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Fortune Partners Article
Focus on Feedback
Social media has brought a new urgency to the way companies interact with customers. It’s no longer enough to acknowledge feedback and promise to pass it along, or come back later with a reply. On public forums like Facebook and Twitter, brands are forced to respond immediately and with the promise of a solution, or risk losing existing and potential customers.
But as important as social media is for brands, it can also distract from other feedback channels that are just as critical, such as email and the phone. Brands with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89 percent of their customers, according to a survey from the Aberdeen Group, compared to 33 percent of those with weaker strategies.
That means responding to Twitter tirades, opening up online chats, answering emails, picking up the phone and even replying to handwritten letters — all with the appropriate speed and tone.
“The best companies take the time, money, and effort to respond to every comment,” says Shep Hyken, a customer service and experience expert and best-selling author. An estimated 89 percent of consumers stop doing business with a company if they consider their customer service to be inadequate.
Customer feedback is a two-way street
Companies need to both seek out and manage incoming feedback if they want a bigger picture of how consumers perceive their product or service, says Hyken. He points to statistics showing that, for every customer who takes the time to complain, 26 others remain silent.
“People will give you real feedback depending on how you ask for it and the way you ask for it,” Hyken observes. “Someone who volunteers feedback, good or bad, typically loves you or is mad at you, so you have to catch as many people in the middle as you can.”
But brands need to take a measured approach to asking for opinions, to avoid so-called “feedback fatigue.” For most industries, that means surveys should be distributed sparingly and questions need to be short and take little time.
“If you want to irritate me as a consumer, give me a survey that takes 20 minutes,” says Hyken. “If you want to make me happy, give me two or three questions to answer that takes about 20 seconds.”
It can also mean exploring other types of feedback channels, including observations that come from online customer behavior. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools offer invaluable insights into customer behavior across social and other channels, helping companies respond more quickly and with more context to direct customer feedback. But whether the feedback is solicited or voluntary, brands need to pay attention to the more subtle cues in the feedback loop.
“Think of feedback as an opportunity to improve, whether it’s positive or negative,” Hyken says. Too often companies gloss over the good stuff. Instead, they should ask why others aren’t saying the same thing. Is there an inconsistency in the service?