, using a pop-up mechanism (you might want to use this option in your site's shopping carts process, for instance, or on your product information process). The ability to choose the location as well as the frequency of this pop-up makes this a non-intrusive approach.
Additionally, you can manage and analyze your user feedback based on your site preferences, Web analytics or CRM data, to provide a more complete view of your customers. You can also control the look and feel of the feedback form to match your brand and further encourage users to engage with you. After you receive communication from customers, you can choose to respond directly and talk with them about their feedback.
This helps to put a human face to your business; often, users have been burned by relationships with other companies and they may be skeptical about customer service. Using this approach not only lets you differentiate your business as a truly responsive one, it also enables you to personally respond to a large number of users, improving operations and back-office processes based on trending feedback responses.
Regardless of what tools you use, the most important aspect of establishing strong relationships with customers is to hear their concerns and illustrate that those concerns matter to you. Too often, companies implement a survey or provide opportunities for users to offer praise, criticism and feedback, and then the engagement ends. This resulting silence can be a relationship killer. Your customers want to talk to you. Let them, and then prove that you are listening.