As the owner of a business, your company likely started as your idea. What was once a glimmer of inspiration is now a real, live business with customers and revenue. Your business is the product of you investing your time, money and energy into it.
Now, its not always rainbows and butterflies, especially when then the complaints begin. It's tough not to take negative feedback personally. What does this random shopper know about your business? He didn't dream this place up!
But savvy business owners know that learning what customers want is key to survival. Capitalizing on customer feedback means charging out into the abyss, finding out what patrons think and using that information to build a better business.
Where to seek out feedback
It all starts by knowing where to find the best feedback. According to Gail Goodman writing for Entrepreneur.com, Americans now provide much of their customer feedback while on the run.
'Eighty-three percent of American adults own a cell phone, and 42 percent of them own a [smartphone], according to a recent Pew Internet Project report,' Goodman writes. 'Today's apps-savvy consumers want business information delivered concisely and available for reading on the fly.'
And that's where you should meet them. Goodman lists ways in which you can customize your business communications to foster more mobile feedback:
1. Make your emails and sales material mobile-friendly.
2. Build out your social media fan base, including location-based networks.
3. Encourage mobile reviews.
How to listen
You can't miss an upset customer hollering at your front counter, but the Internet allows for a miffed shopper to hold it in until she gets online -- and tells the world instead of you.
Customer service research company NBRI explains how important it is to actively listen to customer complaints online.
'Somewhere, in one of the many online streams, someone is talking about your brand or company,' writes the NBRI blog. 'It could be good, but knowing what we know from our customer service research, it’s more likely negative. Take, for example, the United Breaks Guitars YouTube Video. Almost 12 million people watched that video about poor service from United Airlines. Some companies are beginning to use 'social listening' to tune into and monitor discussions of their brand.'
Social listening companies, such as Argyle Social, help companies eavesdrop on online conversations that impact their business. Regular Google alerts and frequent social media searches can help you find some conversations on your own.
Know how to respond
The best way to respond to any customer feedback is quickly. Unless you can teleport, the only way to do this is by empowering your employees to respond, online or in person.
Jena McGregor of Fast Company explains how Trader Joe's exemplifies the art of empowered employees.
'Talk to almost any Trader Joe's customer,' she writes, 'and you'll hear a story of how the company has listened and responded. Marynne Aaronson was surprised at how quickly her Reno, Nevada, store started carrying a soy ice-cream cookie she'd requested... Susan F. Heywood was driving past her Phoenix Trader Joe's early one morning when she found it bustling, even though the store's official opening wasn't until 9 a.m. 'A lot of people wanted us to be open early, so we try to be as often as we can,' the manager told her.''
The only way Trader Joe's could make that happen is by giving its employees in every store the power to respond to their customers. 'Employees can open any product a customer wants to taste and are encouraged both to recommend products they like and to be honest about items they don't,' says McGregor.
Do you know what your customers are saying about you? Try searching for your business on Twitter and in each of Google's search categories. How can you empower your staff to respond to what you find?