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Useful Customer Feedback

How do you ask customers what they’d like you to improve? I’m not asking whether you have a suggestion box on the wall or a form on your website. More important, what questions are you asking them?

The typical approach to this is two fundamental questions:

  • What did you like?
  • What did you NOT like?

To be honest, I find a lot of places which don’t even ask the first question, but it’s an important one. The fact is that the second question, the negative one, will often result in suggestions which are entirely practical. As a customer, I’d love my bank to have a free ATM within walking distance of my house. But there’s no way for them to do it for all their customers, so it’s not a terribly useful suggestion. All they can surmise is that I appreciate accessibility of ATMs, but they already knew that.

The first question can result in more useful answers. What I like about my bank is that they’ve always had great service when I needed it, but not too much to be intrusive. And I greatly appreciate their web access and free bill-pay service, which I use several times a week.

Notice how I, as the person filling out this survey, feel about what I’m writing. After that first question, I’m in a positive frame of mind. I was focusing on the positive parts of my experience, reinforcing that with the written word. And I’m making the person on the other end feel better too.

But then we hit the second question, and my anxiety goes up. I start being more careful with my words, perhaps not even mentioning some things which REALLY bug me.

There’s a better approach.

A better way, I’ve found, is to replace the second question with, “What would you like us to do differently next time?” Roll that phrase around in your mind, and you’ll see that it totally changes your attitude. When you answer this question, it feels like you’re being supportive and helpful, not as critical. It feels like the person reading your comment might actually appreciate what you’ve said. It’s future-oriented, giving you permission to be more creative.

And, as a side benefit, you might find that the most useful advice is to expand something the company is already doing well. That’s the philosophy behind strengths-based career management, but it works for businesses as well. Take something that’s a strength and make it world-class.

Go out there and ask your customers (and employees) for their feedback. But think carefully about how to ask your questions so that the responses are most useful.

Carl Dierschow
Small Fish Business Coaching USA
www.smallfish.us

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