Home Blog Qualitative Research How to collect customer feedback: 10 key methods

How to collect customer feedback: 10 key methods

Customers hold the key to your organization’s future growth. Simple as that. But to unlock your customers’ power, you need to listen to them. Hear their thoughts. Feel their anger. Celebrate their joy. You need to get a deeper, more complete understanding of the customer experience – the human experience. That’s where customer feedback comes in.  

Customer feedback is the collection of all information from your customers about what they think and feel about your products and services. Now that’s a lot of information. And chances are you’re only listening to half of it. The structured, solicited type of feedback you get through surveys for instance. Granted that’s the low-hanging fruit of customer feedback so don’t ignore it. But are you paying attention to all the different sources of feedback:  

emails to your support team, product reviews on review sites, social media rants?  

Let’s find out more about the power of customer feedback and discover the 10 key methods for collecting it. 

Why collect customer feedback? 

What makes sense is to start with the why. After all, if you don’t know why you’re doing it, you’re likely to get lost in the process and end up with results you can’t use. To help, here are a few key aims you should keep in mind when collecting customer feedback. 

  1. Show you care 
    Quite a basic goal we admit but asking for feedback shows your customers you care about their opinions. And that’s a good start. If you don’t ask for feedback [you can probably think of a few companies that have never asked for yours], you’re saying you don’t want to know. If you do, it doesn’t [unfortunately] mean you care, but at least you’re giving your customers a voice. You’re listening. And your customers appreciate it. 
  2. Improve your products and services 
    Already a more meaningful goal. Listening to the customer voice is a great way to guide your efforts to improve your offering. You can use their responses to spot and fix issues, to put recommendations in place, to apply a fairer price, to make your customers’ life easier. Even positive feedback is useful. Knowing what your customers love shows what you’re doing it right, so you can keep doing it. 
  3. Measure customer loyalty 
    This is about understanding how satisfied and how loyal your customers are. First you need to pick the right scale for your industry and for your business. NPS, CSAT, CES or a combination of metrics will help you assess where you stand. More importantly you’ll be able to measure trends over time, compare them across regions, product lines, personas. And don’t forget to link those loyalty metrics to actual behavior so you can build predictive models.  
  4. Understand and retain your customers  
    Customer feedback helps you see your customers as individuals who think and feel a certain way about their experience with your brand. Dive deeper into this feedback to really understand their needs and desires, their concerns, their fears. What makes them tick and what might just make them switch. Even better, how you can turn them into loyal advocates of your brand now and in the future. 
  5. Better business decisions 
    As we’ve seen, customers can really guide improvements in products and service, but it goes much further than that. By socializing feedback data across the company, top to bottom, piercing through silos, you can infuse the customer voice at every key business decision your organization makes. You can ensure there’s an echo of the customers in every conference room, every board meeting, every HR decision… 

What data is gathered when collecting customer feedback?  

Now that we’ve seen why we need to collect customer feedback, let’s look at the type of data you can gather. Typically feedback data is split into four categories: 

  • Structured data: coming from survey responses 
  • Unstructured data: free-form text or other media 
  • Solicited data: in response to a feedback request 
  • Unsolicited data: not as a result of a survey or request 

Typically, surveys generate solicited, structured types of feedback. Other methods do as well, as long as they request answers to a formal set of questions. 

Everything else tends to be unsolicited, unstructured data and so needs more time and consideration in dealing with it. For instance, social media posts on your company’s Twitter handle come in as and when customers decide.  

Feedback from different sources needs to be handled in different ways. And not just because of the way it came in, but because of the weight it carries. Say you survey a representative portion of your customer base, and you get 20% response rate quarter after quarter. You know you can reliably make business decisions based on the feedback. Now if you make a business decision based on a couple of angry tweets, the business impact might not be as convincing. And you’re going to have a hard time justifying that decision if asked by the Board.  

10 key methods of collecting customer feedback 

We’ve seen the types of feedback data you can collect and the reasons you should do it. Let’s now dive into the core topic of this blog and explore the 10 key methods of collecting customer feedback.  

Surveys 

It makes sense we start with surveys: the quintessential customer feedback method. No matter what they tell you, surveys are most certainly not dead! Not even close. But thank goodness they have evolved. For your surveys not to disappear in the ether of non-respondents, make sure you make them short, relevant, prompt and in-the-moment. 

Surveys come in different shapes and sizes. The most common is email invites that take you to an online survey. They’re easy to set up and the data is then easy to analyze. You also have pop-up surveys that come up on your web browser when you perform certain actions, like when you start visiting a site, or when you’re about to leave it. In-app surveys can also be incredibly efficient, especially if you keep them short and very timely. 

Focus groups

Focus groups are great when you need to dive deeper into what your customers really feel about a specific topic, like a new product or a rebranding exercise. You first need to identify a set of customers with particular characteristics. They might be similar in some ways (demographic, purchase behavior) or represent different customer types. It all depends on the purpose of the focus group. You then invite the members of this group to join the focus group, either in person or online. Virtual focus groups have become increasingly popular since the pandemic and can offer great features, like voting buttons, to keep the audience engaged.

One-on-one Interviews 

Like focus groups, one-on-one interviews are great for deep dives but tend to be used more in a B2B environment. Again, you’d select the right person to talk to based on specific characteristics: they might use a product more than the average customer, or they responded in a certain way to a survey. A popular use of one-on-one interviews is win/loss conversations, at the start or the end of the customer relationships. A very efficient way to record the reasons customers buy from you and leave you, so you can do something about it. 

Digital communities 

Digital communities are web platforms where people come together, chat and find resources about particular topics or interests. They’re a great asset for brands to put together as they’re seen as a safe meeting place where people freely share their opinions with each other. Customers also often help each other with issues which can provide backup for the support team. As a feedback method, digital communities are a great source of insights via all the different features they offer, including crowdsourcing, suggestion boards, etc.  

Diaries 

Beautifully adapted to certain industries, diary apps let brands put themselves in their customers’ shoes. They record the way a customer uses a product or goes through a buying journey. This method lets your customers share their thoughts and feelings in-the-moment. And that means less recall bias. The less time the customer has between going through the experience and telling you about it, the better. Diaries are a great way to collect true, raw feedback, in the heat of the moment rather than in the cold light of day. 

Customer emails and calls 

Communications from customers are often ignored as a feedback method. That doesn’t mean they’re not handled at all. But they need to be added to the feedback mix as they can bring detailed insights into the issues customers face every day. Emails and calls used to be ignored for a reason – integrating this feedback took time and resources to interpret. But that’s no longer the case. With incredible advances in text and voice analytics, you can much more easily categorize this type of feedback (topic, sentiment…) and make sense of it all. 

Chatbots 

This relatively recent communication method has great benefits for customers, letting them “speak” to an agent with minimal disruption to their day, and for the brand, enabling its agents to deal with different queries at the same time. Chatbots are also a great way to engage with customers at the right time in their journey. They capture feedback as part of conversations, which puts customers at ease and let them share their opinions in their own words. 

POS Systems 

This is another great way to capture in-the-moment feedback. Now this method is best used in specific retail cases. The use of point-of-sale systems lets brands collect feedback in their own environment, at the right point in the journey. This minimizes recall bias and gets a snapshot of how the customer’s feeling “right now”. POS feedback isn’t so good for capturing verbatims, but is perfect for quick 5-point retail satisfaction surveys, multiple-choice questions and similar applications. 

Social media 

Customers have gone social. In more ways than one. Despite all the feedback methods they have access to, they’re increasingly choosing social media to convey their thoughts and feelings. And that’s not always an easy place for brands to handle such feedback. There are many examples of them getting it wrong and their mistakes going viral. But this unsolicited source of feedback can’t be avoided so you need to get it right. Respond quickly and respectfully and use this channel to spot and fix issues before they get too big to handle. 

Review sites 

Review sites are a treasure chest of insights for your brand, and yet again, so often ignored. Find a way to incorporate this feedback to the mix and you’ll get unbiased comments from your customers. This is a place where potential customers share why they’re not [yet] choosing your brand and where current customers speak about their issues. On a positive note, it’s also where your promoters often go to defend your brand, and they’re a great source of quotes and recommendations. Finally review sites often display competitive benchmarking information that’s hard to come by.  

What can you do with your collected customer feedback data? 

Now you have feedback trickling into your business from the various methods you’ve put in place. Well done! But hang on a minute. We all know, it’s not the feedback that matters, it’s what you do with it. So, let’s look into how you can make customer feedback work for your organization. 

  1. Prevent churn 
    That’s the low-hanging fruit. The quick win of all quick wins. Wherever the feedback comes from, use it to spot unhappy customers, resolve their concerns and stop them leaving. Reducing churn helps increase customer lifetime value and ultimately revenues. It’s a great way to calculate the return of investment of your program, and to justify its value in the long term. 
  2. Activate word of mouth 
    It’s not just negative feedback that holds value. Positive comments can be used as quotes on your website. You can also convert them into verbatims for review sites. But it doesn’t stop here. Impact your bottom line directly by turning positive feedback from promoters into word-of-mouth recommendations to prospects. Use incentives as well and you’ll boost the success of these programs. 
  3. Design a better customer experience 
    Now this takes a bit more consideration… and more feedback. When you have enough of it, whatever the source, use the feedback to turn your customers’ opinions into insights. Understanding them better means you can design, or re-design, your CX. That will impact a lot more customers than fixing individual issues. To be efficient, segment the feedback by key personas or by cohorts – that way you can really personalize your approach for specific requirements. 
  4. Decrease costs 
    We saw how feedback can increase revenues. Well, the good news is it can also decrease costs. The main way to do this is by decreasing calls into your contact center or your support team. Understand your customers well and you can start to anticipate their needs before they voice them. Aim to reduce the number of interactions it takes for customers to get a problem resolved, especially for those moments in the journey they value most. And focus on fixing issues that prevent customers from solving their own problems, and make sure your self-serve channels and chatbots work perfectly. 
  5. Make business improvements 
    This is absolutely key. Customer feedback needs to infuse every part of your business. Whether you’re looking at changing your billing process, or designing a new website, or launching a new product, make sure you get your customers’ take on it at every step. Even if you’re already making the improvements, we just covered in points 1 to 4, make sure you also invite your customers to give input into all key changes you’re implementing across the business. 
  6. Create a CX-centered culture 
    Company culture is hard to define, and even harder to change. Without a culture that is openly and honestly focused on the customer, how can you expect to make any of the changes we talked about? Many organizations claim to place the customer at the center of their business, but only a portion of them have the right culture to support this, and the processes in place to make sure the customer’s voice is heard across the organization. Make sure you don’t just pay lip service to customer centricity and make it a cornerstone of your business. 

How can Forsta help? 

Forsta offers silo-busting, wealth-creating Voice of the Customer solutions that let you hear what customers say, understand what they mean, and do what needs to be done. With Forsta, you can really see your customers as people, not pieces of data.  

Forsta covers all methods of customer feedback and joins them all together. We give you the tools to easily create surveys, listen to conversations, set up diaries, keep on top of social and review sites. Online, face to face, phone, video.  We do it all – so you can do it all. 

And we help you make sense of it. You can sort and display data any way you want and send it in any format to anyone who needs it. The power to transform your organization is in your hands. 

With Forsta, turn your black-and-white data into stories in color.  

Conclusion 

Customers are the life source of your business. Their loyalty can make or break your business. So, you need to listen to them, whatever the channel, whatever the way. In this blog we listed 10 key methods that will let you keep your ear to the grindstone. Select the ones that make the most sense to you. Make sure you choose a platform like Forsta that can merge all the data together and let your business know what to do, what to change, what to aim for.  

Your customers will thank you for it.  

“Since we started working with the Forsta team, the growth of our customer feedback program has been rather remarkable — it’s a living, breathing, evolving program. It delivers the information we need to create better customer experiences across business areas, and has positively supported our efforts to retain existing customers.”  

Candy Michael 
VP of Customer Feedback, AIG 

 

  

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