Everyone knows their customers’ opinions matter. But not everyone understands exactly why they’re important—or that they can screw up a business. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of customer feedback will make it a powerful tool rather than a loose cannon.
Disadvantages of Customer Feedback
1. It Can Be a Waste
This might not be the lovey-dovey thing to say, but sometimes, gathering customer feedback is a waste of time and money.
Say you sent out a bunch of surveys, got plenty of responses, and found out that for the most part, your customers politely said they were reasonably satisfied with your company. Would that inspire you to take a specific action? No? If it does not lead to action, feedback is meaningless.
How to Avoid This Disadvantage
Always set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals before attempting to gather customer feedback. They force you to ask why you’re doing this and how you’ll use the info afterwards. When you know what your goals are, you’ll identify the right questions to ask your customers.
2. The Most Vocal Customers Are Disproportionately Represented
Often, the people you hear aren’t the perfect representatives of the average customer you think they are. They just have the loudest voices. It’s common to ask for feedback, see a request for a new feature or offering, and then spend months working on it—only to find out the customer who requested it is the only one who cares when it’s released.
How to Avoid This Disadvantage
Make sure you get sufficient feedback. Ask your customers to vote for the requests they’d like to see the most, or track related complaints to see which issues have the widest effect. And don’t forget to ask your own team whether an idea has potential.
3. It Can Turn Customers Against You
When you start taking feedback, some customers will assume you will act on every word. They may get upset if you turn down their request or shuffle it to the bottom of the pile. Expect complaints like “I requested a new feature two weeks ago. Why doesn’t it exist yet?”
In 2016, Apptentive found that 55% of consumers would probably abandon a company that totally ignored their feedback. Talk about a disaster waiting to happen!
How to Avoid This Disadvantage
Set clear expectations: “All customer requests will be reviewed in the order in which they were received and given serious consideration.” “We will only create the two new flavors that receive the most votes.” “The results of the survey will be presented to the board during the next meeting.” And on top of that, remember to thank customers even if you don’t use their suggestions.
Informing customers how exactly you use their feedback will save them from having to fill in the blanks themselves. This will not only give them realistic expectations and save them from feeling ignored, but also help explain what’s in it for them. That will make them more likely to participate in the first place.
OK, I think that’s enough pessimism for one day! Let’s move on to the reasons why collecting customer feedback is awesome for your business.
Advantages of Customer Feedback
1. Learning What Your Customers Really Want
You may think your idea is super, but that doesn’t mean your customers would. Getting their feedback takes out the guesswork and lets you know what they actually want to see.
If a sizable portion of your customers want one thing, then you’ll know you’ll have a ready-made market for it as soon as you release it. Plus, if you collect their contact information along with their feedback, you’ll know exactly who to market it to as soon as it’s ready.
2. Learning What Your Customers DON’T Want
Sometimes, your company thinks it has a brilliant idea, but it turns out to be a very poor choice—like Life Savers soda or Colgate Kitchen Entrees. A little customer feedback would probably warn you that if you brand a TV dinner with the same name as your toothpaste, your customers will always imagine how gross food tastes right after you’ve brushed your teeth whenever they look at your product. Running your ideas by them first can save you from that kind of massive flop.
3. Improving Customer Loyalty
Taking and using customer feedback is a powerful form of relationship marketing. In 2016, Apptentive found that for 97% of consumers, a company acting on their feedback would make them at least somewhat likely to become more loyal.
4. Catching Problems
Without feedback, your company will never notice most problems its customers experience. Even if you use your own products, your customers will gain infinitely more experience with it than you ever could.
You need customers to tell you if running 18 specific processes at once causes the software to crash, or if using the wrong brand of batteries will cause your children’s toy to start screaming obscenities. Only they will run your offerings through enough bizarre situations to find everything that’s wrong with them.
Great! So, How Do I Gather Customer Feedback?
You can acquire feedback either passively or actively.
Gathering Feedback Passively
Passive feedback is a great choice for companies that need a steady stream of customer input. These systems are as simple as setting up a feedback form or forum on your website, or leaving out writing materials and a box for comments and complaints in your restaurant. Then you let customers tell you what they think when it’s convenient for them.
Great examples of this include Amazon seller ratings and eBay Feedback. Although a bit more public than some sellers might prefer, they encourage buyers to voice their honest opinions. When you need to improve, you’ll know it!
If you want to start gathering feedback passively without showing the world the bad reviews, we recommend using helpdesk software like Freshdesk, Zendesk or Desk.com. As one example, Freshdesk’s free Sprout plan gives you a feedback widget that you can add to your website or knowledge base, or even to an app. Most of their paid plans also let you set up a community forum.
Gathering Feedback Actively
When you need a lot of feedback at once, it’s time to go active. This is worthwhile if you want to test the waters for a new idea or make rapid improvements.
You may feel like there’s no practical way to actively gather feedback on your business. However, there’s usually a way if you think outside the box. Seller-initiated Amazon feedback requests are one such example of a commonly ignored opportunity.
Should I Bother with Feedback?
Absolutely! The advantages of customer feedback far outweigh the disadvantages. As long as you’re careful to go in with a plan, take the feedback with a grain of salt, make your customers feel like their opinions are valued and act on good customer ideas, you should reap enormous benefits—including serious ROI.