Have you ever seen those signs on the back of cabs, giving motorists a number to call to comment on the quality of the driver’s driving? A small business should issue the same kind of invitation to its customers, and not just to field complaints or problems. You also want to know what your small business is doing right, what good things could be done better, and what new products or services your customers want.
There are several avenues for collecting customer input, the most direct of which is talking with them face-to-face in a casual context.
You can do this anywhere – at your business or theirs, over lunch or coffee, or by phone.
Even a chat lasting just a few minutes can yield valuable insights into why your customers come to you, current or emerging issues they’re dealing with, and how your business might help.
Another information-gathering option is the online survey. This is particularly valuable for businesses that communicate with customers via e-newsletters and other electronic means.
Services such as Survey Monkey (www.surveymonkey.com) make simple surveys as easy and as convenient to create as they are for customers to answer.
Consider incorporating a survey link into your customer signature or, if you have them, your website, blog, Facebook fan page, or Twitter posts.
When doing surveys, give customers a good range of response options, especially when asking about the types of products or services they are interested in, or the type of information they want to receive.
After you get feedback from your customers, thank your customers for responding to your survey by sending them a personalized message or even a phone call, if appropriate.
However you gather customer feedback – either using an Internet tool or good old-fashioned in-person conversation – act quickly on whatever you gather, particularly if customers have experienced problems or aren’t finding what they’re looking for.
They may even alert you to a product or service they’ll need in coming months, giving you a head start on being their go-to choice when the time comes. The value of gathering customer feedback lies in doing something with the results.