Business basics: the importance of customer feedback

It’s vital you know how your customers feel about your products and services, so that you can keep them coming back to you.

Whether you’re a fledgling business or an established company with an excellent historical record, keeping customers is easier and cheaper than finding new ones. So it’s vital you know how your customers feel about your products and services, so that you can keep them coming back to you.

It also gives you information on what your business could be doing better. According to, 91% of customers will simply leave and never come back and the majority of unhappy customers won’t bother to complain. So if you don’t ask for feedback, you may never know why you’re not getting repeat custom.  

However, while they may not tell you why they were displeased, on average an unhappy customer will tell between nine and 15 people about their bad experience. Word of mouth is an important method of referrals, so you want to avoid this. Plus, it’s now very easy to write reviews on social media and online review sites, so it’s never been easier to spread the word. According to Trustpilot, 77% of consumers look at online reviews of a product before deciding whether or not to purchase it and 89% are influenced by negative reviews.  

When should you ask for feedback?

Asking for feedback is a simple method of listening to your customers. And if you want your business to be successful, you should be proactive and talk to them regular, to understand them better and target your products to their needs.

It also gives you the opportunity to nip any issues in the bud if it’s done at the correct time. For example, you’d want to know as soon as possible if a customer bought a product but then wasn’t happy with it. Similarly, if a loyal customer suddenly stopped buying from you, you’d want to know why. Perhaps you’ve offered a free trial and customers aren’t

Other pertinent times to ask for opinions are if you’re considering launching a new product or changing an existing one. Before you invest time and money into this, it’s sensible to get reactions from your customer base. This is particularly important for small businesses, where these resources may be in short supply.

Which feedback method to choose?

There is a huge array of options for gathering feedback and each has their pros and cons. The best method may depend on what information you’re hoping to gather.

  • Online surveys and questionnaires. These can be emailed or linked to from social media posts and are great for large numbers of customers and when you want to track performance over time.
  • Face to face or by telephone. This might be to conduct interviews of while you’re providing customer support. This method offers more detailed interactions and therefore more specific information.
  • Online feedback forms. These can be useful because they’re available 24/7, giving your customers an opportunity to comment on your services when it’s relevant for, and most important to, them.  
  • Social media. This is one of the quickest ways to engage with your customers or audience and potentially drive your branding at the same time. However, it’s a very public method, so make sure you respond to posts quickly.

This list is of course not exhaustive. There’s also software that can ask website visitors questions, which allows you to gather anonymous data from visitors who may be potential, rather than actual customers.  

Basically, almost any avenue where you interact or communicate with your customers or audience has potential to be used to gather feedback.

Making sure feedback is valuable

  • Don’t waste your customers’ time.  If you’re creating a survey, try to make sure it’s as short as possible while still offering you useful data.  Surveys that are too long increase the risk of respondents giving up half way, leaving you with incomplete data.  Keep it simple and ask questions your customers will want to answer by putting yourself in their shoes. This will help you to keep your questions short and easy to answer. If you’re unsure, look at how larger companies such as Amazon and eBay ask for feedback. Carefully consider the structure and questions in your survey; each one should give you useful data that will help you take an action or come to a conclusion. If it doesn’t, don’t include it.
  • Don’t restrict feedback. Whatever method you use, make sure you allow your customer to tell you what they think in their own words. Closed options on a survey or feedback form restrict the information you’ll receive and therefore, the insights you can pull from it. While these questions can help you to monitor trends over time, open ended questions can give you a much better picture of your customers and how they feel about your business. So make sure you offer a mixture or an option for customers to provide more information than just scoring your services.
  • Segment your customers. The questions you want to ask repeat buyers may be different to those who only bought once or who returned their order. By tailoring your questions, you’ll gain much more useful responses.
  • Get the timing right. Asking at the right time can increase your response rates. For example, in most cases it is more sensible to ask for comments on a product a week or two after the customer has received it rather than a year down the line. However, asking for feedback if there’s been a shipment delay could just annoy your customers.
  • Offer multiple feedback methods. It’s best to offer several ways for customers to feedback their experience, for example, some might like the real-time nature of social media, while others may want to give more detailed, private comments.     

Acting on feedback

If a customer has bothered to give you feedback, you need to make sure you act on it, whether the comments are positive or negative.

You could encourage happy customers to write a review, thereby spreading the word about your product and helping you to convert more customers. Or you could offer them a discount as a thank you for giving up their time to improve your product.

Don’t ignore negative feedback. Contact the customer as soon as possible and if this is in the public domain, try to take the conversation offline, where you can have more detailed conversations.

Look for trends in the replies you receive before you change your products or services. If a certain issue keeps cropping up, it may be worthwhile investigating further. 

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