Christian Retailing

How to get great feedback from your customers Print Email
Written by Kirk David Blank   
Wednesday, 04 February 2015 02:27 PM America/New_York

KirkBlank-NewMany years ago I was sitting in a conference room with a big white board on the wall. The team had spent many hours brainstorming and planning the next big promotion that customers would just love—at least we hoped they would.

We arrived at two options. Both options were formed by two “sub-teams,” and each sub-team was convinced that the customers would respond better to their promotion rather than the other. And as silly as it sounded, we were deadlocked until someone simply said, “Could we ask a few customers what they thought?”

Brilliant! Imagine actually talking to the customers! How avant-garde!

I’ve been asked to contribute several columns articles in the course of the year that will help retailers better develop their store promotions and drive traffic. Too often, we  are guilty of developing ideas, putting together plans and executing promotions without really taking the time to gather feedback from the ones who matter the most—our customers.

Feedback is everywhere. Feedback is available, but rarely do we ask our customers for it. However, the difference between good and poor feedback can easily be the difference between success and failure.

Great feedback is crucial, but it’s not always easy to come by. So how do we get the feedback we need either individually or professionally? Let’s take a closer look at seven feedback tips. Why seven? Well, every preacher needs three points to the sermon, and every marketer need seven steps for his article!

Step 1: Ask for it. Many times, even if you don’t ask for feedback, you’ll probably still get some. You just won’t get as much—and it will be lower quality and much less organized. The feedback experience also will be much poorer for you and those who give it. On the other hand, when you ask for feedback, people are much more likely to give it to you—in the time frame and context you want it.

Step 2: Demonstrate that you acknowledged the feedback the last time you got it. If you get feedback but ignore it, it’s much harder for people to take you seriously when you ask for it again. What’s in it for them? Their giving feedback will seem like an extra task that isn’t worth their time because you failed to acknowledge it.

Step 3: Tell how it has been or will be used. If people aren’t sure how you will use their feedback, they’ll be skeptical—and rightly so. No one wants their candor to be taken advantage of. Will their feedback be anonymous? Is there even a chance there will be any repercussions? Be upfront about this—as well as the positive changes—that have been made with the feedback your customers provided previously.

Step 4: Make it easy for people to give feedback. It is unpleasant to provide feedback when it doesn’t appear to be wanted. This goes for feedback to individuals or organizations. When there is a poor system to collect the feedback (or no system at all), it communicates a lack of interest—regardless of your stated request. Make it clear so your customers know where and how to provide the feedback you are requesting. Use an easy, time-efficient system. The smoother the process, the more feedback you’ll receive.

Step 5: Be specific. If you make generic requests, you’ll get generic answers. The last thing you want is for people to tell you things were “fine.” It’s hard to take action on improving “fine.” So be specific in your requests. Give 1:5 or 1:10 feedback ranges. Provide feedback categories. Or ask different audiences to provide feedback on different areas. Ask what went well and what could be improved, but also ask for specifics on critical areas.

Step 6: Use it. If you never use any of the feedback you get, eventually your customers will opt not to provide it anymore. As with the lack of acknowledgement, lack of use means it’s not worth the time to give it. And if you don’t communicate that you will use the feedback you get or how it was used in the past, you get the same result. Show your feedback audience how their input will improve things in your store.

Step 7: Say thank you. Remember, whenever people give you feedback, they are doing you a favor. You don’t have to use it. You can take it or leave it. But you should always say thank you, regardless of the content—especially if you asked for it. Saying thank you may be sending those who provided feedback a coupon, email or handwritten letter.

It’s difficult to get good feedback, but it’s a lot easier when you help yourself.
So, take the next step. How should you go about getting feedback? Consider using, a low-cost, easy-to-use online survey service. Facebook also has several apps that can be used for polling and voting. Even with the basic Facebook site, you can post a question and let the comment section serve as your feedback forum. At your store, you can do bag-stuffers or even carry around a clipboard on the sales floor gathering information from your customers.

The question now is: Which of these tips will you start to use this week?

Kirk David Blank is president of Largo, Florida-based Munce Group, an association of 400 independent Christian retail stores, and publisher of More to Life (