How to Use Customer Feedback to Grow Your Business

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Customer Experience : 10 min read

How to Use Customer Feedback to Grow Your Business

Creating a business depends on a certain amount of assumption; you study your customers, industry, and market and make educated guesses about what gaps need to be filled and how you can make that happen.

But at a certain point, guessing what your customers are looking for is just wasting money.

Building a successful and sustainable business requires that you shape your services and products around your customers’ needs (and opinions). In order to get those, you need to talk to them.

Getting customer feedback is like getting a look into your audience’s mind. You can find out what’s working and what isn’t—straight from the source.

What’s even better, it can come without any additional cost to you.

However, just getting feedback isn’t enough. In addition to collecting insights you can actually use, you also need to know how to apply that feedback to grow your business.

Let’s walk through how you can make the most of your customers’ feedback. In this post, we'll look at:

What is customer feedback?

Customer feedback is any information––both positive and negative––related to a customer’s experience with your company, product, or service.

It can feel rather broad––and that’s because it is. Customer feedback can come in many different forms and be about pretty much anything.

To help keep customer feedback more organized (and therefore easier to use), you can categorize it in two different ways: by type and by focus area.

Types of customer feedback

The types of customer feedback relate to the channels through which it is given. There are typically three kinds of customer feedback:

1. Given feedback - When feedback is given, customers are taking the initiative to provide you with insights or opinions directly. This could be through reviews, phone calls, chat conversations, social media messages, or support tickets. This Tweet is an example of given feedback because it was directly shared by the customer without prompting:

customer feedback tweet

2. Requested feedback - Feedback that is solicited through surveys, ratings, email, or other platforms is considered requested. In other words, requested feedback is feedback that you or your business actively asks for:

solicited customer feedback example
This West Elm email is an example of requested feedback because it was dispersed through email.

3. Observed feedback - Observed feedback is feedback that isn’t sent directly to you. You might observe feedback on social media or through website analytics:

observed customer feedback example
This Reddit post is an example of observed feedback because it was not directed to the company itself.

All three should be used together to develop a comprehensive image of how customers perceive your business and products or services. But we’ll touch on this a little later…

Focus areas of customer feedback

Customer feedback can also focus on different areas within the business. Categorizing feedback by how it relates to your organization can help you better apply it to where it’s most relevant, including:

  1. Overall customer satisfaction - This is feedback that relates to your customer’s general perception of your brand. This feedback is usually more general and covers all aspects of your company.
  2. Product feedback - This feedback focuses on a particular offering, product, or service. It could include opinions on product features, how easy it is to use, or bugs or errors.
  3. Customer service feedback - Customer service-focused feedback relates to the perceptions of how well your team is able to solve issues or answer questions. It can also shine a light on the customer’s overall experience of your feedback process.

Ritual uses a simple scale to collect customer service feedback:

customer feedback scale

The feedback you receive should fall into one type category and one focus area category. For example, if you send a survey asking for opinions after a customer purchases a new product, this would be requested product feedback.

If a customer rants about a product not working in a Tweet but doesn’t tag your brand, this would be observed product feedback.

Feedback of all kinds are important. Let’s take a look at why.

Why is customer feedback important? 

Gathering feedback doesn't just help you keep your customers happy––it can actually be used to seriously improve and grow your business.

Here’s how.

Customer feedback can improve satisfaction and retention.

Satisfied customers are the best marketing investment you can make. Not only are returning customers less expensive to convert, they’re also likely to spend more money and refer new leads to your business.

Customer feedback allows you to identify unhappy customers who may have had a poor experience or didn’t find what they were looking for. By asking for their opinion and making changes based on that, you can change perceptions of products or services—and even create long-term customers:

zapier customer feedback example

Asking for feedback from customers who are unhappy with issues––no matter how small they seem––can help build product satisfaction.

Feedback can also help you keep a pulse on seemingly happy customers—and maintain (or even improve) satisfaction and retention.

Let’s say you’ve been working with a client for six months. They haven’t voiced any concerns, so you assume they’re happy with the products or services you’re offering.

Then one day they decide to cancel. They’re moving to a competitor with little explanation.

While the customer may not have any real problems with your offerings, they might have been facing additional challenges or struggles they didn’t know you could take on. By not being proactive about collecting feedback, you weren’t able to reconnect and provide new solutions that might have convinced them to stick around.

Customer feedback can steer the direction of your products, services, and brand.

Anyone who has ever grown a business has found themselves wondering at one point or another if what they’re doing is really a good idea. Introducing new products, services, or even entirely new brands to the market is always risky.

When you tap into your customer base for feedback, opinions, and ideas, you can have a better understanding of what kind of potential a new idea has.

Customer feedback can also spark new ideas. There's no easier way to identify needs or gaps in the market that need to be filled than by talking to your customers.

You can then use this information to expand your product, service, or brand or build something new to meet that need.

Take this interaction between Notion and a customer, for example:

product feedback example

Having an open conversation about what customers are looking for and what they believe will improve their experience can shape the decisions a company makes.

Customer feedback brings the customer into the decision-making process.

Your customers are the most important part of your business––and they should feel like it.

With the right feedback collection process (which I’ll outline in a minute), customers can feel like they’re the center of your world.

Asking for opinions or thoughts can make your customers feel valued. And when they feel like you’re invested in creating something great for them, they’ll be more likely to be invested in seeing you become successful.

Opening up that communication pathway allows customers to be more comfortable coming to you when they have problems that need solving, which ultimately creates a more positive experience for them.

However, the quality of feedback you get from your customers all depends on how you ask for it. Let’s walk through different ways you can collect customer feedback––and what you should do with it.

How to ask for customer feedback

Collecting just one type of feedback isn’t enough to really understand your customers’ experiences. Each serves a unique purpose in building your brand.

If you’re passive about collecting customer feedback, you’ll most likely end up with a lopsided view of customer perceptions. By focusing on selective areas, such as only paying attention to requested feedback, you could be overlooking key issues or challenges that are pushing potential long-term customers away.

For example, if you ignore social media posts just because they aren’t directed at your team, you could be missing key opportunities for improving your business.

While each organization’s feedback process will look different, here are a few best practices you should keep in mind when asking for customer critique.

1. Know your industry and your customer.

Although customers in every industry and demographic are going to have opinions on your products, services, and brand, how you go about collecting them will look dramatically different depending on who you’re trying to connect with.

For example, if you’re a financial consultant, you most likely have the ability to request one-on-one meetings with your clients. But if you run a global e-commerce business, asking for feedback through phone calls or individual emails could be literally impossible.

Identify the best avenues for connecting with your customer base. Think of what makes sense to them based on your relationship and the demographics they fall in. For example, younger customers may be more available on social media than email.

Pro-tip: Pay close attention to how engaged your customers are on different platforms and understand where you’re most likely to get the most attention.

You also want to consider how they use social media, your website, or other review sites. This will be especially important for measuring observed feedback.

For example, if your customers are likely to turn to Reddit or Facebook to vent about frustrations, you’ll want to keep an eye on those platforms to monitor conversations around your brand.

You’ll also want to see how they engage with different brands on those social media platforms. If they’re active on certain platforms, they might ask questions or leave feedback in unexpected places, such as in the comments section of an image.

Here, this customer asked a question on a Facebook post from Airtable––even though the original post wasn’t relevant to the issue:

facebook feedback post

Knowing how your customers behave online can make it easier for you to find useful feedback to improve their experience.

Pro-tip

Know thy customer. 🔎

Learn how to collect customer information and feedback—and use that data effectively with this free handbook.

2. Ask for feedback at every stage of the customer’s journey

It can be tempting to only ask your best customers for feedback. After all, you’ve already built a strong relationship and they’re sure to have nice things to say about you.

Unfortunately, this can create an incredibly skewed image of how customers perceive you.

It’s important to gather feedback at every stage of the customer’s journey––particularly when they might not be happy with your team or products. Getting negative feedback can shine light on issues you may have been overlooking.

However, only asking customers for feedback when they’ve needed help troubleshooting an issue or they’re choosing to cancel services can also create an unrealistic image of your brand and business too.

Asking for feedback throughout every stage of the customer’s journey can make sure you’re not limiting responses to one select group of customers.

3. Put the focus on your customer

While your ultimate goal of collecting feedback might be to improve your business model, you can only do that through improving your customer experience. This means that your customers need to be the focus of your requested feedback.

Consider these two survey scenarios from the perspective of the customer.

In Survey #1, a company wants to find more information about a customer’s perception of a product idea. They request feedback about the product idea, how much the customer would be willing to spend on that product, and if they see it solving day-to-day problems:

product-centric customer survey
Example of a product-centric survey question

In Survey #2, a different company wants to see how they can better serve their customers, potentially through the creation of a new product. In their survey, they ask questions about the products the customer is currently using, what challenges they’re still facing while using those products, and what they enjoy most about using those products.

You may also ask what factors they considered when making a purchase, like this example of a customer-centric survey question from Felix Gray:

customer-centric survey question
Felix Gray gains insights into customer’s priorities by asking what important factors they considered while making a purchase.

At first glance, there doesn't seem to be much difference between these two approaches. But in Survey #1, you’re only getting feedback on one specific product or idea. Answers will most likely be black and white––”no, I wouldn’t use that product,” or “yes, I think that product would be helpful.”

On the other hand, while Survey #2 doesn’t give you specifics on a product, it does give you deeper insight into the daily experiences of your customers.

When soliciting feedback from your customers, also make sure they recognize that you’re looking to help them too––not just yourself.

This means inviting your customers to speak freely about their opinions. If they’re sugarcoating their feedback, it doesn’t help either of you.

Let your customers know you’re looking for feedback on how you can improve their experience with your brand, not necessarily praise or testimonials. Being transparent with customers can help them understand your purpose for collecting feedback and encourage them to be more honest.

You may also want to collect critiques anonymously. This usually gets you more honest responses, especially if you work directly with clients who would worry about offending you.

4. Make giving feedback as easy as possible

Although feedback should ultimately improve your customer experience, your audience is still doing you a favor by filling out your surveys or responding to prompts for a review.

This means you need to make it as easy as possible while also making the most out of the time they’re giving you.

Feedback requests should always be clear, direct, and to the point.

Ask simple questions that are likely to get your customers engaged. Start with something easy to answer that can still give you valuable insights, such as their overall satisfaction with a purchase.

Nordstrom uses a simple 1-5 scale, making it easy for customers to give their feedback:

Customer_Care_Survey

You can then continue to ask follow up questions, such as the reasoning behind their choices. However, set your feedback system up so that responses will log whenever the customer chooses to stop. This can prevent you from losing feedback if a customer chooses not to finish your survey.

Try incentivizing customers to fill out lengthy surveys by offering gift cards or discounts. For example, enter every completed survey-taker into a drawing for a gift card or send smaller gift cards to every participant.

Woodpecker offers an incentive to encourage users to participate in their LinkedIn & Email survey:

LinkedIn___Email_Survey

However, this is another time where knowing your audience is important. While a $15 Amazon gift card might be appealing to some, if your customers are Fortune 500 CEOs, that $15 probably won’t be worth their time.

Another tip: make giving feedback easy by making surveys or feedback forms as accessible as possible.

For example, for requested feedback, include links where your audience is most likely to engage.

If you’re frequently communicating with clients through email, it might make sense to add a survey link to your footer. If customers are active on social media, sharing a link to a survey page in posts or in your bio can help draw attention to it.

AND.CO adds a “Request Feature” call-to-action in their emails, prompting customers to connect with their ideas:

email surveys

Timing is key when collecting high-quality feedback. You want to get customer opinions when they’re still fresh, meaning you’ll want to connect right after a transaction or encounter.

For example, when a customer reaches out to you for assistance, immediately send a follow-up asking for them to review their experience with customer service.

The same can be done after a customer makes a purchase. Sending a request for reviews about a week after the customer receives their items can prompt them to give feedback about the product after having had a chance to try it out.

Include calls for feedback within your automated processes. In both of these examples, you can use automated tools like Marketo or Mailchimp to set up a workflow and ensure prompts are delivered at a relevant time.

OpenTable automatically prompts diners through email to leave a review a couple days after their reservation:

opentable feedback email

Be sure to make it easy for your customers to get in touch. If you work in an industry where your clients have your email address or phone number, you probably don’t need to set up any additional communication channels.

But for larger companies where customers might not have a one-to-one relationship with a company representative, establish clear pathways where customers can send unsolicited feedback.

This might be a form on your website that customers can use to send an email or the direct message feature within a social media platform.

5. Set up alerts to monitor observed feedback

Up until now, most of the feedback we’ve talked about is either requested or given. While both are important, they only contain information that your customers want to share with you.

There is a whole world of conversation happening about your brand without you even knowing it––and you can’t afford to ignore it.

In some cases, observed feedback can be the most beneficial to your business. After all, it’s the comments, opinions, or thoughts that your customers share when they think you’re not listening.

However, you can’t scour review pages and social media all day hoping to find a bit of feedback from your customers. Instead, setting up alerts so you’re notified when someone mentions your brand can help you stay on top of any indirect feedback.

Google Alerts is a simple way to get notifications any time your business is mentioned on the web. Here's how you can set it up:

  1. Go to google.com/alerts
  2. In the search bar, type in your company name
  3. Fill in the additional drop downs, including how often you’d like to receive alerts, where you’d like Google to search for mentions, and where you’d like results delivered to
Google_Alerts

Unfortunately, Google Alerts doesn’t pull mentions from social media yet. You could search within those platforms to find conversations customers are having about you, or you could use a social listening tool like Sprout Social.

A social listening tool allows you to identify keywords that you’d like to track across social media platforms, including the big names like Facebook and Twitter, but also some often overlooked platforms like Reddit and Quora.

Using a query builder, you can complete more advanced searches of different platforms to get a more comprehensive idea of the conversations being had about your brand or the products and services you offer:

query builder
Sprout Social’s Query Builder allows you to get specific about how you search on social media platforms, making it easier to find your audience.

A social listening tool can also provide analytics into how often certain words or hashtags are being used. By keeping an eye on emerging trends, you can stay one step ahead of your customer:

social mentions trends report
Example of a trends report created by Sprout Social’s social listening tool

Treat observed feedback the same you would direct feedback.

If you find a customer talking about an issue with your brand online, send them a message to get in touch so you can provide a solution. For customers sharing positive experiences, a simple thank you can show that you’re listening and you care what your audience has to say.

Respond to negative reviews on a third-party site like Yelp to try to improve customer experience and satisfaction.

Don’t discredit observed comments just because they’re not aimed directly to your company. Instead, take notes and see if other customers are saying similar things.

6. Look at customer behavior––not just what they’re telling you

Not every customer is going to come out and say what they’re thinking.

In those cases, you need to look at how your customer is behaving in relation to your products and services.

For example, let’s say one of your most popular website pages is a FAQ page outlining how to troubleshoot a product problem. The fact that so many customers are coming to this page to learn more about the issue should tell you it’s a recurring problem you need to solve.

Evaluating customer behavior in this way allows you to identify problems customers may not be bringing to your attention.

Look at inferred feedback related to your website as a whole, as well. Website behavior-tracking tools, like Crazyegg, will give you insights into how website visitors are engaging with your website:

crazyegg tool
Crazyegg uses heatmaps to give website feedback, showing you where customers are engaging and where they might lose interest.

Monitoring how visitors are behaving on your website shows you what is working, what isn’t, and gives you an opportunity to A/B test ideas before introducing official changes. Take advantage of these tools to find potential issues before they grow into bigger problems.

7. Keep customer responses organized and always follow up

When a customer takes the time to give you feedback, you don’t want them to feel like it was all for nothing.

Thanking them for their message and then following up can go a long way––and even spark a long-term cycle of feedback that gets customers more and more invested in your brand.

Each time you connect with a customer is an opportunity to build upon the last conversation you had. In both positive and negative scenarios, you should be able to point back to feedback they’ve given you in the past and highlight what has improved or changed.

At Copper, we use our own product to record and sort past conversations with customers, including both formal and informal forms of feedback. We make notes including everything from survey responses to small challenges the customer might have had, even if they seem trivial:

customer feedback in copper crm
Add notes within your CRM so you can stay up-to-date with customer needs and challenges.

It's awesome because we can just refer back to the CRM log before each conversation so that we know which areas to focus on.

For example, I was working with a client who made the decision to downsize their number of Copper licenses. To help discover what the issue was, I looked back on my notes in Copper to see if there was anything I missed.

I relayed the history of our relationship as I understood it, including mentioning feedback they had given in the past and steps we’d decided to take towards specific initiatives.

I ended by asking what critical success factors they used in evaluating their decision. Framing the question this way, rather than just asking why they chose to downside, gave me deeper insights into the organizational structure and workflow of both their business and the industry as a whole.

Using past conversations can allow you to seed questions that aren’t just yes or no, making it more likely that your customers will give detailed opinions that provide useful information.

As a bonus: showing customers that you’re listening to their feedback can also make them more interested in giving you feedback again.

How to prioritize and use customer feedback

Your customers all have a different way of doing things, which means they’ll all have a different idea of how you can improve. It would be impossible for you to incorporate every piece of feedback you get.

But this doesn’t mean you can pick and choose which feedback to apply.

Instead, you need to prioritize and evaluate feedback, then determine whether or not it should be implemented. Here’s how.

Prioritizing customer feedback

Prioritizing the feedback you’re given makes it easier to outline a plan to act upon it. Rather than focusing on feedback as it comes to you, assigning different weights to each piece of feedback will tell you what you should focus on.

Feedback priority will come down to three measures: urgency, frequency, and value.

Here’s a quick overview of what each one means:

  • Urgency
    • Feedback that is urgent needs attention right away, while low-urgency feedback can be acted on at a later date.
  • Frequency
    • When the same feedback is repeated from multiple customers, we say it has a high frequency. Low-frequency feedback is usually mentioned by just one or two customers.
  • Value
    • The value of the feedback relates to the size of the account of the person providing the critique. High-value feedback would likely come from your largest clients, while low-value feedback might be related to an individual with minimal investment.

Collect as much data in each area as possible. You can then look at each piece of feedback more completely to determine which should be acted upon.

Pro-tip: Focus on feedback that can have the greatest impact for your customer base as a whole.

If you’re getting highly urgent, high-frequency requests that could be causing issues for a wide range of clients, focus on solving that problem first. Move more niche issues further down the list for the time being if you're strapped for resources.

However, regardless of how important the feedback is to your business, you should always include customers in the follow-up process (something we’ll touch on in a minute). A simple thank you can go a long way.

Sharing your feedback with your team

The feedback you’re given will usually apply to multiple teams. From product reviews to customer service critiques, you need to have an efficient way to share information with various departments.

Feedback should be shared with the relevant teams based on how high-priority it is.

Very high-priority feedback should be shared in real-time. Low-priority praise from happy customers, on the other hand, might only need to be shared once a week.

Use a centralized location for storing feedback and updates, such as your CRM. Again, Copper is great for this because it gives us an easy way to share updates on clients’ feedback with the entire team:

customer feedback in a crm

Make sure all team members are recording the feedback they were given, the steps that were taken, and the outcomes so other departments are able to work with the most accurate information available.

Keeping customers in the loop

Whether they’re sharing ideas or thanking you for your business, customers never want to feel like their feedback is going to an overflowing inbox that no one's going to check.

Let your customers know you’ve received their feedback and how you plan to use the information they gave.

This will typically look a bit different depending on the type of feedback your customer gives.

For given feedback, a simple email or message thanking them for their message is usually enough. If they have a problem they need solved, let them know you’re looking into the issue and will find a solution soon. Then, if you’re able, send a personalized message informing them of the resolution.

You can also create a public request board, such as on Trello, where customers can add their own thoughts and ideas. Your team can edit, comment, and make notes so customers can check in on the status of their request.

Here's how Trello uses a “Feature Requests” board to keep customers updated on the status of their feedback:

Feature_Requests___Trello

Observed feedback typically doesn’t need a follow-up because the customer isn’t sharing it directly with your brand. If you reach out for more information about an issue and the customer chooses to provide you with their feedback, follow the same process you would for given feedback.

Requested feedback is great for creating customer reports. You can compile all your customer responses into a publishable piece that updates all your customers on the notes you were given and how you chose to implement them.

This is also a great way to let customers know your next steps. If you got feedback you weren’t able to implement at that time but still plan to, your report can share that information.

Grow your business with customer feedback

Customer feedback comes in many forms. In order to grow your business, you need to pay close attention to all of them.

Having a way to categorize, prioritize, and improve upon feedback can help foster long-term relationships with customers who want to see your business succeed.

When you work together to create something truly beneficial, everybody wins—and profits.