Get Actionable Feedback

It all starts with an invitation.

by Dennis L. Prince
- Nov 19, 2015

These days, it's not difficult to get customers to say something about your business or your products. Just try to stop them.

Shoppers have plenty to say and share, face to face, or through the various social channels, where they talk about what they bought and what they thought about it.

Before a transaction even begins, invite prospective customers to ask questions

When they've bought something from you, what they say about it (and about you) is exactly what you need to hear.

But sometimes the feedback you get isn't as helpful, telling, or even as honest as you and your business need. What you need to do is to get your buyers to talk more precisely about their experiences with you and what you sell. Here, we tell you how to do just that.

First, invite them to sound off

It's as easy as saying, "Please tell us what you think." OK—it's a little more involved than that, but your path to getting useful feedback begins with that willingness to hear what your customers think. With that as your feedback-welcoming foundation, all you need to do is one (or more) of these things:

  • Before a transaction even begins, invite prospective customers to ask questions about anything pertaining to the items you sell and the method(s) by which you sell them. This is the start of open feedback that lets you discover if your sales method is clear and inviting.

  • After the transaction, encourage buyers to let you know how they liked their experience and purchase. And, yes, that can be a loaded question that could easily beget a snarky, "I didn't like it" reply; that's good because you can immediately ask why. This can be done with an easy-to-find link on your store site or as an embedded link in an email.

  • Be fully responsive when you get feedback, thanking the customer for her time to share her thoughts. You can do this individually as feedback is received, or you can establish an auto-respond mechanism from within your email account or from your website.

  • Show that good feedback matters by rewarding thoughtful shoppers with reasonable next-purchase discounts or playful baubles. Oftentimes, this encourages buyers to offer even more useful feedback, including information about their experiences with your competitors, as a result.

  • Post the feedback… as a demonstration of your commitment to make your business the best possible

  • Post the feedback you get for others to see. Show that you're not hiding anything and that you value feedback. This works not only as positive customer testimony but also as a demonstration of your commitment to make your business the best possible based, in part, on customer feedback.

Next, clarify what you're hearing

The feedback you receive is only as useful as it is "actionable." That is, you can take action based on what you've heard to make some sort of improvement to the way you do business. How do you get actionable feedback? Consider this:

  • Ask open-ended questions, such as What did you like about your purchase experience? Or was there anything you thought was difficult about it? Avoid were you satisfied with your purchase?

  • Consider developing an opt-in survey where you can pose five to 10 questions. Many folks avoid surveys so it might help to offer an incentive for participation, for instance, a reasonable discount on a next purchase.

  • When you get truly useful feedback, see if you can follow up directly with the customer to learn more. On your survey, you might ask for an email address for direct follow up. Yes, it will require faith on the customer's side given all the spam bots running amuck online these days. Even so, it's worth a try.

  • Publish a privacy policy to your customers, current and prospective. While you might think that has little to do with getting actionable feedback, it can actually work to assure the more wary out there that you care about their information and won't peddle it or otherwise abuse the privilege of having received it. That can be enough to convince shoppers to share more with you about how they liked or disliked doing business with you.

Next, thank and think

You need to continually show that your door is wide open to what your customers have to say

When you do get that actionable feedback, be sure to close the loop with that customer by thanking them.

For instance, you could write: We know you have so much to do and likely receive many messages, but thank you for taking the time to provide your valuable feedback to us. We hope to serve you again!

There, see how easy that was? That thank-you message might also include a bit of easy encouragement to shop with you again:

We have great new items and new deals every day. Click here to see something you might love!

You get the idea.

And then do it all over again

To truly get useful feedback—and to make the most use of it—you have to make your mining for it a perpetual piece of your business process.

While you shouldn't inundate customers with a badgering for their thoughts about your products and services (lest the feedback focus on your potentially harassing tactic), you need to continually show that your door is wide open to what your customers have to say. Tell them so every day.

Show them you want it with every transaction. Prove to them you mean it with every subsequent step you take. Feedback is one of the greatest gifts you can get from your customers because it helps you to hone your business method you their best benefit—and that goes on to become your best benefit, too!

About the Author

Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay…and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues.

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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