Between Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, Amazon, social media channels, and the dozens of other places people post reviews of the products and services they buy, there is no shortage of customer feedback information available to brands today. The smart ones are paying close attention and reacting quickly to their audience’s assessment of them.

Everyone Has an Opinion to Share

Feedback was always an important brand concern where companies did their best to make good on their promises and generate positive word of mouth. But today, it’s become a make or break issue.

A 2017 survey by consulting firm BrightLocal found that a full 97-percent of consumers examine online reviews before selecting a local business to transact with. 85-percent said that online reviews were as trustworthy as personal recommendations. That study revealed that even a single extra star in a firm’s ratings on a trusted review site can result in a five to nine-percent bump in revenues.

The flip side of that coin, however, is that bad reviews drive people away. 22-percent of respondents said that just one bad review was enough to deter them from selecting a particular brand or company. Three bad reviews and that number tops 59-percent, and few businesses can afford to lose access to over half their target market before they even get their foot in the door.

“Many a brand has ignored a customer’s problem only to see the topic trending on Twitter before suddenly deciding to address the issue — after the damage has already been done.”

In recent years, some firms have been tempted to game the system by buying fake reviews, which is both easier and cheaper than most people realize. But, beyond being dishonest and unethical, that decision can result in permanent harm to a brand if consumers find out they are being duped (as they often do), and when review platforms like Amazon and Google get wise to the scam, they are quick to enact harsh penalties including delisting you.

You’re always better off doing things right, building a genuine following, and taking steps to address legitimate concerns promptly and professionally should they arise.

Monitoring All Your Channels

In addition to third party platforms, every company with a web and app presence of its own should be building customer feedback management features directly into their own media channels. These systems help organize, prioritize, measure, and quickly respond to user suggestions and complaints.

There are too many opportunities for customer feedback to list, but the five most important are:

  1. Surveys
  2. Feedback Boxes
  3. Direct Outreach
  4. User Activity Analytics
  5. Usability Tests

Every page you control should be considered for a passive feedback form, and every transaction should potentially generate an automatic request for active feedback, either through email, a social network message, or an in-app prompt. The purpose of these inputs isn’t just to quickly catch mistakes, problems, and areas to improve, but also to find out what people like, what’s working, and what new features they might like.

One area to consider focusing on first is streamlining the process so that users don’t find themselves lost in a bureaucratic maze. A study by Accenture found the 89-percent of customers are unsurprisingly annoyed when they have to repeat their issues to multiple representatives.Implementing a customer feedback system is the right place to start, but what separates market leaders from everyone else is the optimization process. Go through the system yourself to see how easy it is to transmit your thoughts and how quickly your actions trigger some kind of response.

Feedback Gives Analytics More Meaning

Along with clicks, bounces, keywords, traffic rates, and the many other key performance indicators companies obsessively gather today, customer feedback is also easily integrated into an overarching analytics system. Each discrete unit of information helps fill in the bigger picture of how people are actually interacting with you, what they are looking for, how easily they are finding it, and why they sought you out in the first place.

Customer feedback, in particular, is an essential part of answering that last question. Clicks and views give you an indirect idea of their intentions, but a feedback form is the customer’s opportunity to explain their motivations in plain English.

Kraig Swensrud, founder and CMO of online survey company GetFeedback encourages brands to examine every aspect of the customer experience with an eye towards understanding how the interaction could be measured, analyzed, and improved:

“Whether it’s a customer service department at Comcast who is hooking up somebody’s cable television, or the experience you have when you step on an airplane or check into a hotel where the front office staff greets you —  we all have these experiences with companies. The modern marketer should be thinking of all of those experiences because those are the experiences that define their brand, not just their latest jingle, or their latest television ad, or their latest Super Bowl commercial.”

The Clock is Ticking

The latest trend in customer feedback is real time response. Research by customer relationship management leader Salesforce established that 64-percent of consumers and 80-percent of B2B purchasers expect the opportunity to get in touch with someone immediately if they have an issue. Web chat is an increasingly popular format for that interaction, but old fashioned call centers are still very common.

“A single extra star in a firm’s ratings on a trusted review site can result in a five to nine-percent bump in revenues.”

Being able to solve someone’s problem or answer their question instantly creates a lot of good will and promotes a devoted customer base. Virgin Group founder Richard Branson has argued that “Unhappy customers who have a problem handled quickly and effectively end up being more loyal than if they never had a problem at all.”

For those that might not have the resources to implement a 24/7 response team, there are more flexible options such as very brief surveys that are delivered right after a customer has made a purchase. Few people are in the mood to play 20 questions after they check into a hotel, but many will answer one or two, and getting that information right at the moment they’re experiencing the brand makes the information that much more useful.

If complaints do arise, a rapid response is always the safest bet. Many a brand has ignored a customer’s problem only to see the topic trending on Twitter before suddenly deciding to address the issue — after the damage has already been done.

Even Bad Reviews Are Valuable

In a world where we are all connected, unhappy customers don’t mean just one lost sale. Dissatisfied consumers take their grievances online and share them with the world. 13-percent of them will tell 15 or more people about their bad experience according to customer strategist Esteban Kolsky.

Far from holding a grudge against these disappointed patrons, you should be grateful for the valuable information they are providing. Most unhappy customers won’t bother to say anything, they’ll just leave and never come back. The vocal minority is the wake up call you need to prevent that from happening within your broader customer base.

As Microsoft founder Bill Gates put it: “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

Fortunately, customers are typically more likely to reach out to others when things go well. 72-percent of them will share a positive experience with six or more people.

Conclusion

Advanced feedback systems are propelling better email campaigns, hyper targeted advertising, more relevant content marketing, and superior and more consistent brand experiences. With a wide variety of influential platforms for customers to share their encounters on, brand’s overlook this urgent data point at their peril.

Customers today demand a personalized and responsive brand experience, and they know the companies they deal with have access to the tools to deliver it. The simple act of asking for their feedback shows you’re listening to them and working to provide experience they expect.