The purpose of this session is to help you understand how customer feedback can make your business stronger and more profitable. We will cover how to create a customer experience process. We’ll talk about how to respond to all kinds of customer feedback, such as online customer reviews or in-person feedback. This information will help you use customer feedback to improve your business.
- What is Customer Experience?
- The Key Elements of Customer Experience
- Customer Experience vs. Customer Service
- Defining Good Customer Service for Your Business
- What is Customer Feedback?
- Customer Reviews
- Why Customer Feedback is Important for Your Business
- Why Do Customers Provide Feedback?
- How and Where Customers Share Feedback
- How to Address Feedback Professionally
- Seeking Customer Feedback
- How to Use Feedback to Improve Your Business
- How Not to Take Feedback Personally
- Top Ten Do's and Don'ts
- Making a Plan for Your Customer Experience
- Templates for Positive and Negative Feedback
Customer experience is the overall experience a customer has, from start to finish, with every aspect of your business and your brand. Customer experience is the total impression your business leaves on customers, from the moment they first hear about you to the moment they complete their interaction with your products or services, and everything in between. Customer experience is important for establishing your brand, attracting potential buyers, completing a sale, building strong relationships with your customers, partners, and investors, and helping your business create more profit.
The Key Elements of Customer Experience
- Your product or service. This is what you are selling to your customers.
- You and your staff. The way you and your team interact with customers greatly influences their experience. Friendly, helpful interactions can leave a positive impression.
- Your level of professionalism and customer service. It is important to be professional and provide great customer service. It shows the customers that you appreciate them and value their business.
- Your dedication to their customer experience. Customers are looking for businesses that genuinely want to provide a good experience. If you are sincere and helpful, customers are more likely to return.
- Their decision-making process. Customers use many factors when deciding where to shop. It’s important to understand these elements so you can get and keep customers. To learn more about the sales process, visit MOBI’s Selling session.
Customer experience is like a roadmap that guides how your business interacts with customers. The customer experience touches all parts of your business, from how you develop your products, to marketing, sales, ensuring customers are successful, and of course, customer service. Creating a customer experience framework helps you make sure your customers have a good experience every time they interact with your business. It’s a set of steps and practices to help you meet or exceed what the customers want from your business.
Customer Experience vs. Customer Service
Many people may be more familiar with the term “Customer Service” than the term “Customer Experience.” This is understandable because the two are closely related. Customer service is a very important part of customer experience, however, customer experience includes the whole customer journey and every interaction the customer has with your business and your brand along the way. For example, when a customer places an order at your food truck, the interactions of this process include customer service. When that same customer initially saw your branded food truck before deciding to place an order, it was part of the customer experience but did not include customer service.
As a business owner you understand that your customer’s experience is central to the success of your business. Whether you have an active role in that experience (for example through direct customer interactions) or a behind-the-scenes role (for example through branding and marketing, employee training, sales strategies, leadership and culture, and more), nearly everything you do in and for your business impacts your customer, and ultimately, your profits.
A customer experience process is like a roadmap that guides how your business interacts with customers. It helps you make sure the customers have a good experience every time they work with your business. It's a set of steps and practices to help you meet or exceed what the customers want from your business. Customer service is one part of the overall customer experience.
Here is an image that illustrates how customer experience and customer service are related.
Here, we'll break down the process of figuring out what good customer service means for your business. It's like creating your own guide to making customers happy.
Find the moments that matter. What are all the ways customers get in touch with you or interact with your business? This can include things like visiting your website to learn about you, placing an order, opening their product (or receiving their service if it’s a service business), calling with a question, providing feedback, and their in-person shopping experience. Think about the touch points where your customers interact with your business.
Identify your main business. Is it a product (a physical thing like food), a service (like cutting the grass), or both? What are you selling?
What are the most important parts of your customer interactions? These are unique to your industry. For example, if you're in the food industry, it may be to make sure the food is hot and presented well. If you’re in the service industry, it may be having friendly staff.
Define what a great customer experience would be for your business. Think about what makes your business stand out from your competitors. Maybe you provide faster service, better quality, or other unique options. Explain your goals clearly and specifically so that anyone in your business can use these same steps.
For example: Answer the phone within three rings, greet every customer that walks through the door, provide clear information online, etc.
Customer feedback refers to the broader range of comments, suggestions, and opinions that customers provide about their experiences with your business. It includes both positive and negative comments and is typically more detailed and actionable. When a customer shares their opinion about a product, service, or their overall customer experience, that is customer feedback.
One type of customer feedback is the customer review. Customer reviews are typically shorter, publicly posted evaluations of your business left on platforms like Google, Yelp, or TripAdvisor. They often include a rating and a brief comment summarizing the customer's experience.
Customer retention or creating repeat customers. Satisfied customers are more likely to return and make repeat purchases. Their loyalty can become a valuable source of steady income for your business. It is more cost-effective to keep customers coming back than it is to constantly find new ones. Your regular customers are a great source of repeat business and business expansion. For example, as you add new products or services, your existing customers are a valuable target market.
Increased profit. Customer feedback can directly impact your bottom line. When you address customer concerns and preferences, you're more likely to attract new customers and retain existing ones, ultimately boosting your revenue.
Problem detection. Customer feedback provides an early warning system. It helps you identify and address issues before they escalate, preserving your customer base and making your business stronger.
Brand reputation. Positive feedback builds a strong brand reputation. Happy customers often share their experiences, attracting new clients and enhancing your brand image.
Better products and services. Customer input helps you make improvements to your products and services and informs your product development. It ensures you're offering what your customers truly want and need.
Competitive comparison. Feedback helps you understand how you compare to competitors. This knowledge can be used to gain a competitive edge.
Continuous innovation. Customer feedback helps you create new and improved products and experiences. These types of improvements help you grow and stay relevant over time.
In this section, we'll explore the reasons customers share their opinions about your business. Understanding your customers’ motivation for sharing feedback will help you respond in the best way possible.
To help you or your business improve. Some customers genuinely want to see your business improve. They share feedback because they care about your success and want to help you do better.
To give compliments. When customers have a great experience, they want to give you a virtual high-five by posting a favorable experience. They share compliments to show their appreciation for a job well done.
To get a problem fixed. When things go wrong, customers speak up in the hope that you'll fix the issue. They want their concerns addressed quickly, making their experience better and preventing similar problems for others. This type of feedback can sometimes be frustrating, but it’s an opportunity to make it right and to prevent problems for future customers.
To point out an issue related to safety or ethical issues. Customers may provide feedback when they encounter situations they perceive as unsafe or unethical. They do this to protect themselves and others. They may also share this information if they are worried about a moral or ethical conflict. For example, if they notice a safety hazard in your store or an ethical issue in your business practices, they'll share their concerns to ensure these matters are addressed. Responding to such feedback with care and action not only demonstrates responsibility but also helps build trust and goodwill with your customers.
For recognition or status. Some customers enjoy being active contributors, especially in online settings. They provide feedback in the hope of getting noticed and recognized by your business, or to establish themselves as critics or influencers.
To get perks, upgrades, or discounts. Sometimes, customers share feedback with the expectation of getting a little something extra in return. They hope for perks, upgrades, or discounts as a thank-you for their loyalty.
How and Where Customers Share Feedback
Written. Customers often share their thoughts in writing, such as through comment cards (like the kind that are put into a suggestion box), online forms, social media posts, online reviews, and emails. These channels provide a structured and documented way for customers to express themselves.
Spoken. Customers may also choose to communicate verbally. This can happen in person when they talk to you or your staff, over the phone, or even in conversations with others where they voice their opinions, sometimes loudly, in public places or restaurants, for example.
User ratings. On many websites and apps, you'll find a system where customers can give a rating or a score (like stars or a thumb up/thumbs down) to show how much they liked something. They can also add a short comment to explain why they gave that score. This helps both the business and other customers understand what people think about a product or service.
Public vs. private. Feedback can be public, such as online reviews visible to anyone, or private, like a direct message or an in-person conversation. The choice often depends on the customer's comfort level and the nature of their feedback. For a public issue, invite the customer to discuss it with you in a less public setting. Some examples include phone calls or emails.
When it comes to online reviews, customers may leave a review on your business’s own web page or on a crowd-sourced site like Yelp, Google, or TripAdvisor, to name a few.
Keep in mind that 84% of customers read online reviews before buying something, according to this article in Forbes . This statistic highlights the importance of online reviews in shaping people's purchasing decisions. Knowing where and how customers share feedback helps you connect with them and use their thoughts to improve your business.
To learn more about customer reviews, visit this article from BrightLocal .
Customer feedback can sometimes come as a surprise, unexpected input delivered or shared when you are busy doing something else. No matter the type of feedback, it’s important to be prepared. In this section, we'll learn how to respond to customer feedback. You’ll learn how to reply in a professional and respectful way, whether the feedback is good or not-so-good. Providing feedback training to your team is also very important to ensure a consistent customer experience with the best opportunity for a positive outcome. There are also two sample response letters at the end of this session that can be used as a guide.
Stay Calm and Professional
It’s important to stay calm and professional when you get feedback, even if it's not what you hoped for. Don’t make excuses, blame others, make threats, or argue with your customer in public, online, or over the phone.
It’s equally important to remain calm and professional after a difficult situation involving negative feedback. Do not badmouth your customer, your products/services, business, or your team. Wait until things calm down to voice concerns or address any internal issues. Your leadership will shine through if you remain professional. Use a response strategy: Acknowledge, Apologize, and Act.
Use active listening skills. This is especially important in person. To use active listening, make eye contact, and maintain a neutral or sympathetic facial expression. Nod or ask questions at the appropriate times to show that the customer has your full attention.
Acknowledge feedback. Start by letting the customer know you heard what they said. It's a way of saying, "I got your message." It can be helpful to repeat their points back to them, in your own words to show that you understood or to clarify.
Thank them for their feedback. Be grateful for their feedback, whether it's positive or negative. Even if you disagree with their feedback, it’s important to tell them thank you. It will make them feel heard, reduce the tension in the current conversation, and show other customers that you take them seriously.
Apologize: If you receive negative feedback, there are a few additional steps you should take:
Apologize sincerely and take responsibility.
Express empathy for the feelings the situation created for your customer. (For example: I am very sorry we lost your dinner reservation. I know that you were looking forward to a nice meal with your family and you feel very disappointed.)
Offer a solution. This may be a refund, a discount, or an explanation of how you will improve in the future. For positive feedback, it may be a perk or benefit.
For online reviews, you may offer to continue the conversation more directly/privately via email or direct message. You can offer to investigate further with more details, for example.
Define the Solution or Action
Define what you and your staff are able/willing to do to address feedback. (For example: do you offer a free meal? A refund? A discount on the next visit, etc.)
Make sure your team understands what they can or can’t offer. This will empower them to act on their own and immediately address the feedback.
Be consistent with what you offer.
A Sample Response
Here is an example of what not to do when you receive negative customer feedback.
Customer feedback: Customer review by “UnhappyCustomer123”
“I can’t believe how terrible this service is! They messed up my order, and the staff was incredibly rude. I’ll never come back here again!”
How NOT to respond:
“UnhappyCustomer123, you’re totally wrong! We did nothing wrong with your order, and our staff was fine. You’re just too picky! Don’t bother coming back, we don’t need customers like you.”
In this situation, the business is not handling things professionally. They're being defensive, not taking any blame, and even arguing with the customer. This is not a good way to handle things because it can make the problem worse. It can also make the business look bad to other people, and they might lose future customers.
Sometimes, it's not just about the person who complained, but also about how everyone sees how the business responds. So, it's important to deal with negative comments by being understanding and trying to fix the problem in a professional way - even when the customer is being rude.
A better approach:
Dear UnhappyCustomer123, thank you for sharing your feedback with us. We are truly sorry to hear about your experience. Your concerns are important to us, and we are working with our staff to improve the customer service experience for our guests.
Would you like to email us to provide more detail about your experience? (Provide contact information.) This would be very helpful as we implement our improvements.
We value you as a customer, and we hope you will allow us an opportunity to provide a better experience in a future visit.
Sincerely, (Your Name, Your Business)
Please also see the sample response letter templates for positive and negative feedback at the end of this session, and also posted on the MOBI Resource Documents page in the Resources & Tools section of our website.
It is important to provide ways for customers to give feedback about your business. Many customers will provide feedback on their own. Other customers might only provide feedback if they are asked. Some will not provide feedback at all. When you seek customer feedback, it demonstrates that you care about your customers and their experiences with your business. By discouraging customer feedback, you may be telling your customers their opinions don’t matter to you. If you want to ask for feedback, here are a few things to consider:
How to make the most of the process. Take your time to think about why you want to ask for feedback and how you will use it. What is your overall goal? What information would you like to gather about and from your customers?
Decide what feedback to collect. Start by deciding what you want to learn from your customers. It could be about your products, how they feel about your service, or their overall experience. Don’t overdo it. If you seek too much information, you might get less participation.
Ways to collect feedback. There are quite a few ways to get feedback from your customers. You could ask in person, by email, or by phone. You could provide an online form. You could have comment cards available so people can provide feedback anonymously.
You can suggest where you’d like customers to leave feedback as well. If you provide bike tours, you could ask all your customers to leave a review on TripAdvisor for example. If you own a food business, maybe Yelp is better for your business.
Ask your employees to accept, collect, and share feedback with you. It’s important that you know how to respond to feedback. It’s also important to make sure your staff knows what to do. Sometimes customers may give their input to someone on your team other than you. When they receive feedback, they may only reply with “OK” or “Sorry.” Instead, teach them the Acknowledge, Apologize, Act process. Provide a way for employees to share this information with you.
Don’t ignore it. The most important step in using feedback to improve your business is to use it. Make a process for yourself to monitor feedback that is easy to remember and that you can follow at a regular frequency, like once a week or once a month.
Collect and review feedback. Feedback is valuable and you’ll want a way to keep track of it. Consider where and how you can collect this information. It might be a book or binder or notes so everyone on your team can add to it. You could also use an online document or a spreadsheet so everything is stored in one place.
Sort into positive and negative. As you collect this information, sort the feedback into positive (compliments) and negative (criticisms, problems, or ways to improve).
Look for patterns or recurring topics. If one person provides a negative review, it may be a fluke, but if several people express similar concerns, it demonstrates a big opportunity to improve.
Include others. Your staff knows your products and services. Ask them to help you understand and act on this feedback.
Adapt your process. Look for ways to improve your feedback process. If you are seeing a lull in feedback maybe your questions are outdated, or maybe you need to include more or different ways for customers to participate. Consider having a contest to freshen things up.
Keep improving over time. While it may not always feel like it, feedback is a gift. Successful businesses are always looking for ways to improve. What works today may not work tomorrow. Your customers and their feedback are one of the keys to being successful and profitable.
Feedback can often feel deeply personal, but it's typically not directed at you as an individual, or even as a business owner. Here are some approaches to help you better receive feedback:
Change your perspective. Their feedback is usually about a product, service, or experience. It’s not a judgment of you as a person.
Focus on the feedback itself. Try to see into the heart of the message. Think beyond the emotions involved and find the main idea.
Keep your eye on the bottom line. Envision each piece of feedback as a piece of information you can use to make your business more profitable.
Leave room for improvement. Remember that even though negative feedback from customers is often frustrating or hard to hear, negative feedback is often more helpful/informative than positive feedback
Celebrate positive feedback when you get it. Take a moment to recognize and express gratitude for positive feedback when it comes your way. As mentioned above, doing so not only helps you and your team identify the strong points in your business and build a sense of pride, but also provides you with valuable motivation and perspective when addressing negative feedback.
Reflect on past outcomes. Take note of or remember a time when negative feedback helped your business improve.
THE TOP TEN DO'S
- Create and implement a customer experience process for your business.
- Notice how other businesses collect feedback.
- Spend time preparing your approach. Decide what feedback to collect and how you will use it.
- View feedback as an opportunity to grow and improve.
- Keep track of the feedback you’re getting.
- Keep improving your process.
- Remember to practice the steps: Acknowledge, Apologize, Act.
- Provide a way for customers to provide feedback.
- Involve your staff and co-workers. Teach them to use the Acknowledge, Apologize, Act. method. Ask them to tell you about all the customer feedback they receive.
- Celebrate positive feedback along the way.
THE TOP TEN DON'TS
- Collect more information than you need.
- Take feedback personally.
- Overlook feedback, even negative feedback, as an opportunity to improve your business.
- Expect every customer to provide feedback
- Argue with customers in public spaces (online or in your business).
- Threaten or bad mouth problematic customers.
- Ignore feedback.
- Discourage feedback.
- Miss patterns.
- Make excuses or blame others.
Making a Plan for Your Customer Experience: Guidance for a Business Owner
To get started making a customer experience plan for your business, download MOBI's Make a Plan For Your Customer Experience Worksheet (PDF).
Template Letters for Positive and Negative Feedback
It can be a good idea to have sample responses ready so that you and your employees can respond quickly to feedback. Here are two templates to use as guides: Template for Positive Feedback and Template for Negative Feedback. These can be a starting point that you can modify to best suit your business and the situation.