5 Creative Ways to Get Customer Feedback

You may agree or disagree that social media has fueled the growth of online reviews. But the reality is, for many businesses, dealing with online reviews has become standard operating procedure.

Enlightening at best and infuriating at worst, reviews are initiated by the customer and so are inherently limited in their scope and depth. To really get a handle on what customers think about your company and the product or service it sells, you must go deeper. And the more creative you are with your approach, the more successful you may be. In other words, the most creative ways to get feedback may result in the best ways to positively transform your business.

Negativity stings

Of course, this logic assumes that you value customer feedback in the first place. Not every business owner does, even if they're not keen to admit it.

From where this business owner is sitting, everything is generally running smoothly -- unless and until a dissatisfied customer comes along. This owner subscribes to the theory that a disenchanted customer is much more likely to lodge a complaint than a satisfied customer is to pay a compliment.

But even then the math gets skewed. The dissatisfied customer has to be more than a little let down by a product, service or experience to register a complaint. They have to be bitterly disappointed, perhaps even raging, becausethis is the emotion that fuels online reviews.

Everyone else that gets lumped together in the “dissatisfied” category -- from the mildly irritated to the deeply disillusioned -- tends to cut their losses. They take the side exit and never return to a business, hoping for a better outcome at the next stop in line. This group represents a lost opportunity since they never bother to share their feedback, depriving a business owner of the chance to make amends and make lasting changes.

Still, it would be a mistake to think of this group as entirely passive. They have plenty to say about their negative experience; they just choose to spread the word in person -- to people they know and know they can influence -- and sometimes to friends and acquaintances on social media. By most estimates, their “negativity range” reaches from between 5 and 20 people. In other words, their words can pack a punch.

Collecting feedback pays dividends

Arguably, it's crucial for business owners to get to the bottom of complaints and try to resolve them amicably. After all, another theory holds that for every customer who complains, another 20 have chosen to hold their tongues. So for the business owner, getting to the bottom of customer grievances is time well spent.

There are plenty ofpositivereasons why collecting customer feedback is worthwhile, too. Among them:

  • Feedback fortifies what you're doing right and what pleases your customers -- so you can keep doing it and concentrate on building customer trust and loyalty.
  • Feedback provides a read on the all-important “customer journey,” allowing a business owner to unmask what's really happening behind the scenes -- not what they want to think is happening -- so that they can improve that journey, step by step. Even a customer who doesn't provide feedback knows that their opinion is important -- simply because someone took the time to ask.
  • Feedback gives you insights about what customers are saying and how they really use a product. Plenty of business owners have discovered new -- even unorthodox -- uses for their products thanks to inventive customers.
  • Feedback allows business owners to make better, more informed decisions about the future, especially about new product launches.
  • Feedback can supply the fresh content that search engines look for -- and then reward business owners with a bump in the rankings.

Rally experts to your side

Landing uponthe bestand creative ways to get feedback for your business will probably require some trial and error. But seeing one idea in action at a time has its benefits; namely, you can evaluate how customers are responding to it and tweak it accordingly.

In this way and others, a resource like ThumbsYup can be a business' best advocate. Ideally, such a resource can help manage online reviews with an eye toward building customer trust and loyalty -- not to mention the bonds that can develop from eliciting their most honest feedback.

Try creative ways to get feedback

Presumably, such an advocate will recommend that it's wise to collect customer feedback immediately after a sale or soon afterwards. Many post-sale questions focus on the transaction itself, which is important. Still, it's always fun to mix things up and try other ways to get customers talking at greater length about their experience.

Remember: most people are flattered to be asked for their opinion in the first place. So finding creative ways to get feedback is sure to get their attention, the first step in gaining the most telling “inside” information. Customers are sure to look twice at five methods in particular:

1. Display positive customer feedback on your website

Many business owners resist displaying positive feedback - at least initially. They don't want to “showboat.” But then they realize: positive feedback often creates a domino effect among readers, prompting them to want to chime in, too. The result: a long and valuable “stream” of positive feedback that propagates without any prompting whatsoever from the business owner. There are two psychological forces at work here. One, most people are inclined to share their experiences. They often need little more than a nudge to do so. And two, when people see that a business listens and validates customers' ideas, they want the same validation for themselves - and they pursue it.

2. Create a VIP customer feedback panel

Just exactly who is a VIP? Anybody you say is, really, though it makes sense to turn to the most frequent or most longstanding customers first. The beauty of this method is that a business owner has the freedom to create a VIP panel from virtually any (flattering) criterion. And flattery is the point, though it makes equal sense to further incentivize customers with some type of gift or coupon. Of all the creative ways to get feedback, the VIP approach may be the one that gives back the most.

3. Send customer surveys via a mobile beacon

Also known as “proximity beacons,” mobile beacons function in somewhat the same manner as the ads you see pop up on your phone when you're in the vicinity of a favored shopping area. Instead of an ad, the “beamed” customer sees a survey. The one drawback of this technique: the survey should be as brief and concise as possible. Given the interruption factor, customers tend to speed through surveys sent via mobile beacons. This means their value may be diminished. But forward-thinking business owners can mitigate these negatives by offering a free giveaway dispensed at their place of business, where customers can be politely and quickly queried while they're reveling in the feel-good tidings of the moment.

4. Set up a survey kiosk

Business owners who are shy about asking for feedback, or fear their customers are reticent about sharing it face-to-face, turn to colorful survey kiosks. About the size of a vending machine, a kiosk gives customers the privacy to offer candid feedback at their leisure. Plus, the kiosks are viewed as a novelty -- fun and engaging -- and can be set up virtually anywhere, though they are perhaps most valuable at an event the company is either attending or hosting.

5. Convene an online community

It's hard to beat the treasure trove of ideas that many business owners discover in an online forum or community. While it's relatively simple to set up on a website, it does require monitoring, if not a regular monitor. It's a trade-off many business owners are happy to make since it's practically a sure-fire way to get people talking and sharing ideas - even pictures and videos - while strengthening customer relationships.

Creative ways to get feedback

No one said that's it's easy to implement creative ways to get feedback. It takes time, effort and tenacity. But the potential payoffs are as enormous as they are tangible. Over time, and with repetition and finesse, they could become an even bigger element of a business' standard operating procedure than online reviews. And that in itself would be one creative outcome.