What Do Your Customers REALLY Think?

The world of online business can be a lonely place and sometimes it can feel as if the busy Internet entrepreneur is posting up words, only for them to become lost in the ether of the World Wide Web, jostling for attention amid adverts for cheap services and downloads. Even the most hardened business owner can occasionally feel isolated when it comes to gauging how they are getting on in relation to providing a great customer service. The fact is, all online business owners can benefit from opening up feedback mechanisms to establish contact with customers and people who share their business interests.

The trick to getting reassurance that you are on the right track with your business, products, and services is to ask your customers how they feel about them. It may sound obvious, but many people forget to ask their service users for feedback, even while every other element of their online business is carefully attended to. Feedback for an Internet business owner is the equivalent of getting assignments marked at college, or getting a “thank you” card in the post after cooking up a great meal for friends. It’s a way of gaining reassurance that things are going well, and that all your hard work is paying off.

Directly soliciting feedback provides a number of advantages for your business, my own Testimonials page id proof of that. In addition to offering you reassurance that you are doing a great job online, it provides the following benefits:

Helps shape future direction.

Knowing what your customers are looking for, supports you in making enlightened decisions about your future strategic direction. Working “blind” to develop your site is much more difficult than using feedback from your customers to inform you where your business should be heading.

Boosts your motivation.

When you receive customer feedback, you no longer have the uncertainty that posting into the ether without acknowledgement can bring. By asking for regular input from your readers, you are able to ascertain that the articles you post, and the services you provide, are doing a good job in connecting to your online audience and forging positive relationships with clients.

Opens up communication channels for networking.

Customers who regularly visit your site and provide feedback are often the right individuals with whom you can forge business relationships. Those visitors who share a passion for your industry are usually great contacts for ongoing collaborations. Asking for their input into the direction your business should go can work wonders when it comes to building up a great network.

A free evaluation service.

Obtaining feedback directly from your customers, generates a strong evaluation of your blog and business. Instead of paying an agency lots of cash to develop metrics for your success, feedback can achieve the same result for free. If you’re not sure how well a certain blog post or site revamp has been received, all you need to do is create a poll and ask people for their opinion on the new changes.

Lets you inside the mind of your visitors.

Feedback can come in all forms, from survey results and online polls, right through to comments and emailed responses to your questions. When it comes to asking for feedback, there are few vehicles out there as feedback-friendly as the blog. The platform itself is designed to be interactive, built as the archetypal two-way medium for offering up your own opinions, and finding out what people think. Because of this, there are some great tools out there to do just that.

Google Docs

My personal favorite feedback mechanism, Google Docs is streamlined and easy to use. Google Docs enables you to create a new form, selecting from a range of different designs. From there, you can add the types of questions that you want answered by your readers. A range of options are available, including radio buttons, multiple choice selections, and text box fields. All the results from your feedback document are added directly into a Google Docs spreadsheet, making it simple for you to examine and analyze your collected data.

Although Google Docs is a simple and useful application, it doesn’t allow the user to add their own logo to the form, and there’s no way to be notified when you get a new response to your questions. Apart from these two negatives, it’s still one of the best tools out there for, quickly and easily, gathering customer opinions.

Survey Monkey – A popular alternative for feedback purposes, this is a well-designed application that offers one hundred free responses to your feedback requests (which is often more than enough for the average small business).

Survey Gizmo – If you’re looking for a free WordPress plugin, then this is ideal. Survey Gizmo lets you run various polls and surveys from within your WordPress blog.

WP Polls – If you’re a little technologically challenged, this free plugin is a straightforward option, allowing you to easily add a quick poll to a blog page or sidebar in only a few clicks.

Gravity Forms – Gravity Forms is a paid-for plugin but I use it on this site and it has a dizzying array of features and is suitable for intensive data gathering. A single site license is just $39.

PollDaddy – PollDaddy is an extremely popular option for creating quizzes, surveys, and polls. You can choose to subscribe to the service for unlimited responses, or opt for the free WordPress plugin that accepts one hundred responses per month.

15 thoughts on “What Do Your Customers REALLY Think?”

  1. Oooh, excellent post.  But wow, it’s a little scary to open yourself up to evaluation.  I guess that’s good motivation to do an amazing job though.

  2. G’Day Joel,
    You’re right about the importance of feedback. But getting feedback you can use is the hard bit. 
    For instance, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs and many others have pointed out that surveys are of little or no value in determining new products and services that your customers may need. And lots of the surveys I’m asked to complete are very poorly designed.
    Regardless of what else you do, there are three essentials to pay attention to when seeking feedback. 
    Seek specific information: Ask” how did X improve your business results, staff motivation or whatever,?”  “How many new clients did X enable you to attract?”  “How much did you save in overheads when you used the XYZ System?” Answers to specific questions tell you what’s best about your product/service. They also give you powerful factual information to use in your marketing.
    Make sure that your feedback technique allows clients to offer feedback in their own words and make comments that aren’t covered by specific questions. Many feedback methods are designed to get answers to questions that the client wants. But in doing so they don’t allow clients to offer opinions. These opinilns may contain the most valuable feedback.
    Finally. never ask about ‘rights and wrongs” and “goods and bads.” Ask “what made using the waterless dishwasher  a real timesaver for you in the kitchen?” “What improvements do you think would make the waterless dishwasher easier and more convenient to use in your kitchen?”
    I’m afraid that so many survey and feedback systems  are designed primarily for the benefit of the business doing the survey not the client completing it. That’s a conflict to be avoided.
    Hope this helps
    Make sure you have fun

    1.  @Leon Some great advice there Leon, thanks! If it’s your own business it is very important to ask the right questions and get the answers you need rather than the answers you’re hoping for.I’ve heard many times about surveys for new products being useless, but I think for services or products you already provide it can be invaluable. Plus I quite fancy buying the waterless dishwasher you’re talking about ;-)Thanks for stopping by and the useful tips.

  3. Hi Joel,
    Feedback is good.  Sometimes i get to shy to ask for it.  have to break that terrible habit or get over it.  never heard of the GoogleDoc before.  Something for me to check out.  The question that i have is, “How do you keep all these things in your Head?”  I try to remember this plugin and that plugin, write them down and than forget what they really do.
    I have to admit though when you get feedback from customer it sure does increase your motivation.  I am like Corinne I do always answer comment and than go to there site and put a comment on there post.
    Thanks for the new ideas again Joel.
    blessings to you,

    1.  @happymakernowco I know what you mean, I have lists here and there of all the different tools and plugins but usually I am reminded when I have a need for something. A Google search is good to refresh the brain cells! I am always impressed by your commenting and return commenting, it’s a great practice that I should do. Although if I do it now I might cause an infinite loop of commenting on each other’s sites!

  4. Asking for feedback is only the start…what to do with it is the bit that most people miss and DON’T act upon. I can see a follow up blog post….

  5. Wow!
    I didn’t know that Google Docs can do such a good job in this.
    I do get feedback from my customers and sometimes I’m really surprise on what I get. Besides getting their opinion, you can study their mindset from the feedback too.

    1.  @raymond8 Being surprised is good – you can’t know everything and having your assumptions challenged can be very beneficial. Thanks for the comment Raymond.

  6. Whoever finds the answer to the question in your title, is rich. And so are his/her tailor, chauffeur and dog … lol … Because communication is more complex than most people think. It’s important to hear what isn’t being said, and to understand the one who listens. Equally important are the quality, presentation and timing of the question. It’s amazing in restaurants where the chef or owner tours the tables, shakes hands and asks people how they feel. I doubt the process yields much in terms of what the customers are REALLY thinking. You’re right in reminding readers there are many different ways and tools available to dig a bit deeper than that restaurant owner. What Do Your Customers REALLY Think – is a most important element between success and failure. Your post encourages us to spend more time on it. Thank you!

    1.  @beatcoach Haha, yes I agree! You ask 100 people if they will be something and 90 say yes. Then you say here it is, please buy it, and people say, er, maybe not right now…. It’s definitely really worth finding out what people think – if you can!

  7. Dear Joel –

    Customer feedback is judged in many ways.

    As you say, “Customers who regularly visit your site and provide feedback are often the right individuals with whom you can forge business relationships.”

    I am very tuned into how many comments I get on a post . Not what Google says. What the people say.

    What seems to surprise them is that I answer all comments in a day or less. Several have come back and said, “I did not think you would answer me.”

    And, my thought if they have taken the trouble to make a comment, I refer to it so they know I read it.

    Your comments are very important to me. You always have something interesting to say.

    I am a big fan of Jon Morrow and Copyblogger. the main thing I have learned is to make your paragraphs short and to make good use of bolding.

    People scan. No one has time to read a long dissertation.

    Lots of good information here. And some people will use it. I will look into some of the resources you suggest.

    But for me, it is all about the responses.

    What do they say? And it’s not about “Great post. Keep it up.”

    Thanks, Joel.

    1.  @miraclady Comments are a good way, in some niches it doesn’t work as well as others though. But you’re one of the great few who listen and respond. I see a few big bloggers who recommend doing it no longer walking the walk  but I try to do as you do and respond to people who take the time and effort to leave a genuine comment. I’m glad you found the article easy to read, I need to do more like this as it’s the way I like to read too. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your interesting thoughts.

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