Who can deny that gathering feedback (not just plain old generic "rate our service" feedback, but actionable customer feedback) is crucial to providing excellent service?
However, it can be very difficult to actually go looking for feedback. You have to dive in head first, tell your ego to go take a long walk, and be prepared to face some hard-to-swallow truths about your business and (gasp!) yourself.
A study by Dimensional Research shows that excellent customer service trumps pricing, ranking the highest among key influences on brand trust, and ultimately, customer lifetime value.
Needless to say, it's important to ask questions. But it's also easy to ask questions that lead the witness. "Have we met your expectations" is a lame question to ask a customer. What can you learn from it if they say yes? What if they say no? Is that information really actionable?
You can easily ask customers more actionable questions to get the most out of those rare moments when you actually have the chance to ask them. Here are a few great examples:
1. Extract more specific feedback from compliments.
Ask: "What specific items or actions pleased you the most?"
I once received the mind-blowing answer of "You do a great job communicating the state of the big picture." The "big picture" was totally not the focus of the initiative or even what I thought worked. The real focus was all about the individual touchpoints and microinteractions, but I'm thankful I received this response because it enlightened me in ways I was able to build on and expand for future projects.
2. Zero in on the "Meh" parts of the experience.
Ask: "What would you like to see us add to our inventory or layout?"
We humans often don't know what we really want. Asking "what would make you satisfied?" leads to a lot of "um" and "I'm really not sure" replies. "What should we add" encourages customers to think more about what's missing.
3. Conquer the frustrating parts of the experience.
Ask: "How could we make it easier?"
Remove the limitations your customer has. Consider ways they can help you help them. We often assume certain things can't change, then we sit frozen like deer in the headlights overcome with frustration. If we lift those restrictions on our thinking, we can better visualize how things COULD be, which is liberating and empowering.
4. Invite credit for good service where credit is due.
Ask: "Who serves you best here?"
If there is an employee who stands out for helping your customers stay loyal, this is the perfect opportunity to find out.
Bonus tip: If the customer identifies that person by name and does not offer any more information, that means this employee is best of the "just ok." If the answer includes sincere superlatives, details about WHAT is so great about this employee, or says "You need to hire more like that one," you have just identified a very valuable, "model" employee. Investigate what your star offers to customers and replicate as much as you can. Please do not forget to individually reward employees who really shine!
5. Ask specific satisfied and unsatisfied customers questions about the process and experience.
Ask: "What can we do to improve the checkout process?" or "What should we do to make browsing online easier?"
Questions like this will lead to a much more valuable insight than lame questions like, "what can we do to improve?"
When you have the rare privilege of communicating with any customer, now is your opportunity not only to make good on a poor part of the experience or transaction, but to zero in on what might be an ongoing or common issue nobody bothered to complain about.
6. Finally, ask this one consistently throughout the customer journey.
"Have we been able to provide everything you need?"
Make sure everyone, including your customers and employees are comfortable telling you when things are not perfect It gives you the opportunity to apologize, to promise to make corrections, or at least to say "Thank you for telling me" in a more timely fashion.
I like to say "Question everything and everyone!" It's a way to get truly honest, constructive feedback when you may not know what truth you need to hear. People, in general, are friendly. We like to see people happy and generally hate to criticize things they are proud of. Look for as many ways as you can to open that door. You'll learn amazing things as long as you listen with customer-centric ears.
What are the most actionable questions you like to ask customers? I'd love to hear.