Impact & Satisfaction
Written by: Ryan Flannagan
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Chapter 23: Impact and Satisfaction

“Whew,” said Chuck “That sounds exhausting but I’m glad we’re here.”

“Oh, we’re not done yet.”

“What do you mean we’re not done?”

“You’re about to fall into one of the classic blunders.”

“I’m neither involved in a land war in Asia, nor going up against a Sicilian when death is on the line,” Chuck said.

“Now you’re just showing off,” Carole said.

“Maybe, but he’s not alone. Almost every company I talk with ignores one of the most powerful resources available to them because they quit the game too soon.”

“What resource is that?”

“Your customers.”

“You mean the income streams?” Carole asked.

“No. The customers themselves. If you work with them this whole time, they aren’t your customers. They’re your friends. And friends help each other out.”

“Well, friend, are you going to tell me how?” said Chuck

“I’m sure he is,” said Carole.

Here’s an important secret of successful business development:

Customers like it when you listen to them, then change things based on the feedback.

Okay. So, it’s not really a secret, but it might as well be considering how many businesses consistently fail to do this really important thing. We’ve talked a little about how to develop and apply customer feedback interviews to improve your products and build new ones. Now we’ll look at how to apply data and do this even better.

Let’s start from your own experience. Think about the last time you ordered something and it went wrong. Maybe you got onions on your burger after you asked for them to hold the onions. Maybe Amazon sent you a jetpack instead of rocket skates. Whatever it was, one of three things happened:

  • The vendor listened to you, was apologetic, and included you in solving the problem.
  • The vendor let you speak, was apologetic, then ignored your feedback beyond the immediate moment.
  • The vendor ignored your complaints.

What happened the time you’re thinking about? How did that make you feel? Can you think of times the other two options happened in your life? How did those situations make you feel?

The reality is this: How you treat your existing customers, and how you respond to issues and complaints, can help drive your overall business development strategy. This isn’t just good karma. It’s a core practice of companies that want to grow with their client base, develop, and evolve. Let’s look at the two most important considerations in this practice.

What Do You Ask?

When customers complain, you have a clear idea of what those customers would like to see change. When customers rave about you on Facebook, you have a similarly clear idea of what you should keep doing. But what about moderately satisfied customers? They tend to quietly chafe under the things they would like to be different, then abandon you “by surprise” when another vendor sees and addresses their pain points.

The first step in stopping this process is to ask your clients the right questions. Over the years, we’ve found the following to be some of the most useful:

  • How was your experience?
  • What could we have done better?
  • How did you find us?
  • What would you google to find a business like ours?
  • What’s one thing we do better than others you do business with?
  • What made you decide to do business with us?
  • What is the most recent way we exceeded your expectations?
  • What is the most recent way you became frustrated with us?

You’ll notice that these questions aren’t just strongly on-topic. They bear three traits in common:

  1. They ask about the buyer’s subjective experience.
  2. They are open-ended.
  3. They are specific.

By crafting your questions with those three traits, you can turn a tepid and less-useful question into a source of valuable information. For example.

Bad Question: What did you think of our service?

Good Question: Why did you like our service?

Great Question: Why did you decide to buy the upgraded package?

Asking the right questions with your customers identifies their pain points so you can solve problems early and often. It empowers your team to make the right changes at the right times. It drives innovation by identifying opportunities to make your clients even more satisfied. Asking the wrong questions wastes time in at least two ways. If you’re lucky, you will only have wasted the time spent gathering the answers to the poorly-structured questions. If you’re unlucky, you will also have spent time and resources chasing bad ideas you derived from the bad questions.

How To Ask

Once you’ve identified the right questions to ask, your next step is to ask them at the right time and in the right way. As a customer yourself, you’ve already been annoyed by requests to complete an interview or fill out a survey at times when any reasonable person would realize you were too busy to do them well. Don’t make that rookie mistake. Instead, apply one or both of what the research shows are the two most effective methods for gathering honest and useful information from your customers.

Triggered digital surveys are just what they sound like. An automated trigger in your CRM tells the system when a customer has reached a point in his journey where a survey is appropriate and useful. The advantages of a TDS are automation and the ability to easily onboard the results to your performance metrics, plus a strong ability to gauge customer satisfaction. The disadvantages are related to automation: You’ll get fewer people actually answering your questions, and the impersonal feel is far less likely to create the personal connection necessary for turning a happy client into a dedicated brand advocate. In general, we recommend triggered digital surveys for companies with a high number of low lifetime value customers.

Phone Interviews are the second effective method. Keep the length to 20 to 30 minutes, since more time than that starts to build resentment in the interviewees (and often yields more information than you can effectively act on).  This personal touch provides individual analysis and in-depth feedback, with opportunities to customize follow-up questions. It also establishes that connection and encourages brand advocacy. One the down side, it’s time-consuming and can lead to results that are too individualized to be used company-wide. We recommend phone interviews for companies with a small list of high lifetime value customers.

Customer satisfaction surveys — and your meaningful response to what they tell you — is an essential step in completing this final lap of the race.

Remember: your job isn’t just to turn strangers into clients anymore. Your job isn’t done until those clients are vigorous evangelists for you, your team, and your product. Listening to what they tell you doesn’t make that part of the job easier.

It makes it possible.

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