How to Discover what Customers Already Think of You
September 28, 2022
Todd Henderson

How to Discover what Customers Already Think of You

“Who cares what customers think about us? They’re buying from us, aren’t they?”

That’s the refrain of the lazy branding expert. They’re happy to have customers—but not exactly too eager to find out what they might have to say.

But what customers think of you isn’t just important for marketing. It’s important for understanding how your entire brand is coming across.

It’s tempting to think you can launch one simple customer survey and be done with it. But if you want true insights into what you’re doing wrong—and what you’re doing right—you need to go a few levels deeper. You need to incentivize customers to not only respond to your surveys and calls for feedback, but incentivize them to be as honest and direct about that feedback as possible.

It can be a painful process, but when it comes to identifying your blind spots: no pain, no gain.

Why does it matter? Understanding your customers’ pain points is essential in preventing your brand from gaining a poor reputation. According to Optimonk, customers with an unsatisfactory experience with your brand are likely to share that experience with as many as 8 to 10 people. The only way to cure this veritable multiplier effect: learn what problems your customers are having and fix them. Here are a few strategies and tools you can use to ensure that your blind spots aren’t larger than you’d like:

Get Your Customers To Be Honest: Survey Incentives

Have you ever seen a company send out a survey with promises of a $1,000 gift card for one lucky winner? It’s not a coincidence; these brands are actively looking to incentivize honest, broad surveys to ensure that they improve their results.

Why is honesty so important?

From the executive-level perspective, you’ll find no shortage of customer complaints. You may even have entire departments that address these complaints. You might employ AI software to deal with these complaints online. But you’d be surprised how few of these complaints are getting through.

According to Forbes, a comprehensive study by the Technical Assistant Research Program found that only 4% of customers with a complaint will express that complaint directly to the company. That leaves 96% of customers with complaints to tell other people.

That’s not what you want.

Survey incentives accomplish more than just getting more accurate data:

  • Survey incentives help you discover the other 96% of customers. When a customer feels heard, they’re more likely to view their experience with you as at least satisfactory. They want to feel that even if something’s wrong with something they purchased, they at least had your ear and you were willing to listen. Actively promoting your surveys helps broaden the number of customers who feel heard—the 96% of customers not telling you about their complaints.
  • Honest feedback is more valuable feedback. Although hearing something needs improvement isn’t always pleasant, isn’t it better to get honest feedback in the long-run? Honest feedback will help you build a better company and streamline those processes that you didn’t know needed streamlining.
  • Survey incentives increase the sample size. Yes, that means more accurate data. But beyond that, increasing the sample size will give you a sense of the size of a problem in the customer’s mind. Something that you might not think is a big issue can reveal itself as a deciding factor, such as whether your online checkout page is too complicated. Little clues like these are invaluable for building a better company.
  • Let customers know that the survey won’t be a drag. Admit it—when you get a chance to win $1,000 in your email inbox, are you all that excited? You might not be, because you figure the chances to win are slim and the survey itself will be—well, a drag. Set clear expectations for the survey upfront and let customers know that it will be brief and easy to complete.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Surveys

Use multiple choice questions when possible. It takes much less cognitive effort than answering open-ended questions.”

-Shep Hyken, Forbes

Is it enough to have a survey incentive? That will help attract people to the survey in the first place. But getting the most out of the surveys themselves is another proposition entirely. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you do launch customer survey campaigns:

  • Ask directly. Don’t be afraid of the feedback. Ask customers what’s wrong. Ask them to come up with the things you believe may be blind spots. Throw out any old misconceptions about what you want customers to say and give them a chance to be as brutally honest as possible. The more direct your questions are, the more you’ll encourage customers to provide valuable feedback.
  • Avoid vagueness. You may think you’re giving your customers an opening by leaving a wide range of open-ended questions on the survey. Don’t. Vagueness doesn’t serve you and it doesn’t serve the customer. The more specific you can be with your questions, the better. You want to identify actionable steps for your company, not approach it with a vague sense of improvement.
  • Keep it brief. Remember that point from the previous section about the survey not being a drag? We mean it. The shorter your survey, the more likely it is that a customer is going to fill it out to the end and submit it. It’s better to end up with more surveys in your inbox than a wide range of half-filled out surveys that ultimately tell you nothing.

Beyond Surveys: Strategies and Tools for Gathering Customer Feedback

There are a few great tools you can use to send out surveys, including:

If you’re new to surveys, don’t worry about implementation—these tools make it possible to incorporate your surveys into a broad range of Ecommerce and customer service platforms.

But once you have these surveys in place and you implement the strategies listed above, is there more you can do to get valuable feedback from your customers? Are there other avenues that might work just as well? Email surveys are powerful, but you’ll find that there are a number of ways for you to get high-quality feedback, including:

Monitor Your Social Media

Social media isn’t just there so you can broadcast to your customers with a megaphone. It’s there to be a two-way street. And as such, social media should be one of your first go-to tools for understanding what your customers are saying about you.

The problem: it can be difficult to find the nuggets of genuine insight into the broad sweep of social media platforms. That’s why you’ll want to incorporate some tools designed to separate the wheat from the chaff:

  • HootSuite, for example, is a full-time social media management tool that has a wide range of comprehensive tools you can use. One of those tools is setting up social media streams to pay attention to what people are saying within your sector. Your team can even use HootSuite to monitor and respond to customer issues as a team.
  • If you want to run a quick search to find out what people are saying, you might try Social Mention. This will provide you with the analysis you need to get quick insights about what people are saying, which is particularly valuable during unique campaigns and product launches.
  • SproutSocial is a tool aimed at connecting brands with their followers, which is essential for any brand that has viewed social media as a one-way street for too long. The unified social inbox structure makes it possible to avoid missing out on customer complaints and further frustrating those customers who need help the most.

To keep things simple, try to stick to one tool for your social media needs. If you already have one tool in place, you’ll want to check to see if there is already a customer feedback feature you can access.

Incorporate Customer Feedback into Your Existing Chat Structure

If you already incorporate chat support on your site that employs the use of AI, you’ll want to ensure that your preexisting structure ends with a feedback rating.

Think of this feedback not as a unique campaign, but as a piece of your overall customer relationship puzzle. You’ll find all sorts of customer relationship management tools that can offer you the infrastructure you need to incorporate these features—the only question is whether you’ll incorporate them.

If you don’t have that structure in place, you might want to consider adding a customer relationship management tool to your strategies. Tools like Zoho CRM and HubSpot CRM are highly versatile relationship management programs that will give you the infrastructure necessary to gather feedback in the first place.

Making Customer Feedback Work for You

If you incorporate the ideas you’ve learned here, what’s left? What should you do with the mountains of data? It’s one thing to identify a blind spot; taking care of it is another thing entirely. But as you go through, make sure to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How can you prevent problems before they occur? Don’t try to solve problems after the fact. Try to get an understanding of where the customer problems are coming from, and then create the solution that naturally resolves these problems. For example, a checkout page that’s too complicated isn’t fixed by creating a new instruction page, but by simplifying the checkout page itself.
  • Look for suggested solutions. Be open-minded here. Do customers have good experiences with other companies that they’re readily telling you about? Sometimes these can serve as more than clues—they can be outright directions for improving your company and closing the gap with your competition.

Customer feedback can be one of two things: a curse or a blessing, depending on how you use it. If you gather the best data and understand what your customers think of you, you’ll be one step closer to achieving the brand you’ve always intended for your company.