Collecting Feedback from Customers and Employees – Why, When, and How
by Robert McNicholas on June, 02 2015
How do you know how your business is doing? Ask your customers and your employees.
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In many ways, the world runs on feedback. And, what’s more, you can usually get it by the simplest possible route: asking. After all, we all love to share our opinions.
So, what about you? Could you use a little free insight into your business? Then ask for it. But ask the right people: your customers and your employees. The first group will tell you about how your business functions from an outside perspective and the second will help you see how the workings actually, uh, work.
Before You Start Surveying
First, put yourself in your feedback-giver’s shoes.
Let’s start with employees. While we all have fantasized about telling a terrible boss exactly what we think of them, most people value their employed status enough to hold back. So, when a boss comes up and asks, “How are things going? No really… you can tell me,” it may feel more like a trap than an invitation to open communication.
For customers, giving feedback is less of a potential minefield. After all, you’re not the one signing their paychecks. Still, you need to approach this with a balanced outlook: some folks are never going to be happy and others will avoid confrontation at all costs.
In each case, the key is to create an open, non-judgmental atmosphere.
When to Ask for Feedback
For customers, knowing when to ask for feedback is relatively easy: pretty much all the time. Did you answer a question for them? Fix a problem? Sell them a really great product? Provide a service? All of these are opportunities to get some insight from your client.
For employees, the anonymous suggestion box and the email or paper survey are approaching cliché. While both of these methods add a comforting layer of distance, they can also encourage thoughtless, flippant, time-wasting input. Sure, these methods still have a place in collecting feedback. But they’re not the only ways.
There’s another good one. It’s called listening.
How to Get Honest Feedback
Here’s a great tip: listen to your employees talk. Ask them for suggestions. Remember, it doesn’t have to be about you or your management style. Get their ideas on that new inventory management program, or invite their views on which services or products seem to be the most popular. Or, just listen in general. We’re not saying you should turn into the office master spy, but be observant. You might learn a lot.
For customers, again, this is more straightforward. Basically, use the ideas at the beginning of this post – even the contest one, if you can. Email surveys, online reviews, website feedback forms – they all have a place here. Just be sure you keep them short (not 20 questions) and on topic.
Acting on Employee and Customer Feedback
Now, for feedback to be really valuable, you need to incorporate it. Admittedly, this will involve weeding out the overly negative and the overly laudatory, as well as the time-wasters. It may be that your business is doing relatively well, inside and out. It may be that a particular thing, such as an unreliable Internet connection, is causing your employees more frustration than you realized. But that’s the beauty of feedback: it’s all about how you can be better.
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Featured image credit: 123rf.com