Your customers are constantly talking about your business. They're talking to their friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, baristas, stylists—and sometimes, they're even talking to you about it.
Are you listening?
Customer feedback is easily one of the most important elements of any successful business. Whether that feedback is positive or negative, it's absolutely invaluable information that can be used as a catalyst to make important strategic decisions. Many companies, however, are ignoring feedback when it's being delivered via social media.
Some 70% of companies ignore customer complaints on Twitter—something many experts caution against, according to Maritz Research. However, there are rare times where disregarding customer feedback is more prudent than implementing it.
So, how do you know when to listen to your customers, and when to brush off their opinions? Furthermore, why should you even recognize their criticisms in the first place?
Why should I care about what my customers think?
The first (and most obvious answer) is because your business depends on it. Without customers, you have no business. Your customers will leave in droves if they're not being heard.
Your primary reason for listening to customer feedback should be to improve customer experience. Research shows that emphasizing the customer experience affects loyalty and revenue—both of which are vital to continued success.
You can measure your customers' satisfaction via feedback to determine whether your product/service meets expectations, how your employees are treating customers, and whether customers are getting their questions answered and problems resolved. That information can be used for fact-based product strategies as well as to identify internal training needs.
Feedback also offers a direct line of communication with which you can reinforce your connection with your customers. By asking for and responding to feedback, your customers will feel valued, understand that you want to improve, and be far more inclined to refer you to friends and family. This connection is a meaningful part of customer experience, and by strengthening it, you can create an experience that is better than that of your competitors.
Ignoring feedback can backfire sometimes
Companies often believe that responding to a negative comment on social media will give complaints greater exposure or lead to the entire ordeal going viral. The truth is... it just might. However, your response is what makes all the difference.
Some 50% of consumers give a brand only one week to respond to a question before they stop doing business with them, according to Oracle. When you ignore your customers, you risk losing them completely. Maritz Research found that 83% of people who complained yet received a reply had a positive reaction to the company's response.
By publicly acknowledging your customers' pain points and working to fix them, you can further improve the all-important customer experience.
When is it safe to disregard feedback?
We've gone over why customer feedback is important and why you should respond to it. Now we're going to move into the weird grey area of when it's OK to let certain suggestions go.
A large majority of the population is resistant to change.
Just think back to the last time Facebook's timeline changed. No doubt you had a news feed full of rabid complaints. People like what they know and are likely to resist improvements to your product.
Since established users often take longer to recognize the value of new features or improvements, you'll need to view their initial criticisms with a degree of skepticism. Once they've had a couple of months to get used to the changes, you're safe to re-evaluate and follow up on their feedback.
An unfortunate truth of business is that dissatisfied customers are often the most vocal. If you're not mindful when gathering feedback, it will end up representing a small, angry segment of your audience.
To get a clear idea of your strengths and weaknesses, you need to survey a large, random sampling of customers. As for the silent majority who tend not to give feedback at all, a good analytics program will allow you to see actual product usage across the board.
If you want loyal customers who spread positive word-of-mouth regarding your business, you need to acknowledge them when they reach out to you.
In the end, it's all about the customer experience. So, if customers are angry, do whatever it takes to offer a resolution. If they're excited, celebrate with them. If they have a suggestion, put on your thinking cap and talk it out. And no matter what they have to say, take a moment to listen.
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