4 ways customer feedback can help you right now

For businesses that remain open during the pandemic, many are diversifying or using new channels to deliver services in different ways. They’re doing this at breakneck speed - there’s no time for months of market research and focus groups.

But to minimise the risk of wasted resources, it’s even more important to regularly gather data and feedback from customers and make best use of your digital platforms to help with this. Here’s four ways this can help you adapt.

Guide

6 min read

1. How do customers want to buy from you?

Before rushing into a new way of working, it’s worth sounding out at least ten of your customers - via email, asking for feedback on social, or even just picking up the phone. Social media polls (such as Facebook polls or Twitter polls) or poll apps (such as PollJunkie) are also ideal for gathering quick responses if you’re considering a few options e.g.:

  • Online v phone orders: For example, retailers might be considering eCommerce - but it’s worth checking first if customers are likely to buy in this way, or are they happy just ordering over the phone in the short term?
  • Collection v delivery: If Royal Mail or other delivery companies/couriers are not ideal for delivering your goods, then there’s the dilemma of coordinating customer collection with home delivery. Check what proportion of orders customers will be able to collect themselves. This means when working out complex delivery logistics within the current regulations, you can identify when and where that’s needed, before recruiting staff and volunteers.
  • Days and times: Those streaming live content such as fitness classes, need to know the best times to schedule these. Customers who previously came during the day, may now be home schooling so Saturday night may now be a whole new option!

2. What do customers want to buy?

Trying to put every single item or service you sell, teach, craft or bake into an online shop before you get started, is going to slow you down.

Prioritise: Initially, focus on your top selling 10% - 20% of items that are most practical for this format. Of course, your previous sales data, particularly for the same period last year (to allow for seasonal trends) is useful, as is your knowledge of your customers. But this summer will be unlike any other. And here’s where sounding out some customers on what they most need from you now could be especially helpful.

Survey: Consider running a quick online survey using tools such as Survey Monkey or Google Forms to find out what your customers want from you. Link to your survey on your social platforms or in an email. Include some open ended questions (with room for comments) and these could help you spot any new hero products - even items that used to gather dust could now be your next best seller.

New ideas: Surveys may even identify a potential new product or service. Normally, you may never think beyond selling your finished product, but now your customers fill their time in different ways. For restaurants, bakers and delis, maybe customers will tell you they’d love recipe and ingredient kits to make something themselves.

3. What will be the level of customer demand?

With everything moving so fast, some businesses (such as restaurants converting to takeaways) are swinging between having no demand at all, to being overwhelmed with orders.

Predicting demand: If you’re still in your planning phase then use tools such as Facebook polls to sense check what your peak days or times might be. E.g. as a new takeaway, you may assume it will just be the weekend, but with customers’ new situations you may find demand and needs have changed.

Managing expectations: If you’re busy (or even overwhelmed), then don’t just assume people will know! Update your website and social platforms to let your customers know your situation, manage their expectations by estimating wait or response times, assuring them you are working hard and thanking them for their support and patience.

In the circumstances, customers may be much more flexible in terms of timings or days of the week, allowing you to spread and manage demand - e.g. booking orders and collection slots up to a week in advance.

Boosting demand: Alternatively, if you’re needing to boost demand, then proactively flag on your social platforms or website any empty slots you want to fill, or stock you want to sell, rather than just waiting for orders to come in. A quick post on ‘last available slot available this Tuesday at 8pm’, ‘last 10 boxes of eggs’, or ‘fresh apples now in stock’ might just prompt orders that might not otherwise come in.

And again, if things are flagging, consider going back again to your customers for ideas and feedback with a survey. In themselves, surveys raise awareness among your customers that you are still in business.

4. Do you need to adapt again?

Gathering feedback should never stop - especially when circumstances are changing so fast.

Review all data: A week or two after your new offering has been running, it’s time to review all data you can get your hands on. As well as your turnover and costs, look at how many views there are of videos, social media posts etc. Dig deeper and go through all comments (and follow up on them), email a few customers directly to ask for feedback or run a ‘how are we doing?’ poll.

Case study: A great example of this is a dance school which had moved at lightning speed to recreate all of their existing term-time classes online but cancelled their full-day holiday sessions. They had to decide what to do for the next term with only two weeks of data and feedback. Even with so little to work on, they found a wealth of insights:

  • Social media comments flagged that children from the same family who attend different classes at the same time, now struggle with limited laptops and space at home
  • Viewing stats showed shorter classes worked better
  • Some families facing job losses have less income whereas others now have more disposable income with no holidays or other activities

They switched from term-time to monthly subscriptions requiring less commitment from parents (and so the school can adapt fast when the situation improves). Live classes were shortened, reducing prices; and the lost income will likely be balanced by allowing others to spend more trying a wider range of classes. Times were rescheduled so children in the same house are not in different classes at the same time. And finally, they continued classes through the holidays.

Steps like this clearly show customers businesses are listening, build real loyalty and help businesses continue to trade.

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