When asked by a journo whether he was worried about his formidable rival Evander Holyfield’s gameplan before their upcoming fight, former boxing heavyweight champion Mike Tyson famously replied, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
In the world of product design, marketing strategy, and sales KPI’s, customer feedback and consumer review is that punch. No matter how comprehensive your strategy or fool-proof your product looks, the litmus test arrives when, at some point in your campaign, you run into this ‘Plan’. No, you can’t avoid or ignore it. In fact, you shouldn’t. What the best teams do, therefore, is to ensure that the punch is a gentle and sweet one. Instead of allowing it to knock them out cold.
It Takes Two To Tango
In the world of business, one of those two had better be your customer, or else you run the risk of being hopelessly out of step with your markets. Getting Feedback from customers – more than anything else (and this includes strategy and data) – is what ultimately turns a product or service USEABLE. Whether you are in marketing or product design, it’s your secret sauce to a truly standout brand experience.
Feedback Adds the ‘Market’ to your Marketing
Browsing a positive online user review by fellow buyers can brew positive confidence in a potential consumer’s mind about the brand, and also tick all the right boxes that research deems important when it comes to the in-store experience. As per HubSpot’s State of Marketing report, customer satisfaction- which is one of the prime drivers of word-of-mouth buzz and referrals – is widely acknowledged amongst marketers as the #1 most common source of new leads. This has escalated the need of a increase in the customer satisfaction survey response rate.
According to a BrightLocal survey, nearly 90% of consumers admitted to actively reading reviews for local businesses.
Digital marketing and Search leader MOZ shares that user review signals such as diversity, velocity, and quantity feature as 3rd the most important factor for Google when ranking local businesses. Finally, in yet another survey,
94% of online shoppers expressed that a negative review is likely to make them give the product or store a complete miss.
Reviews Add The ‘Pro’ To Your Product
The scenario in the product lab isn’t very different. When you make your buying a part of your R&D team or Focus Group, so to speak, you greatly multiply the chances of a positive outcome. According to the Harvard Business Review, ‘customer-ideated products’ perform 20% better than their counterparts, on average.
Business literature is littered with case studies and success stories of epic product breakthroughs that happened only because decision leaders had kept their ears peeled to what the market was whispering and never neglected the importance of customer reviews.
The Benefits Of User-Generated Review Are Universal And Official
Forbes recommends companies ‘to take proactive steps to stimulate the creation of UGC (user-generated content)’ (Olenski 2017), while advertising journal Adweek has argued that ‘Not only is UGC much cheaper to implement, but it is also much more effective’. (Merckel 2017).
Taking your consumer into confidence drives big and well-documented benefits for your brand. For starters, getting feedback from customers and users can engineer a ‘clear and present’ difference in sales and revenue. A YELP study registered a jump of nearly 10% with just a minor tweak in market perception – such as a one-star improvement. A similar survey on exercise at REEVO, on the other hand, found positive online sentiment can push up sales by as much as 18%.
The benefits of customer feedback surveys go well beyond jingling cash registers, of course. It can mean a shot of good health for your ORM (Online Reputation Management), helping your brand be perceived as more authentic, empathetic, and real. The picture at the other end of the spectrum isn’t a pretty one:
Research reveals than more than three negative articles in Search results can result in a loss of nearly 60% of potential customers.
Positive assessments and evaluations from buyers can also warm you up to your fans and communities, adding muscle to loyalty programs. Happy users can also take your digital marketing and SEO programs to the next level by cranking up critical parameters such as page authority and search rankings. That’s not all. Positive commentaries from brand evangelists are proven and powerful gambits to generate valuable ‘brand stickiness’, bringing back customers which – considering it costs almost 7X more to acquire a new customer as compared to retaining one – should count as a rather ‘good deal’.
Not least, prioritizing and understanding importance of customer feedback in your product or marketing cycle can help you understand your customer’s complex psyche a little better, by turning you privy to all that’s ticking under their bonnet. Which can lead to significantly smarter decisions in the boardroom, especially when it comes to the tricky matter of forecasting consumer behavior for the next quarter, and charting roads that don’t exist yet.
Make Customer Feedback the Hero of Your Script
There are two ways to capture feedback: Outsource it to Survey or Market Research specialists, or do it in-house.
Mining The Customer’s Mind Via A Market Research Partner
For many companies and teams, market research firms are the go-to solution when it comes to getting a sense of the market sentiment. And that’s a perfectly legit strategy. However, despite the centrality of their role in modern business, not all market research organizations may be ready for you. Here’s what you should keep in mind before settling for the right partner.
Are They Caught In The Past?
The market research space has been slow to evolve with the times, and a chunk of the industry is still caught up with atrophied methods and obsolete practices. This, coupled with low innovation and tech adoption, means that by the time a project throws up results, the world has already moved on to the next trend.
From new technologies like AI and automation to standardization to rebooted business models, the overdue overhaul will need to happen inside-out and ground-up. Time-to-deliverable and recency of results aren’t the only casualties here – so are critical parameters like the width of sampling reach (are we leaving anyone out?), quality of targeting (are we touching the right demographics?), and depth of insight (are we pressing the right buttons and asking the right questions?)
We Need Less Data, More Information
The customer feedback survey industry today is also guilty of over-reliance on data. An explosion of data streams and vendor championed tech-stacks has been steadily ‘de-humanizing’ the discipline, glorifying quantity at the expense of relevance and undermining the need for expertise in curation and analysis. This – coupled with silo-fied expertise which can lead to a lack a holistic understanding of either the big business purpose (and how it maps with specific survey tasks) or the nuances of consumer behavior or both – has meant that survey results can often be heavy on bells & whistles like quantity and presentation but light on what really matters, like perception, penetration, and insight.
The Dunning Kruger Effect
We are also witnessing an unmistakable rise in the ‘Dunning Kruger’ Effect. A term from psychology roughly translating to the maxim ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing’, the phenomenon refers to a cognitive bias whereby individuals with limited knowledge or expertise in a domain may feel compelled (by social or hierarchy protocols) to greatly overestimate their ability and grip over the space.
At decision-making levels in business, the Dunning Kruger Effect can lead to the side-lining of objective facts and opinions of subject matter experts in favor of coterie leaders and stakeholders. The net result is a predominance of subjective views and a dumbing-down of the real picture, not the best recipe if you are trying to clue into what your customers and markets are really thinking.
Conducting Your Own Customer Feedback Survey – Offline Or Online
It makes sense to build in-house capabilities in the survey since feedback is a common and frequent part of most workflows today. And while it may sound simple at first, do keep in mind that it’s a specialist’s job. There are a million things that have to click, to get it just right.
From designing an intuitive feedback architecture that integrates with both buyer journey and user experience (and doesn’t feel jarring to the user), to ensure a demographic cross-section that’s fair and inclusive, to ensuring your customer feedback survey is present on all the channels and platforms your customers are on, to ensure there is no cognitive.
Bias or regional tilt, to customizing the research or survey methodology to fit the brief, to finding an experienced leader who understands the purpose of the exercise in-depth and can orchestrate the show flawlessly, to handling tricky moments (such as introverted personalities) with sensitivity and tact particularly in the case of offline Focus Groups, to devising the right set of questions, to choosing the right gadgets and technologies, to scaling the exercise across regions and geographies… yes, there’s plenty to be sorted. Calling for levels of time, synchronization, and energy, not every organization can afford or spare. And even if they could, there’s always the matter of Show Rate. Huh? What’s that?
Feedback Is All About Show-Rate
Show Rate (sometimes synonymously used with response-rate, though the two may not always be the same) is the percentage of attendance of participants or respondents in a survey, research program, or Focus Group. In fact, according to Survey Monkey, this is one of the biggest roadblocks for organizations when it comes to implementing survey and feedback strategies. Outsourced or In-House, this is the part that can make or break ‘The Plan’. After all, you don’t want the people whom you have painstakingly hand-picked for the job to ghost you come D-Day (or, for that matter, land up at the party half-heartedly), do you?
To ensure a high Show Rate, you have to make participants genuinely WANT to be involved. Not just to show up, as it were, but give it their best – registering attendance both in ‘letter and spirit’.
How to get customer reviews? How do you crack this conundrum? The answer, as in most instances of life, is an irresistible MOTIVE. In the words of Godfather Don Corleone, “An offer they can’t refuse”. In business parlance, that’s an incentive. According to findings at Standford, the right incentive – which isn’t always monetary in nature by the way, and can equally arise from the perceived end-impact of the survey and a desire to play a role in change – can not only hike the likelihood of participation in your feedback polls and surveys.
They can ensure that your panelists are truly engaged in the experience, stick around till the very end, and remember the experience fondly enough to participate spontaneously the next time you buzz them.