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What is Customer Feedback?

Consumer feedback applies to every part of the service economy. If your company supplies products or services to other businesses, you should also rely on feedback from clients to energize and drive your brand forward.

The customer feedback definition is nothing more than verbal or written communication from your customers about their experiences. It can refer to how they feel about your brand, your products, the service they received from your team, and much more.

It’s vital that your organization knows how to react to positive and negative feedback, so you can continually improve the customer journey.

Types of Customer Feedback

Customer feedback comes from a range of sources, and there are also different types. These forms of feedback might feature more than others, depending on the type of organization you run. To improve how your company leverages feedback, here are the four types.

Note that there’s often a crossover between different feedback types.

Structured, Solicited Customer Feedback

Structured and solicited customer feedback originates from outreach programs initiated by your company to support its future goals.

Examples of these types of feedback include:

  • Traditional surveys
  • Comment cards
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys
  • Interviews
  • Focus groups

Programs that result in structured, solicited feedback are best used to see how your brand performs at a high level.

Structured, Unsolicited Customer Feedback

Structured, unsolicited customer feedback can be sourced from operational data. Gathering information from your clients while they interact with you is the key to finding out what your target market truly thinks about the experience you’re providing.

Client Savvy’s intuitive tools support you in sourcing, organizing, and reporting data from your customer interactions.

Unstructured, Solicited Customer Feedback

Unstructured, solicited feedback is a freeform type of feedback driven by your customers. An example of customer feedback that’s unstructured and solicited is an open-text response on a survey.

Unstructured, Unsolicited Customer Feedback

Again, this type of feedback is freeform in nature, but it originates from venues not under your control. Most business leaders agree that this is the most valuable feedback for learning what a client really thinks about your customer service team or the latest product.

This type of feedback can include:

  • Social media mentions
  • Third-party platform reviews
  • Chat conversation queries

While valuable, all four types of feedback provide golden opportunities for your team to discover where it’s excelling and falling short.

Here are our top 10 benefits of client feedback for improved CX Programming:

1. Identify Raving Fans

Begin by identifying and quantifying your “raving fans.” Raving fans are important because they want to see you succeed. They have an emotional attachment to your company and your employees. Most likely, your values align with your raving fans, so, you want to find more clients like them. Raving fans are easier to serve and you tend to have higher margins on the work you do with them. Raving fans will help you find others like them. They’re willing to have a conversation to let you know what your company does well and help you identify others within their company and their professional network who will value your work like the work you’ve done for them. As such, they become an invaluable source of feedback and referrals.

2. Get More Referrals with Feedback

We wrap up all feedback requests with the Net Promoter Score (NPS) question, “How likely are you to recommend us to a colleague or peer?” A "promoter" will give a score of 9 or 10. While all “promoters” are not “referrers,” they are willing to engage in a conversation about referrals. As such, it is incumbent upon the person who has a relationship with this respondent to let them know you appreciate their willingness to refer and to take them through the referral process. Referrals will not happen if you don’t ask, so don’t let a “promoter” go to waste.

3. Verify Expectations

Know if you’re meeting expectations so you can address misperceptions early in the project when you can adjust or take action to meet those expectations. Successful professionals are more interested in relationships than transactions. Most projects, engagements, and cases last months. If they are mutually beneficial, there’s a desire for the relationship to carry on for years. As such, it’s important to check in multiple times over the course of a project to ensure expectations are being met. If not, you need to address any misalignment or miscommunication, so you meet client expectations by the time the project wraps up and you send an invoice. Doing so results in better long-term relationships and more timely payment of invoices.  

4. Identify Concerns

Enables clients to raise a concern without a face-to-face confrontation. A lot of clients, especially those with whom you have long-term relationships, are hesitant to raise their hand if something is not going as expected. They don’t want to get anyone in trouble, especially their friends. However, if they don’t let you know something is out of line, you and your client manager may be unaware of the problem. The customer feedback tool gives clients the opportunity to “raise their hand” by moving the expectation of the performance slider or by adding a comment, without having to confront anyone. It’s important to monitor slight variations, and all comments, and engage in a non-confrontational conversation to identify the cause of the concern, regardless of how minor. Early and proactive action on minor issues prevents escalation to major issues.

5. Process Focus

A client feedback program helps keep the focus on the process, not on a person. One of the challenges and benefits of client feedback management is helping clients and employees understand the methodology is based on identifying flaws in processes and communications – not people. A score that fails to “meet expectations,” indicates a failure in some aspect of the project -- scope, execution, miscommunication, or misunderstood expectations. Focusing on processes, expectations, and communications eliminates people blaming people and provides the foundation for all stakeholders to focus on solving the disconnects.

6. Active Listening

Response to all feedback lets clients know you hear them. It’s important to respond to all feedback in a timely manner – we recommend 48 hours. Even positive feedback. Let the person providing feedback know you value their feedback. It’s even more important to be responsive when you are not meeting expectations. Let the client know you heard them and you want to work with them to address their concerns. By responding quickly, you earn your client’s trust and they see you as responsive to their needs and concerns.

7. Insight

Comments provide tremendous insights into what the client is thinking. A slight up or down adjustment of the score will provide an indicator of what your client is thinking. The comments in the feedback portion of the response device add a lot more insight and clarity. In your response back to the client, you can directly address their concern – not with a correction or solution but a request to schedule a time to meet and discuss their specific concern.

8. Communication

The request for feedback opens the door for more communication and deeper relationships. Deeper relationships build more trust, which leads to more business and referrals. The results of the feedback you receive are not nearly as valuable as the conversations and connections the results facilitate. By learning what your clients like and dislike, you can refine how you serve the client. As one CX leader said, “I’d rather know what day of the month my client would like to get our invoice rather than what day his step-son was born.”

9. Response to Change

The benefits of Feedback give you the opportunity to know if expectations have changed when stakeholders change. When projects, audits, or cases last more than a few months, the players may change – on the client-side and the provider-side. Another benefit of frequent client feedback is to monitor how expectations change as people change. The initiator of the project may be a stickler for keeping everything at or under budget. Then a new project leader wants to bring the project in early and will pay more to do so. It’s important to identify different expectations from new stakeholders as early as possible.

10. Better Business Outcomes

You achieve better partnership outcomes with clients and employees. This results in long-term, mutually beneficial, and higher-margin relationships. The more you work with a client the more you get to know them and vice versa. The same is true with an employee. A “first-time” client is four times more likely to “churn” than a client with two or more projects. And, happy clients create 42% more lifetime profit. By identifying who your ideal clients are through client feedback, you can target similar clients to focus your new business efforts on, thereby making your firm more profitable and your employees happier.

These are just 10 benefits of client feedback.

Client Feedback Best Practices

The benefits of customer feedback are immeasurable, but knowing how to ask for feedback is what holds so many professional services companies back.

Over the years, the team at Client Savvy has discovered one undeniable truth: clients want to talk to the businesses they work with.

Create Short, Simple, and Nuanced Forums

Here are the essential best practices that apply to feedback opportunities:

  • Keep it Short – Customer feedback shouldn’t be long and difficult to complete. Your clients are busy. Empower them to provide an honest assessment of their experience with short questions they can fill out in two to three minutes.
  • Keep it Simple – Nobody wants to spend a long time figuring out how to access and answer the questions. Make your feedback platform simple.
  • Keep it Nuanced – General feedback, such as star ratings, are helpful visually but tells you little. While useful, you need to go further when the situation calls for it. Allow your clients to supply their own insights instead of pigeonholing them.

Focus on Motivation Drivers

Our research over 17 years of data gathering has enabled us to determine the best drivers of motivation applying to the broader client market. These seven sections must be included as part of your outreach program to reap the benefits of feedback.

  • Helpfulness
  • Responsiveness
  • Quality
  • Accuracy
  • Schedule
  • Scope/Fees
  • Other Comments

Naturally, your market may call for additional sections. For example, if you provide services to construction companies, adding a customer feedback section relating to “Safety” is a wise move.

If you remember anything, simplicity and nuance are the two defining ingredients that will enable you to maximize customer feedback benefits for your operation.

Define Your Objectives

All feedback is valuable, but not all is relevant to the situation. You must determine what you want to know at the beginning.

Segmenting your data and asking the right questions – without the risk of leading questions – begins by setting your goals from the start.

For example, tailor your surveys accordingly if you want an effective feedback campaign to learn about your onboarding process. Ensure that data is reported in isolation.

Prioritize Your Feedback

Feedback can come from anyone, and therein lies a potential issue. What happens if one of your long-term clients has the opposite opinion of a newer, high-spending client?

Adequate prioritization of feedback is a hotly contested best practice. However, most experts agree that all feedback should receive equal care and attention. Clients put their faith in you, meaning one person’s opinion is just as good as someone else’s.

While some companies do decide to prioritize feedback from their higher spending or most loyal clients, doing so at the expense of everyone else can hold back growth.

Give every piece of feedback the respect and attention it deserves.

Write Effective Questions

As discussed before, focusing on the areas the average client cares about and keeping things simple is vital, but the wording of your questions is critical.

Yes/no questions don’t tell you much. Simple number ratings questions also tell you little. Instead, give your clients space to share their opinions.

You also want to avoid inserting leading questions into your feedback campaigns inadvertently. Leading questions are named this way because they “lead’ a client to a particular answer, thus invalidating the feedback.

An example of a leading question would be: “How satisfied are you with our service?”

The problem with this question is that it already assumes that your client is satisfied with your service. Clients that spot this wording may react negatively because it gives the impression that you are speaking for them.

Avoid making assumptions about your client's feelings when writing focused and efficient questions.

Get Better Customer Feedback with Client Savvy

Harness the power of customer feedback with the next-generation solution that empowers you to extract more value from any survey. At Client Savvy, we have developed over 5,000 survey templates for our clients in every imaginable niche or scenario.

Take your pursuit of the truth one step further with our feedback software, which gathers and analyzes data from real-time client interactions. Stop missing out on two-thirds of client referrals and drive yourself to greater heights.

To begin creating and designing the perfect client experience outreach program, speak to a client experience professional from Client Savvy today!

If you like this post, you may also like 23 Business Problems CX Solves.

What are some of the benefits of client feedback you've seen or you're looking for?

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Ryan Suydam

Ryan Suydam co-founded Client Savvy in 2004, to help firms create fierce client loyalty by designing, implementing, and measuring client experiences. He has coached nearly 700 organizations and over 30,000 professionals on the skills required to be “client savvy.”

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