By Garrett Smith
Looking to improve your service offerings? Sometimes it’s tempting to look outside for answers. Maybe you’ve been told to reach out to companies in different markets. Or perhaps someone has recommended you conduct research on your competitors. You may have even hired an industry consultant to help improve your business.
I suggest you use caution with this approach. Your peers, competitors and industry consultants won’t know as much about your business or your customers. You might get some great advice, but it will never be as direct and impactful as what you could get from looking closer to home.
To achieve long-term success in any service business, you must be customer-focused. This means listening to your customers - both the ones you pay and the ones who pay you. Listening to customers will allow you to quickly learn about issues, and listening often illuminates simple changes that improve the way you do business. After all, “the customer is always right.”
Employing customer feedback
Okay, so maybe the customer isn’t always right. But neither are you. Yet there’s no denying that directly engaging the people who pay you, and those you pay to serve, is a huge help. Aside from you, who knows your business better?
You may have already witnessed this. If you’ve been in business any amount of time, you’ve probably encountered a difficult situation that you weren’t sure how to handle. I’m willing to bet that 9 times out of 10, it was one of your employees, or even the customer, who offered the winning solution.
Imagine if you put yourself in a position to do this consistently, with a systematic approach. It’s almost guaranteed that your operation will continually improve and evolve to meet the changing nature of our industry.
If you’re convinced that getting consistent feedback from your customers will have a powerful impact on your business, you’re on the right path. You might think that implementing a customer feedback program is difficult, or even time-consuming, but it can actually be quick and easy.
A customer feedback program can be as simple as administering a survey twice a year, or as in-depth as personal interviews. For most, using an electronic survey with up to 20 questions a few times a year can generate enough data and insight from which to implement positive changes.
There are many resources at your disposal when you’re looking to improve your business. Leveraging the experience and insights of your internal and external customers via feedback surveys is one of the best. Seek their input the next time you’re stuck in a storm; they’ll provide you with a clear path home.
Implementing a customer feedback program
Step 1: Determine what you want to improve or learn.
Figure out what you want to improve or a problem you wish to solve. Perhaps you have multiple items on your list. However many you have, get started and keep focused on your plan.
Step 2: Craft questions that will give you information and insights.
Once you’ve identified the improvement or problem area, create a number of questions in which answers will provide you with information and insights on the issue(s) at hand. The goal is to create more questions than you actually use, since some may be more appropriate or relevant. Tailor your survey to maximize responses from those who will receive it.
Step 3: Choose a survey generator (to help with sending and responding).
Once you’ve created your questions, you will want to use a survey-making program to capture responses. I recommend an online program, such as SurveyMonkey, because it enables simple collection and reporting on the results. You can also build survey templates that you can use as a base to create feedback surveys in the future.
Step 4: Send the survey.
Make sure to test your survey before sending so that there are no errors or omissions.
Step 5: Review the survey findings and develop a game plan.
Based on the data, feedback and insights received, you should be able to formulate an improvement plan. However, be aware that not all data and insights you receive will be concise, so plan on budgeting some time to reach out for more information.
Step 6: Implement the required changes.
This is the critical step. Knowledge of what can be done to improve means little if you don’t take the time to make the required changes. Although change is often difficult, without it, nothing happens. Create and embrace it.
Garrett Smith is co-owner of WNY Snow Removal and founder of Pitch + Pivot, LLC. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.