You’ve heard it over the phone as you sit on hold… read it on receipts tucked into your shopping bags… you’ve even seen it taped to the bulletin board next to the employee lounge. Four very (hopefully) meaningful words:
“We appreciate your feedback!”
In order to make sure these four words are, in fact, meaningful, it’s essential as a business owner to evaluate how you can best gather this feedback. For example, if 90% of your clientele lives in a home without a computer, would it make sense to send out an email survey?
I sure hope not! It wouldn’t be an effective use of your time, and a large portion of your customers would likely never even see the survey, let alone be able to respond to it. Your business is unique and requires customized tools to gather feedback from clients, community, or employees.
You’ve likely seen large-scale corporations and their attempts at gathering data from your experiences. The list of methods can go on for miles: on-site paper or kiosk surveys, QR codes listed on your receipts, mailers, emails, website intercept (pop-up or on-page surveys), etc.
Did you know, however, that most of these tools are available for those with a smaller budget? But how do you decide what’s best for your feedback needs?
Don’t worry — I’m here to help! Here are some of the best feedback options for small businesses, as well as my take on the pros and cons of each.
An in-person interview or lunch meeting can go a long way toward understanding the needs of your more personal clients. Be sure to go with a goal in mind, and capture the feedback you receive. When you gather feedback and use it — rather than letting it rest in your head — you will improve both your business and the relationship you have with your client.
Pros: Interviews are relationship builders, and allow you to delve deeply with your questions.
Cons: They can also be time-consuming and cost-prohibitive if you have many customers.
A phone call simply isn’t quite as personal as an interview, but one can still work well to gather an individual client’s needs. Don’t forget the golden rule: go with a goal and document results!
Pros: Still a relationship builder that shows personal interest and allows you to delve into questions and answers.
Cons: It can be hard to reach clients in this way. Can also be time consuming and cost-prohibitive.
Focus groups are generally conducted in several small groups of 6-10 people. The ability to get such in-depth information from a contained, diverse group of people can produce extremely valuable (and useful) information. This method works especially well for general market research, or when gathering feedback for new processes and products.
Pros: Focus groups are less-costly than individual interviews, and let you gather detailed information while having broader focus. You can also get immediate clarification on any confusion, which may save on time and effort in the long-run.
Cons: The number of people lends to a less personal environment than an interview, and brings up the possibility of moderator bias. They can be cost-prohibitive with the need for video, transcription, and participant payment.
Don’t let this deceptively simple option fool you! Surveys come in many forms and levels of detail — from a simple report card left with a client, to a detailed online survey designed to gather importance, satisfaction, and specific details pertaining to your service or product.
Believe it or not, paper surveys are not dead. In fact, a simple, physical survey can be one of the quickest (and easiest) ways to capture immediate feedback from your clients.
Online surveys can be easily accessed via an email invitation, a link on your website, a website intercept (pop-up) survey, or a QR code printed onto a receipt. Because online survey possibilities seem endless, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Just remember: the most important task is finding the option that fits your business’ needs and means. This will help you get the most valid responses.
Pros: Surveys are cost-effective — they can reach many clients with little expense. You’ll receive individual feedback with instant documentation. The opportunity for anonymous answers will allow clients to give more candid, honest answers.
Cons: Surveys are less personal than in-person interviews or phone calls, and can sometimes feel intrusive. Response rates and reaching the correct respondents can also be a challenge.
A more recent development in the world of feedback is the incredible surge of social media platforms and their popularity among businesses. This unique digital environment allows you to see how your clients perceive your business “in the wild.” Interaction with and on your social pages can provide invaluable insight into client behavior. Be sure to always document suggestions made as well as any trends that develop.
Pros: The cost to become established is nearly free, and allows you to develop a web presence.
Cons: Because of the public nature of social media, it can be difficult to control content from customers, including complaints that are available for all to see.
Now, it’s your turn! Which form of feedback is the perfect fit for your business?