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Five mistakes to avoid when asking clients for feedback

Ongoing feedback from your clients and customers is a powerful tool when undertaken the right way. Feedback provides several benefits:

  • Done correctly, it is seen as a positive by your clients as an indicator of your intent to improve and perhaps expand on the products and services you deliver
  • As Dan Kennedy says, “Inspect what you expect”. Even if you think your clients are happy, it’s always a good insurance policy to check that from time to time.
  • Again, when done properly, the feedback you receive could make a big difference to your business in terms of the opportunities it opens up
  • You could increase sales revenue depending on the responses of some clients
  • Identifying and addressing clients who may be at risk of defection allows your business to turn that around and retain these clients

So, asking clients for feedback is good.

If you have a service firm and can take a personal approach with this exercise, your feedback will be richer and more meaningful to your business. This is far more powerful than generic feedback asking a customer to rate a service transaction out of 10 (like companies with thousands of customers ask).

In my opinion, how you ask and what you do with the feedback is where most companies get it wrong. I see companies make these five mistakes consistently:

One – Give your clients work to do 

What I mean by this is that you send them a survey or a questionnaire to fill in. Don’t we all have the belief that there aren’t enough hours in the day to get done what we want to get done? So why would you send your clients some homework to do? You’ve put the onus on them to do something for you, which can make them feel resentful and just irritated. Mistake.

Better still is to schedule a time to talk with each client to ask a few questions. You must take responsibility for recording their answers. Make the exercise as easy as possible for them. 

TwoAsk too many questions 

Try not to have more than five or six questions. I have found that the best approach is to simply tell your client that you have five questions to ask them. Most are happy as it’s only a small number and won’t take up too much time. If they think the exercise will take half an hour, they won’t be too keen to participate. Would you be? Probably not.

Make sure you can extract the insights you need in only a few questions. I have found over the years after fine-tuning this exercise that two key questions deliver the greatest returns to your business. This leads to my next point.

Three – Ask questions that fail to deliver insights

I mean by this, when you review the answers to the questions you’ve asked, your response is more ‘so what?’ than ‘so interesting!’ All your questions seem like valid ones at the time, but when you get the responses back, you realise there is nothing to be learned or valued. 

The only way to make sure that you will receive useful insights from the questions you ask is to do a test with one or two clients first. Review their responses and check that the feedback is of value to your business. Failing to do so is a big mistake as all you end up doing is wasting your own time and your clients’ time.

Four – You fail to follow up and share results

You need to share the results with your team, to understand your clients’ perception of your products and service delivery. They can contribute to ideas and solutions.

Most importantly, you need to share the results with your clients. There is nothing worse than asking clients to give up their time to engage with you and help your business improve and not close the loop and share with them. Let them know what the general feedback has been from all your clients and what you will do in response. Also, let them know what you will do specifically in response to their feedback.

When you fail to follow up, clients see their engagement in this exercise as a complete waste of time and won’t do it again. You’ve left a very negative perception in their mind by not following up and taking action.

Five – You do it once only

If you get this exercise right, it should be part of your marketing toolkit and used on regularly. You will need to make the judgement call on how often it is appropriate for your client base and business. You may do it annually or every three years, or some timeframe in between. Just remember, it needs to add value to you, and in turn, the response from your business to your clients must add value back to them.

However, do not over-use the feedback tool and make sure that the approach is structured and well-organised every time. 

Avoid these big mistakes, and customer feedback will contribute to the continuous improvement of your business.

Read more: Negative feedback: It’s a gift, don’t waste it

Read more: Let’s Talk: How to attract and retain loyal customers

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Jenny Stilwell

Jenny Stilwell

Jenny Stilwell is a strategy advisor and business mentor who has helped hundreds of business owners through the challenges of growth. Her first-hand experience is unique, both as a mentor to CEOs and as CEO of her own and others’ companies, including being one of few women at the time to head up a publicly listed company. She is the author of The 7% Club – How to be one of the 7% of businesses that make it beyond $2M in turnover.

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