Article | 13 min read

Customer feedback: 7 strategies to collect and leverage it

Customer feedback is a goldmine of insights—if you know how to get it and use it well.

By Tara Ramroop, Staff Writer

Last updated January 27, 2023

Customer feedback is an important part of any business relationship. That’s why collecting customer feedback should be central to any customer experience (CX) operation.

This guide will define customer feedback, explain why customer feedback is important, identify different types of customer feedback tools, and outline tips from customer service experts on how to make the most of it.

What is customer feedback?

Customer feedback is any information that customers give a company about their experience. It includes insights, opinions, reactions, preferences, and complaints about a company’s products or services.

Here are some examples of customer feedback:

  • Customer service feedback
  • Surveys
  • Reviews
  • Sales or customer success feedback
  • Social media posts
  • Comments
  • Support ticket spikes
  • Returns

Why is customer feedback important?

Customer feedback is important because it tells a business what people are thinking, feeling, or experiencing when dealing with the company. The company can then use that information to make better, customer-centric decisions.

The stakes are high. When used well, customer feedback can:

  • Improve products or services
  • Improve internal processes that impact the customer experience
  • Help build stronger connections with customers

Of course, customer feedback isn’t always positive. Though negative feedback can hurt, it can hurt more in the long run when the business is unprepared to act on it.

7 types of customer feedback

Customer feedback, fists against each other

Customer feedback can appear in many different forms. Read on to explore the most common types businesses use to collect data.

1. Customer feedback surveys

Customer surveys are convenient for customers to complete—plus, they provide critical insights for the company. Here’s how to create a good customer feedback survey:

  • Clearly define your goal and identify the “why”
  • Write unbiased questions
  • Send it through relevant channels
  • Keep it short
  • Offer incentives
  • Give your customers options, such as an “other” or “skip” choice
  • Always follow up

It’s also important to note that customer feedback surveys look different across various industries—there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.

Tip: Email and social media platforms can be great ways to distribute customer feedback surveys.

2. Customer interviews

Customer interviews help businesses get a better sense of customers’ behaviors, their feelings, and the solutions they’re looking for.

In a customer interview, you should aim to uncover the problems the customer is facing, so you can remedy them with a solution. You can structure interviews in two ways: planned or ad hoc.

  • Planned interviews are set up in advance with pre-thought-out questions that pertain to an interaction with your industry or business.
  • Ad hoc interviews are conducted on the phone or through video software. These are real-time, in-the-moment conversations with the customer about specific experiences and events.

Tip: In the interviews, ask open-ended questions rather than just yes-or-no questions to spark discussion or gain additional insights.

3. Customer focus groups

A customer focus group is an in-person meetup with a set of customers to discuss their wants, needs, and perceptions. Focus groups can help businesses navigate a range of issues, such as:

  • Brand messaging
  • Product solutions
  • Overall strategic decisions

Customer focus groups are quick, simple, and inexpensive. Plus, customers can collaborate and build on one another’s thoughts, helping to stimulate the conversation further than if it was just a one-on-one setting.

Tip: You can conduct focus groups at any time—don’t hesitate to hold these sessions periodically to ensure the data stays relevant and up to date.

4. Social listening

Social listening is another route you can take to collect customer feedback. In addition to reviewing customer comments and company mentions on social media, you can utilize the polling tools that many apps offer.

Polls are a great way to boost engagement on your social profiles and can help provide insights into how your audience perceives your brand. That way, you can ensure you align your strategy with your customers’ preferences and behaviors.

Tip: Stay on top of current trends and news related to your industry to gain further insight into your audience’s interests.

5. Online reviews

You may gather and display customer product reviews on your company’s ecommerce site. Customer reviews of experiences and services may be located on your website or a third-party review site like Yelp.

The purpose of both types of customer reviews is the same: to help customers or potential customers make an informed decision based on other people’s experiences.

Tip: Aim to respond to your customers’ online reviews (both positive and negative) to establish brand trust.

6. Community forum

A robust community forum is a powerful source of customer feedback, with its combination of support, social networking, and communications. It’s a centralized place for customers to talk among themselves to share tips and tricks, and it’s a great way to get direct and indirect customer feedback. Owned community forums are most common, where the conversation happens directly on the company’s website.

Tip: Focus on helping customers feel seen and heard while being transparent about what is on the product roadmap and why.

7. Customer support interactions and data

Your customer support team can also relay valuable customer feedback based on their customer interactions and the data they’ve collected from those interactions.

Call center representatives are the point of contact when it comes to customer issues, and they have a first-hand look at the trends that occur and the most common types of problems customers encounter. Additionally, call center software collects data from customer conversations, which can supply you with even more information.

Tip: Utilize support ticket data—this can give you insight into customer happiness.

What is a customer feedback loop?

A customer feedback loop is a CX strategy that aims to enhance your product or service based on user opinions, suggestions, and reviews. With this continuous feedback, you’re better able to build customer loyalty by understanding the needs of your customers and implementing their feedback consistently.

Voice of the Customer (VoC) program

A Voice of the Customer program, or VoC program, is the primary hub of all customer feedback about a business and contributes to the feedback loop. A VoC program is one way to ensure a streamlined process for managing customer feedback. Feedback can come from various sources, including:

VoC teams manage feedback by:

  • Gathering feedback: This should come from different sources.
  • Identifying themes: Look for trends and patterns in the feedback that customers provide.
  • Serving up actionable insights for the business: Describe customer pain points, how to address them, and how taking those actions will impact the business.

Regardless of how you capture customer feedback, empower everyone in your organization to act on it.

Improve the customer experience

Find out how to create great customer experiences that will lead to loyal customers, improved word-of-mouth promotion, and increased revenue.

How to use customer feedback

Now that you’re collecting customer feedback, what do you do with it? Here are a few ways to ensure that customer feedback has a meaningful impact.

Share it company-wide

Customer feedback can be incredibly powerful, but only if it reaches the people on your team that need it, namely:

  • Product
  • Customer support
  • Marketing
  • Sales

When sharing feedback from customers, whether it’s in real time or at regular intervals, make sure that any insights are circulated widely and don’t just get siloed at the highest levels.

Identify opportunities for improvement

Feedback helps you identify ways to improve your products or services and spot emerging customer needs or opportunities for innovation, which you can ultimately feed into longer-term business roadmaps. It can also enable you to:

  • Refine products and support processes: Customer feedback can uncover new ways to improve your products or services and reveal gaps in your customer support efforts.
  • Boost sales: Further focus on product improvement and innovation can increase your revenue.
  • Improve your brand reputation: Asking for customer feedback shows that you care about your customers’ wants and needs. This recognition can build your brand reputation and strengthen customer loyalty.

Learn which relationships to nurture

It doesn’t have to be all about fixing problems. Collecting customer feedback can help you find your niche among the industries or people who are the best fit for your product or service. Most importantly, it can help you find your happiest customers and (potential) future advocates.

You should also nurture relationships with the customers who have become advocates for your brand. To do this, use the Net Promoter Score (NPS) to help measure the experience of your current customers.

Find ways to go the extra mile for your high-value customers, and see if they’d be willing to recommend you to their friends, family, or colleagues.

Celebrate successes

Similarly, customer feedback can highlight what your team is doing well. Make sure that any positive feedback reaches the person responsible—whether it’s the support agent who handled the ticket or the engineer who built a specific feature—and share it with the wider team.

Not only does this help team members feel appreciated, but it can also motivate them and others to continually look for ways to improve.

Overview: How to develop a customer feedback strategy

A customer feedback strategy includes your methods for collecting feedback and—just as importantly—acting on it. Digital channels provide companies with ample opportunities to get feedback on their product, service, and overall customer experience, but many don’t have the tools to put that feedback to work. Both steps are critical to a successful customer feedback strategy.

All customer feedback is customer data. When used well, it can mend relationships and make existing ones even stronger. Know why you want customer feedback, build a process around getting it, share customer feedback widely, then act on it to champion your customers at every step of their journey.

A great customer feedback strategy is to implement the ACAF (ask, categorize, act, follow up) feedback loop. This cyclical process gains customer opinion, closes feedback loops, and uses findings to help inform the overall strategy. Explore the elements of this feedback loop below.

ACAF feedback loop

Ask for feedback proactively

When developing a customer feedback strategy, proactively gather feedback. This means gathering different types of feedback using the methods mentioned above.

Categorize feedback and create reports

The next step in the ACAF feedback loop is to analyze and organize your customer feedback so everything stays organized. Consider separating feedback for categories like:

  • Product
  • Customer service
  • Marketing
  • Sales

Once you categorize the feedback, consider creating fleshed-out reports that help you better understand your data. Then, share the feedback and information with relevant teams in your organization.

Act on findings

After you organize your data and build out reports, share the feedback and information with teams across the business. To do this, create a customer needs matrix. This is a simple chart that helps you distribute customer issues throughout your team and helps you see what action items are of the highest priority.

Customer needs matrix

In the example above, boxes I through IV categorize customer needs based on priority, with Box I being the most important items and Box IV being the least important.

Follow-up with customers about improvements

Close the ACAF feedback loop by following up with your customers about your product or service improvements. Customers love being heard, so letting them know that you implemented their feedback can help build brand trust and loyalty. You can either tell customers that you solved their problem or inform them that your team is actively devoting resources to help solve the problem.

Customer feedback best practices

Customer feedback can reveal problems, areas of improvement, or weaknesses in your business. It can also unveil how customers perceive your business. Here are some helpful customer feedback best practices to keep in mind.

Collect feedback using a variety of channels

When collecting feedback, it’s important to do so across multiple channels—this will help you gather broader information and insights.

For example, in-app surveys can help you narrow down specific usability issues. (Example: Was [feature] easy for you to use?) Meanwhile, website pop-ups help you get a real-time view of the overall experience. (Example: How would you rate your experience today?)

Every channel serves a different purpose and provides additional information, so use them to your advantage.

Gather qualitative and quantitative feedback

Ensure that you capture both qualitative and quantitative feedback from customers. Doing so improves your research quality and allows you to look at the big picture. You can obtain qualitative feedback through learnings from a customer focus group or interview. Gather quantitative feedback through a CSAT or NPS survey.

For example, with the support of Zendesk, Mailchimp utilized customer service data to know which functionalities and features their customers wanted the most. The company gathered quantitative data from tickets, which gave insight into how many Mailchimp customers were experiencing issues. Plus, customers were able to provide qualitative feedback and ask additional questions after their issue was resolved. By automating these follow-ups and check-ins for open tickets, Mailchimp saved 48,000 agent replies in a single year.

Align survey questions with company objectives and customer needs

When creating a customer feedback strategy, align your survey questions with company objectives and your customers’ needs. This is critical because the questions you include will play a major role in the type and quality of feedback received.

Keeping the customer in mind when constructing these questions also ensures that the survey will be a more enjoyable experience for them, which means they’ll be more likely to complete it.

Make surveys accessible and easy to submit

Finally, your surveys must be easy to access and submit. Be sure to present your questions in a straightforward way. Other ways to boost the accessibility of your survey include:

  • Color coding so questions and answers are easier to distinguish
  • Using emojis
  • Ensuring that email or landing page surveys are mobile-friendly
  • Avoiding unrelated questions or extraneous information

Customer feedback is a crucial element when it comes to growing a business. After gathering the data and insights from your customers, implement changes within your organization that will help solve their problems and address their needs.

Improve the customer experience

Find out how to create great customer experiences that will lead to loyal customers, improved word-of-mouth promotion, and increased revenue.

Improve the customer experience

Find out how to create great customer experiences that will lead to loyal customers, improved word-of-mouth promotion, and increased revenue.

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