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In industries as different as tech behemoths to locally owned banks, there is a common thread that determines how the company will fare through customer preference changes, poorly received products, and bad customer experience.

It doesn’t require fancy software, a big PR spin, or deep pockets. In fact, it’s so fundamental that without this tool, most companies won’t go far in their success.

Are you on the edge of your seat yet?

Hint: It starts with “F” and rhymes with “reedback.”

Did you guess it?

Feedback isn’t just a matter of sending out the occasional survey

Customer feedback is absolutely fundamental to product development, user experience (UX), advertising development, and customer service improvement, but it requires more than just sending out an email survey once in a while. Now don’t get us wrong – we love email surveys, and we use them as a part of our research process, but it simply can’t be the core of your feedback strategy if you want to succeed.

See, customers receive surveys all the time. Stayed in a hotel lately? Chances are, you received an email survey to rate your stay. Bought a new software system? Yup, a survey most likely hit your inbox, right? Surveys can tell you a lot about how customers like your product, but because they’re so ubiquitous, customers often rush through them, or fill them out haphazardly (if they fill them out at all). Furthermore, surveys ask closed-ended questions. You may get a few sentences in your fill-in section, but without a person to probe a little deeper or expand on something a customer said, your feedback is going to be fairly limited.

There is a better way to make feedback a fundamental part of your business plan. It requires three essential components.

The three essential components of business feedback

Without customer feedback, you’ll be developing your products and messaging in a vacuum. It’s hard to see objectively after a while, and corporate myopia will creep in. Design a feedback program that contains these three components, and you’ll have a much better pulse on what your customers are looking for.

Essential Component #1, Feedback Design: As we’ve already mentioned, simply emailing out a survey does not constitute a strategy for feedback. It is well worth the investment to bring in a third-party specialized research team to design the questions and process for how to survey your customers. If you try to develop the questions in-house, you’ll likely miss out on core components of your product or service that customers should be asked.

A research team will sit down with your team to understand your process and company fundamentals. Then they’ll design a research plan to get ample feedback. It will likely include both qualitative and quantitative research design. The qualitative part will involve interviewing key customers and prospects to better understand how your products fit within the overall marketplace and their own personalized experience with your brand.

The interviews are a key part of the feedback process; they provide opinions, not just statistics from a close-ended questionnaire. These opinions (if you’re like other customers we’ve worked with) may completely shift your process and strategy toward your customers.

Additionally, the research will likely incorporate surveys to get a statistical picture of your customers and the marketplace.

Armed with these two components, you’ll have a much richer picture of customer opinions. True feedback, in other words.

Essential Component #2, Frequency: Feedback is an ongoing process. The marketplace is constantly shifting, as new tech trends arrive, and consumer behavior adapts. Additionally, the competitive landscape is ever changing. Your messaging, which may have been relevant a year ago, suddenly may not be as new voices drown out what you’ve been telling customers.

We recommend an annual feedback program. Additionally, you’ll want customer feedback prior to launching a marketing campaign, as you’re developing a product, during product testing, and for ongoing feedback about the products as users work with them.

Some companies even incorporate a quarterly feedback program, so that they constantly have a pulse on their customers and what customers think of their product and brand; in a highly competitive space, it’s basically a requirement.

Essential Component #3, Follow up: Receiving rich, detailed customer feedback can be overwhelming for some companies. When you’ve moved beyond basic surveys and suddenly have rich, insightful opinions from customers, you need to have a plan in place for how to act on these insights. It may involve multiple teams, such as R&D, product managers, marketing, and sales. Be prepared for the powerful effect that qualitative insights will give you so that you can act on the feedback; it will change how you do business if you listen to what customers are telling you.

What’s your feedback strategy? Let’s have a conversation about your plan >