As a business owner, it’s important to meet customer needs and exceed their expectations whenever possible. Unfortunately, less-than-positive customer experiences aren’t always crystal clear. Creating a culture of open dialogue and feedback with customers and staff is important because it allows businesses to listen, respond, and grow from feedback.
Anyone who has been a customer has experienced exceptional and not-so-exceptional service. Sometimes, customers go out of their way to share feedback, while others may share feedback with family and friends, but never directly with you. It may seem easy to identify the ways an experience can be negative, but it’s not always easy to hear directly from a customer — especially after they experience something less than stellar.
Customers know how high the stakes can be when introducing something new to their child, and how small details can make or break an experience. Let’s say you’re a parent, and a brand new dance studio opens in your area and you receive a free trial invitation for your two children. You arrive early and immediately love the space and atmosphere. Your little ones are excited to start dancing the day away and are ready for a good time! But the experience starts to turn south.
Despite arriving several minutes before class, no one greets your family or shows you where to go. Several minutes later, a teacher opens the door to start class. Class is a bit rushed and you aren’t totally satisfied. An hour after class ends, you get an email asking you to review the class. In this case, you express how much you loved the studio, but you weren’t happy to be rushed. All in all, the experience got ⅘ stars.
Let’s pivot back. Consider receiving this review as a studio owner. How would you react? Maybe you follow up directly, hire a front-desk attendant, or implement an arrival policy for instructors. This wouldn’t be possible without a culture of feedback!
Mistakes and misunderstandings are bound to happen, and from them, negative experiences can sometimes arise. When businesses learn to address negative feedback through action, incredible things can happen. If a customer lets you know about their negative experience or gives you a not-so-stellar review in person or online, challenge yourself to view that as an opportunity to listen, learn, act, and delight in an effort to turn that customer’s experience into a more positive one.
3 Steps to Fostering a Culture of Feedback
- First, you need to create rapport with your customers. Talk to them when you see them, get to know families by name, and make your customers feel welcome. Find time to ask them for feedback about their experiences with you.
- Second, talk to your team at least once a day to check in on daily operations. Ask them about their interactions with customers at the facility and in classes. Having an open dialogue with your staff creates a safe space and an expectation to let you know when things go swimmingly and when issues arise.
- Last, practice active listening. Many times we hear feedback, but we don't actually listen with the intention of making a plan to address what is and isn’t working.
The ABCs of Responding to Direct Customer Feedback
If a busy parent has taken the time to give you direct feedback, this is your opportunity to respond! Keep in mind these ABCs when responding to feedback online or in-person:
- Act: Take the time to act upon any positive or negative feedback that you receive from customers. Follow up to learn about the individual customer’s experience and decide how to address the situation with the customer and your staff. Empower your staff to look for potential negative experiences and to take action to avoid them.
- Be Open: Hearing critical feedback about your business can be challenging. Think of it this way: if they’re sharing this with you, chances are they would also share it with several friends who are your customers or potential customers. Be open and encouraging when giving customers the opportunity to share feedback with you directly. This lets you address any of the impressions (both positive and negative) that may be out there.
- Communicate: Communication is key when it comes to responding to feedback. Take the time to connect with every person that takes a moment to share their experience with you. Personalized thank you notes or follow-up messages when you make improvements based on a customer’s suggestion can add a lot of value and often turn a once negative experience into a remarkable one. Even just acknowledging that you’re listening goes a long way to show that you care about your customers.
When creating a culture of feedback, sharing victories and successes are equally as important as addressing negative feedback. Recognition communicates the value of any action that is being celebrated or in need of adjustment. Make sure that everyone on the team understands what happened, is aware of what actions were taken with the customer, and how you will continue to work diligently to prevent any issues from happening again - the real learning process!
Empowering your team to make smart customer service decisions is critical. Training and giving them the tools to make decisions will increase accountability and make the team have a better sense of ownership.