Over the next few weeks, thousands of people are going to walk into your store, visit your website, or call you up on the phone (people still do that, right?).
You’ll probably see a surge in interest and sales without lifting a finger. It’s the seller’s blessing that just comes along with the gift-giving season.
Then, like a jingling sleigh across the night sky, those customers will disappear. For an entire year.
See the problem?
Think about this: Every business right now is so focused on how they can use promotions and gimmicks to push the holiday season to its sales limits that they miss out on the massive opportunity to learn from the huge amount of data available from their holiday shoppers, and use what they learn to improve their sales for the entire year, not just for a quick buck during the holidays.
I’m talking about finding out what drew potential customers to you in the first place, and then capitalizing on your findings to maximize sales throughout the next 11 months, giving your business serious, sustained month over month sales growth, not just a holiday bump.
And it’s as simple as asking a couple of questions.
Every single one of your customers has a story behind their purchase, they have motivations, they have a reason for choosing your product over anyone else’s, they have an opinion about your features, an opinion about your pricing, an opinion about your sales process, what you should change, and more.
If you were able to collect this information and then use it to tailor everything about your business to that feedback, don’t you think potential and returning customers would love you for it?
If you could find out what shoppers think is the worst thing about your business, and then eliminate it, or the best thing about your business and focus on it, wouldn’t that make your business a better place to buy from for the whole year? For the year after? Forever?
You bet it would, and it’s the reason that big businesses hire market research firms, send exit surveys to their customers, conduct focus groups, etc.
“Wait… So your holiday promotion idea is to… survey my customers? Right now? Why?”
While everyone else is only asking customers for their money, you’ll be giving yours a voice; do not underestimate how much brand goodwill and word-of-mouth promotion a single customer can generate when they feel their opinion matters to a company.
Plus, creating customer surveys is super easy these days, with services like SurveyMonkey, Typeform, and our own neat survey builder helping to facilitate the painless collection of customer data.
It’s hard to throw something else into the mix (like surveying customers) right now, I know, but that’s exactly why you should do it: your competition probably won’t.
Still not convinced? Here’s Forbes giving 3 reasons to collect customer feedback, Client Heartbeat giving 6, and The Marketing Donut asserting that “it’s likely that you can exceed a 10% rise in sales from a good feedback system.”
At this point, I fully expect that 90% of you have tuned out, and think this sounds like too much work, or that you’d rather just keep your Christmas promotion ideas in-line with what everyone else is doing by offering a discount or a free gift, cashing in, and then doing it all over again in 11 months… and that’s ok.
But for the 10% of you that are willing to put just a little bit of extra hustle into your business this holiday season, I bet the wheels are turning and you’re getting pumped right now about just how awesome 2016 is going to be when you blow sales expectations out of the water like a redneck fishing with dynamite. Or something like that.
“Alright, but what should be included in a customer feedback survey?”
The exact questions you ask will vary depending on the market you’re in and whether you’re largely selling offline, online, or through a combination of the two, but no matter what you should be asking questions that…
- Help you find out which products are most sought-after, and why.
- Gives customers an opportunity to tell you why they ultimately decided to purchase from you, or why they decided not to if they left empty-handed.
- Let you identify people who love your brand and reach out to them.
- Let you identify people who hate your brand and reach out to them.
- Provide an opportunity to collect contact information from respondents.
- Feature some sort of quantitative (number based/measurable) rating of your business.
You might also want to have…
- An incentive to complete the survey.
- An incentive to come back in and shop again (this can be a coupon that doubles as #6 as well).
A note on offering incentives: When choosing an incentive to offer, you’ve got two primary options: An incentive that seeks to bring people back into your own business (coupon, etc.), or a wide-appeal incentive (iPad giveaway, etc.).
Both have their merits, though offering an incentive that has to something do with your business may discourage people from participating who had a negative experience (because why would they want a coupon for a store they don’t plan on coming back to?), which can skew your feedback and not give you the whole picture.
That said, offering a coupon valid anytime next year is a good way to help get people back in the door for repeat shopping. Ultimately, it will be up to you to gauge general customer mood and decide which angle is most important for your to capitalize on.
That’s a lot to cover, so here’s a live example of a customer feedback survey I’ve created for an imaginary candle store which incorporates the above elements:
“Great, but how do I actually get people to fill it out?”
As you probably noticed, the survey example above is worded to be given after a customer has finished shopping/is leaving the store. This is called an “exit survey”, and can also be used user online when a customer leaves a website or is finished making a purchase.
Generally, I recommend exit surveys for small businesses because they ultimately tell you what people actually did, and not just what they planned to do. In short, you’ll get the most complete information out of people after their experience with you is over.
For online customers:
Email a link to the survey after purchase is a good idea, or use an exit-popup format for those leaving the site without purchasing. Alternatively, you can embed many surveys right on your site wherever it makes sense (on an order confirmation page, for example).
For in-store customers:
For busy holiday retailers, consider placing an iPad or two near the exit of your shop (in a kiosk stand or somehow locked down if you’re worried about theft!), bring your survey up on it, and let customers know you’d appreciate their feedback as they leave.
“OK so once I’ve gathered responses, then what?”
Then the real magic happens.
Start digging through your data and noting down common trends in feedback. Start to look what people tend to be in agreement about and start there.
You’ve already done the tough part by collecting feedback, now you just need to make sure you don’t let that effort go to waste by not acting on it.
The faster you can implement changes that are in line with the feedback you received, the bigger of an impact this will have with your customers.
Imagine if you walked into a store looking for a Christmas gift, found what you were looking for, but ultimately decided not to buy it because it was out of your price range. On your way out of the store, you took a survey and let the store owners know what you were looking for and why you ultimately didn’t buy it.
The next day, you receive this email:
I don’t know about you, but I’d been pretty surprised – in a really good way – that a company reached out to me like that.
This is exactly the kind of thing you should be doing, at least in the short term.
Small businesses forget that one of their greatest assets is actually the fact that they’re small; at such a phase, you can bust your butt and reach out to every single customer that needs it and make them huge fans of your brand.
Even if the customer referenced above doesn’t end up buying that super-sweet sounding Holiday At Home gift basket for his wife, he’ll remember you reaching out, and probably tell someone about it.
But you shouldn’t stop there. Besides remedying individual non-buyer decisions, you should use your feedback to…
Reach out to your brand’s biggest fans: If someone rated your business highly, reach out to them about spreading the word in exchange for store credit, offer them a gift for their loyalty, make them feel special.
Reach out to your brand’s biggest haters: If someone rated your business poorly, reach out and make it right. In many cases, if you can solve someone’s problem who is upset with your brand, they can actually become bigger advocates of your brand than people who never felt wrong in the first place. Of course, only a small percentage of unsatisfied actually speak up, so solving the problems of one person who took the time to make you aware of them will probably be garnering goodwill from way more people than you think.
Make general quality of life changes: Did a lot of your shoppers have trouble finding a certain item? Maybe it’s time to organize your operation in a different way to help customers navigate it easier. Are customers often after a certain product type that you don’t carry? Maybe it’s time to put it in the roster!
Applying this to your business
Businesses who listen to their feedback just perform better, and those who don’t, well, you can read about that for yourself if you like. The point is, you can give discounts and free gifts and run your usual promotions, but don’t forget to also give your customers something no one else is: a voice.
You might just be surprised at the killer 2016 that gift can return to you.