Steph Korey knows that satisfying customers’ wants and needs provides the foundation for business success. Whether a company sells a product or offers a service, learning about customer satisfaction levels is part of the customer experience. Entrepreneur and investor Steph Korey stresses that obtaining consistent customer feedback through the right channels can drive this ongoing process.
The term “customer feedback” refers to customer-provided information about their purchase experience. Maybe they bought a physical product from a brick-and-mortar store or online retailer. Alternatively, they may have paid for some type of professional service.
Afterward, the customer describes their level of satisfaction with the product or service experience. Sometimes, a specific aspect of the transaction has not met their expectations. If so, the customer generally does not hesitate to share their dissatisfaction via one or more feedback methods.
With numerous customer feedback mechanisms available, a company might be tempted to put several of them in place at the same time. However, experts suggest that the business begins with one feedback method and gradually adds others.
Eventually, increasingly complex methods such as data analytics or usability testing may be worth consideration. If necessary, the business can enlist the services of a data analytics specialist.
Surveying the company’s support team members is a good information-gathering tactic. Each support team associate can provide a wealth of knowledge about the quantitative and qualitative aspects of their customer interactions.
Whether on the company website or the business’ eCommerce site, a “Contact Us” form serves as a convenient communication and feedback tool. To encourage customers to express their opinions, the form should contain a statement that all messages will receive a response within a specified time period.
When resolving any business-related challenge, going straight to the source is always a good choice. Here, the company should carefully structure a short customer survey focused on a specific goal. Open-ended questions are key, and offering desirable rewards will likely encourage more customers to participate.
Customers frequently share their experiences with a specific retailer, restaurant, or service provider. These reviews may be displayed on the company’s website or displayed on third-party review sites.
Third-party platforms are often more useful for evaluating service-based businesses. Regardless of the site’s focus, though, customer reviews enable customers and prospects to view others’ experiences before making an informed decision.
Many disgruntled customers post about their experiences on targeted social media channels. Some customer communications appear on the business’ social media page while others are displayed on popular community pages. Either way, the business should determine whether a customer is simply venting their frustration or expects a response to a specific situation.
With an effective customer feedback loop in place, businesses of all types can derive two benefits that can help guide their growth. First, the business owner will learn whether customers have obtained value from the product or service they received.
The business owner will also get a clear picture of what the customers think the business is doing correctly (or incorrectly). With this knowledge, the business owner and their team can make better customer-focused decisions.
Successful entrepreneur and investor Steph Korey obtained extensive customer feedback before co-founding the global lifestyle brand Away. She emphasizes that obtaining in-depth customer feedback is the foundation for effective business planning.
“It really starts with deeply understanding the customer,” she explains. “What are your customer’s pain points? How are they being underserved? And how do you and your business uniquely solve that pain point or bring value to that customer in a way that wasn’t possible before?” Korey asks.
Consistently receiving customer feedback is an important first step. However, it’s equally important to apply that feedback to improve a specific aspect of the business operations.
To improve an existing product, the product manager might add new colors or sizes. Alternatively, the product development team may decide that the product should be completely revamped to incorporate new technology or changing market preferences.
Service improvements may be appropriate based on specific customer requests. Customers might indicate a desire for additional services within an existing category. Alternatively, customers may request that the company offer an entirely new service category created to satisfy their expressed needs.
In certain cases, specific customer feedback could result in the adoption of internal process improvements. To illustrate, multiple customers’ dissatisfaction with order fulfillment times might spur a complete system redesign. Alternatively, complaints about customer support inefficiencies might lead to a discussion about how to improve these services.
Building mutually beneficial customer relationships begin with honest customer feedback. When the business owner learns what their customers need (and want), the company can more effectively target its offerings.
Concurrently, the company’s marketing team can craft a coordinated content marketing strategy that provides customers with an ongoing flow of targeted content. Over time, customers may well develop brand or company loyalty that translates into product or service purchases.
An optimal customer feedback strategy creates minimal customer inconvenience and provides the company with considerable value. To close the circle, the correct team members apply the feedback to facilitate targeted improvements that further the business’ growth.
Customers are more likely to provide feedback if the process is convenient for them. If they must perform a virtual scavenger hunt to locate the “Contact Us” form, they might conclude the task is not worth their time.
To avoid this undesirable outcome, the company’s website designer should make this form a prominent part of the business’ website. Customers should be able to easily access the form from different parts of the site, offers Steph Korey.
Every customer comes to the purchase transaction with different needs and wants. The company’s customer feedback mechanism should enable the customer to prioritize their feedback accordingly.
To illustrate, the customer should be able to indicate which components of the transaction are most important to them (and which ones are less significant). This targeted data will be transmitted to the product development, sales, marketing, and customer support teams.
Sometimes, well-intentioned companies solicit customer feedback but never utilize it to improve their operations. Instead, this potentially valuable information languishes in the “Contact Us” inbox while the business muddles along without its benefits.
To ensure that the company derives maximum value from customers’ feedback, the firm’s leadership team should first define the feedback’s purpose. With that as a guideline, they should create a customer feedback structure that prioritizes easy accessibility and maximum utilization. The customer feedback form should also tell the customer that they can expect a response within a defined time period.
To obtain maximum value from customer feedback, the business owner should first determine why they want to obtain the feedback. Stated another way, they should specify the aspect of the customer journey that could benefit from some improvement. Given that answer, they should plan to implement the customer feedback method that best aligns with their goals.
Next, the business owner should have an actionable plan for the statistical and/or anecdotal data they collect. They should lead a multidisciplinary internal team in developing a process to effectively utilize the data to enhance the customer experience.
Steph Korey shares insights gained during Away’s product design process. To determine the most important product attributes, Korey and her partner intensively interviewed eight hundred people about their travel habits. “We wanted to map out the whole experience to figure out the pain points,” she explains.
The team effectively utilized the customer feedback they received. Specifically, they designed a product that addressed customers’ most important needs while also meeting other parameters. Business owners in other industries can perform the same exercise to fine-tune their products or services.
Every business should ensure that customers who provide feedback receive an acknowledgment. When appropriate, the customer should be kept abreast of further product or service improvements that would further enhance their experience. Steph Korey frequently emphasizes the importance of this customer-centric approach.
“Even if we only launched with a few customers, we took care to nurture each of those relationships, making sure their feedback was heard and we included them in the conversation every step of the way,” Korey concludes.
Each business owner should ensure that they take full advantage of the timely customer feedback they receive. Together, these five strategies will help them to achieve that goal.
To enable effective feedback-based planning, the proper team members must quickly receive that feedback. Representatives from the production, sales, marketing, distribution, and customer support functions should be included in the feedback loop.
Most importantly, customer feedback should be shared at all levels instead of being directed only to high-level managers. By involving all appropriate team members, the company can implement a unified plan to address any issues that emerge.
When customers make the effort to provide a retailer or service provider with feedback, the business owner should take action within an appropriate time frame. In the case of an obvious product defect or malfunction, the company should immediately respond.
Other customer feedback can serve as the impetus for longer-term product or service improvements. Useful feedback can also help to pinpoint emerging customer needs. Finally, learning what customers really think can enable the business owner to identify market gaps ripe for new innovations.
Some customer feedback may pertain to a subpar experience with a company’s product or service. If the business owner or manager would rather avoid a potential conflict, they may choose not to respond to that dissatisfied customer.
However, it’s imperative that the company respond immediately, for two reasons. First, learning about the customer’s frustrations provides an opportunity to resolve the issue and turn their perception around. There’s a good chance they’ll share their positive experience via word of mouth and social media.
In addition, examining multiple negative reviews can uncover a larger-scale problem. By addressing each issue in a timely fashion, the company is likely to improve its customer retention over time.
There’s a good chance the business is doing several things correctly. An effective customer feedback program will bring these positive attributes into focus. In addition, positive customer feedback responses could identify areas in which the company outperforms its competitors.
Favorable customer feedback can also shine the light on customers who could become successful brand ambassadors. By cultivating relationships with them, the company is well-positioned to receive desirable referrals and testimonials.
When customers praise a company associate’s excellent performance, it’s essential that the acknowledgment reaches the employee involved. In addition to providing positive reinforcement, the action could motivate other employees toward better job performance.
Entrepreneur and investor Steph Korey emphasizes that consistently utilizing customer feedback is integral to building a successful brand. She adhered to this guiding principle while earning recognition for her supply chain and brand development work with eCommerce retailers Warby Parker and Casper.
Korey’s MBA from Columbia Business School further honed her business management skills. Her master’s degree, along with her notable business world achievements, equipped her to navigate multifaceted business development challenges.
Today, Steph Korey is a well-known angel investor who provides financial support and mentorship to start-up and early-stage business owners. She actively seeks out emerging companies owned by women and other underrepresented entrepreneurs. With a strong belief that talent and opportunity should match, she embraces opportunities to help other entrepreneurs move forward.
Erika White is a graduate of Parsons School of Design. Erika is based in Manhattan but travels much of the year. Erika has written for NPR, Motherboard, MSN Money, and the Huffington Post. Here at Morning News Ledger, Erika covers entertainment stories, focusing on performance arts and culture.