Gathering Useful Customer Feedback

Every business, whether it is the hardwood industry or not, needs to understand how customers feel about their products or services. But translating that “need to know” into concrete action, with measurable results, is a challenge of its own.

Here at Baillie Lumber, we place a high value on every customer we serve. As their needs for our products change over time, we pay close attention to all feedback we receive. Wherever possible, we help these customers adapt to an ever-changing marketplace, while striving to improve our own operations as well.customerfeedback

Is it really worth the effort to solicit feedback? Here are a few of the benefits your organization receives from interaction with customers:

  • Learn more about what’s working (and not working) with your product offerings.
  • Gain insights into where your customer service efforts are succeeding, and where they may occasionally fall short.
  • Understand better how customers use your products or service, which can lead to fresh ideas concerning upgrades.
  • Build a stronger relationship with customers that helps boost long-term buyer loyalty.

If you are interested in boosting the amount of useful customer feedback data, here are tips we found useful in motivating customers to offer that feedback and how you can make the most of what you learn:

Solicit customer reviews. There are plenty of informal ways to gather feedback, but creating an official campaign is a great way to ensure everyone is on the same “customer feedback” page. This campaign can include email, social media, and various calls to action.

When soliciting customer reviews, be sure you offer “a link directly to the review form so there is no confusion as to where they submit the review,” notes Net-Result. “The more professional and simplified your request is, the more seriously your users and customers will take you.”

Provide a variety of feedback channels. Your customers all have preferred methods of communicating with their suppliers. It’s up to you to offer easy communications via multiple points of contact, from email and phone to texting, website, and social media options.

Choose the right time to get feedback. It’s a commonly asked question. When is the optimum moment to encourage customer feedback? This can be especially challenging during the course of a typical interaction. It’s good to capture feedback throughout the customer experience, such as right after a customer service call or following delivery of a product or invoice. Just about any key touchpoint represents a strong opportunity to gather helpful feedback.

One important note: Do everything possible to avoid asking the same person to offer feedback more than once. CustomerThink suggests “that if a customer is asked to provide feedback, the same person won’t get asked again for at least 30 days” afterward. And “if a customer asks not to be surveyed, respect that.”

Address any negative replies ASAP. If a trusted customer expresses an issue with some aspect of your business (product quality, timely delivery, etc.), do everything you can to address the issue immediately. If a specific problem is mentioned by more than one customer, it’s imperative that you and your team find ways to resolve what might be a systematic or institutional problem.  

Emphasize the importance of feedback. Customers often assume organizations aren’t necessarily interested in their opinions. Your job is to “make it clear you’re listening and want to use [feedback] to improve their experience,” notes UserVoice. On your website, ensure that the “We Want to Hear from You” button is prominently displayed and easy to use. Rather than leaving this obscured in a menu, “give it prominent, on-screen visibility at critical junctures in task workflows,” in order to obtain timely, informative feedback.

Some important improvements or programs came from soliciting and acting on feedback received from customers.  For example, the creation of some of our proprietary grade products, and even some of our custom hardwood lumber sorts which provide the hardwood lumber customers require sorted by length, width, grade or color. Many of these improvements and more can all be traced back to actively cultivating and sharing customer feedback.

Devoting time and resources to garnering feedback may seem like an indulgence, but it’s not. Understanding what your customers think should be a key priority from the beginning of a customer’s journey until its end.

Brett Del Prince
Baillie Lumber
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