When you’re first setting up your business, getting customer feedback is typically the last thing on your mind. After all, what if you’re just a small operation with very few customers?
Most of your energies will be directed towards making sales. It might already feel like a big win when customers buy from you in the first place and don’t request a refund.
But getting feedback is more than just about measuring customer satisfaction. If you collect the right kind of feedback, your business will reap many benefits, including:
- Gaining the Trust of New Customers - According to a Nielsen report, sixty-six percent of people indicate that they trust online reviews. If your business gathers feedback through an online review site, it would be easier for you to gain the trust of new customers.
- Increasing Sales - Research published in the Journal of Marketing Research showed that completing a customer feedback survey increased both the frequency of purchases and amount spent by customers over the course of a year.
- Fixing Problems - If you receive negative feedback, it might hurt at first, but it’s a good opportunity to improve the parts of your business you might have overlooked. This is especially true if you’re working solo or have just recently launched. Think of it as a free consultation to iron out all the kinks before you scale up your business.
- Identify Opportunities - Depending on your goal for each customer survey, you can use feedback to identify the different opportunities you might have missed. Customers may have a different idea of what your unique selling point is, they can reveal why they buy from you, or tell you about the products, services, and features they’d like to see in the future. You’ll only find these out if you ask your customers directly.
In other words, getting feedback can help you improve your business more quickly than attempting it with no input from your customers. Since feedback can be so useful even for smaller businesses, it’s important to know how to collect it strategically so that you can maximize your efforts.
In this comprehensive guide you'll learn how to do just that. Learn which tools to use to collect feedback, the best types of questions to ask, how to transform what you discover into relatable testimonials, and especially how to use this feedback to improve your business.
Which Customer Feedback Forms Should You Use?
Online feedback forms are the easiest to use, especially if you conduct a lot of your business via your website or online shops. Sometimes, a shop or sales channel you use can have its own review feature, such as Amazon, eBay, or Etsy.
But if you need to ask customized questions and gather more stats, you can use online survey apps such as SurveyMonkey or Wufoo. You can also use existing code to make your own. Or learn how make your own survey using Google Docs:
Paper forms are typically better for in-store or face-to-face feedback. There are many downloadable templates you can customize and print if you want to get started right away.
Whichever tools or methods you use, the important thing is that it's simple for your customers to understand and use. Otherwise, you won't be gathering much feedback.
How to Capture Useful Customer Feedback
Underneath the design of your feedback forms is something more important: The questions.
Vague questions like “What's your feedback?” or “How was our service?” are likely to get vague answers. These questions won’t open up the hidden things that customers like or dislike about your business.
Remember that you can ask "yes or no" questions for simple ideas, such as "Do you think you'll buy from us again?" You can also ask customers multiple choice questions, especially if you're asking them to rate how satisfied they are with a particular aspect of your business.
Avoid asking questions in a leading way, which suggest a specific answer to your respondents. For example, the question “What do you think of our beautiful designs?” already assumes that your customer thinks your designs are beautiful. The question “Why do you like our brand more than our competitor?” assumes that “liking” your brand is the reason why customers chose it.
Instead, ask, “What do you like most about our products?” and “Why did you purchase from us rather than our competitors?” and let them take it from there.
With that in mind, here are some questions you can ask your customers:
1. General Questions:
- What do you like the most about your purchased product/service?
- What do you like the least about your purchased product/service?
- If there was something you could change or improve about our product/service, what would it be?
- How likely are you to recommend our business to others?
- What was your first impression about our business?
- Who would you buy from if you couldn’t buy our products/services?
2. For Products:
- How easy was it for you to navigate our online store? Were you able to quickly find what you needed?
- What would you say to others about the product you just purchased?
- How do you feel about your purchase?
- What did you think about our shipping/packaging materials?
3. For Services:
- How would you rate the quality of our service?
- How could we best improve a typical workday with you?
- How satisfied were you with our level of communication?
- How do you feel about working with us?
4. For Selling to Businesses:
- How much does our product/service contribute to your business?
- How will your business fare without our product or service?
The above questions are too many to use on a single form, so choose only the 2 to 5 questions that will give you the information you need to know to improve your business. After all, you can change the questions you ask over time as your business goals change.
Learn more about how to write an effective online marketing survey:
What's great about collecting this feedback is that you can use it to showcase customer testimonials and to make improvements in your business. Let's look at testimonials next.
How to Use Customer Reviews as Powerful Testimonials
Once you’ve gathered even a handful of responses, you can start using them as testimonials.
Step 1 - Pick Engaging Reviews to Use
But not all customer reviews make useful testimonials. A positive but vague review, such as “Great service!” or “Will buy again” might be too generic to sway the casual visitor’s decision.
Instead, pick reviews that are specific about the type of services or products they liked. It’s a bonus if the review includes a story or relatable situations, such as in these examples from All Pro Lawn Care:
Step 2 - Ask for Permission
When you’ve selected the responses you’ll use, start by asking permission. It’s best to do this privately, either via email or private message, depending on how the customer sent you their feedback. Ask for permission as soon as you can after receiving their response, so that their satisfaction is still fresh in their minds.
You can write something like:
[Customer]!I’m glad to hear that you had a positive experience with us,
[specify what they liked about your business]. In your response to our feedback form, you mentioned that
[cite exact quotes you’d like to use as a testimonial]. We loved your response so much that we’d like to ask your permission to use it as a testimonial on our website. This can help people with similar needs figure out if we can help them.Let me know what you think!”
Step 3 - Set Up Their Testimonial
If they say yes, make sure that when you quote them in their testimonial, you don’t give away more personal information than they are comfortable with. Their first name and a general location (state or city) will do. If you’re getting testimonials from a business, it’s typical to cite the name of the business along with the name and position of the contact person reviewing you.
Step 4 - Get Final Approval
To get their final approval, send them the finished format of the testimonial as a screenshot before you publish it on your website and ask them if your citation looks good to them.
How to Use Customer Feedback to Improve Your Business
Apart from using customer feedback and reviews as testimonials for marketing your business, it’s also important to use them to make changes to your business. Pay close attention to your customers’ answers to questions about:
- What they dislike about your business, products, or services,
- the things they’d want to change or improve,
- ideas for new features or offers,
- and complaints and criticism.
You’ll know precisely what to fix in your business so that other incoming customers won’t have the same problems. An even better approach would be to contact your critical customers once you’ve made the improvements they want and let them know how helpful their feedback has been.
Now Fine Tune Your Marketing With These Customer Insights
Customer feedback can also be useful in your marketing efforts. Alex Turnbull, founder of GrooveHQ, a helpdesk app, scheduled calls with over 100 customers to get their feedback. The benefits reaped from this massive effort included: Turning unhappy customers into happy customers, identifying new types of customers that were buying their product, fixed bugs and customer issues, and improved their marketing copy in a way that truly connected with their customers.
Questions to Help Consider Your Customer Feedback
If you also want to find marketing insights in customer feedback, here are some questions to contemplate as you go over their responses:
- How do your customers perceive your business? How does this compare with the marketing messages you’ve been sending out so far?
- Why do you think customers buy from you? Based on their responses, why do they actually buy from you? If there’s a difference between the two, what marketing decisions have you made as a result of your assumptions? How would you decide differently knowing what you know now?
- Why do customers buy from you rather than the competition? What’s the competition’s messaging compared to yours?
- Are there any unaddressed customer needs or wants that were revealed by the feedback you received? How will you address them in your marketing materials and copy?
If you’re just starting out, you might not have over a hundred customers to interview, and that's fine. At least this means that you don’t have to invest as much time in gathering and analyzing customer feedback. Even the incremental improvements on your marketing can add up to a lot over time, as long as you truly listen to the needs of your customers.
Every Small Business Needs Customer Feedback to Get Better
As a small business owner, you have so much to gain by asking your customers for feedback, deeply understanding what they have to say, and strategically applying your insights to your business. Not only will it enable you to form good customer relationships, you can also increase your sales and fix problems as they arrive.
Keep these benefits in mind the next time you start feeling like investing time in collecting customer feedback is too much work. At the end of the day, the investment is worth it.
Editorial Note: This content was originally published in 2016. We're sharing it again because our editors have determined that this information is still accurate and relevant.