Businesses and consumers instinctively understand the importance of customer feedback. Customer engagement represents a potential source of continuous improvement and competitive advantage for businesses. Consumers want to be heard and shape the products and services that impact them.
Having advised business and nonprofit leaders across nearly all sectors for over 25 years, I believe the creation of a virtuous customer feedback loop may represent the greatest transformative opportunity in business today. A truly effective consumer-business “conversation” can drive product innovation, brand development, customer loyalty and employee recognition and retention. This list is why management experts Peter Drucker and Jim Collins repeatedly stress the critical importance of customer engagement and feedback.
Technology lies at the heart of accessing the opportunity.
The Trouble With Existing Tools
Traditional feedback tools including lengthy surveys, 1-800 numbers, rating sites and comment boxes are often ineffective on a practical level. The reason is that they don’t work particularly well for BOTH parties. As a result, they often end up not working for either.
First of all, organizations struggle to obtain actionable data. They worry the unsolicited feedback they are receiving through surveys is skewed and does not represent the opinions of the less-vocal majority of their customers.
Consumers, meanwhile, don’t want to be hassled or spend precious minutes providing feedback they’re not sure will be heard or is largely irrelevant to their experience. Handing customers a receipt with step-by-step instructions is impractical; no customer wants to shuffle through their receipts when they get home, and by then their experience is a distant memory. Phone calls or on-site questioning can be intrusive and time-consuming.
Patrons want their voices heard — but on their terms, and often anonymously.
As a result, some customers turn to more public online outlets to voice their views. These sites allow consumers to express themselves in their own way and on their time. Yet this public, and still often anonymous, feedback ends up primarily geared towards educating other consumers. Although businesses monitor this input, it does not provide them the type of insights they need to make good decisions.
Businesses feel more like a third-party bystander than an integral part of the conversation.
Technology and the Mobile Solution
Fortunately, technology can provide a solution that works for both businesses and consumers. With mobile technology now at the center of everything from ordering food to filtering pictures, nearly anything can be done in real-time with a swipe of a finger. Feedback should be no exception, and mobile devices have the potential to revolutionize consumer engagement.
In order to be effective, feedback needs to offer convenience to the user and actionable data to the business. Mobile gives users a fast and easy outlet for real-time commentary that provides businesses with private, structured and effective data.
According to Pew Research Center data, 56 percent of American adults now own a smartphone of some kind and 80 percent of time on mobile devices is spent on apps. With an on-the-go client base that is linked to a mobile device, businesses have an unprecedented opportunity to hear from consumers. If you’re looking for feedback, it’s time to go mobile and meet your customers where they already spend most of their time.
Engage Customers in Mobile Feedback
Getting customers into the habit of providing feedback is difficult, but offering a mobile outlet they can use on their terms makes it a lot easier. Below are a few tips to help promote a mobile feedback channel:
- Use social media: Post your mobile feedback tool to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Let your loyal customers know about it and tell them you want to hear directly from them.
- Incentives: Consider offering an incentive to those initial patrons who give you mobile feedback. The hardest feedback to get is the first. Once customers know you’re listening and responding, they will gladly provide it. Nothing generates early adoption faster than financial savings.
- Awareness: In retail, post a picture of your feedback tool’s logo at the checkout area or on your front door. Catch patrons’ attention with an interesting and appealing image that encourages them to use your chosen tool. Get them curious. Use online or other customer interaction points if you are in a nonretail businesses.
- Promote good: Consider asking customers to help you recognize the people of your business. Thank them for taking a minute to acknowledge the waiter whose been taking their order for years and always greets them with a smile, for example. Spread positivity — this is the best kind of feedback from a cultural standpoint, and many customers love to give it!
Businesses have become extremely efficient in most organizational aspects. For example, supply chains are highly integrated and Six Sigma type thinking has led to massive process improvements. Yet the last and most critical mile — true customer engagement — is still underdeveloped.
Like so may other things, mobile technology promises to revolutionize traditional feedback products with a massive benefit for consumers, businesses and society.