Raj Verma, managing director and co-founder of social polling and feedback platform VoteHere.com, talks about ensuring effective feedback management. 

Let me begin by saying there is a misconception within many service industries that the customer is always right. Although I don’t fully believe in that assessment, I do believe that knowing what the customer is saying, is always right. It’s a subtle but significant difference that goes to the heart of what we do at VoteHere.

Fully comprehending customer insight is more than an external process, it’s at the heart of product experience and is a key component to business in the ‘social’ age. There is no better insight into your business, service or product than by communicating directly with your customers.

Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have reset the scope for consumer communication by providing a borderless public platform for consumers to comment, exchange views and ridicule or reward brands- all in real-time. Key to this communication is that many of those who choose to share negative feedback on social media, do it with the intention of putting others off – tarnishing your businesses reputation.

In a lot of cases it can be difficult for small to medium businesses to make sense of this feedback, both because of its volume and its different forms. Here are my three tips on effective feedback management:

1. Real-time relationships

Manage your customer relationships in real-time. Just because you get feedback at difficult hours does not mean you need to respond immediately. But I do suggest you have a structure in place. Acknowledge feedback as soon as you can. Reply to that feedback within 24 hours and ensure that the relationship is back on track within a week. This doesn’t work for all businesses but as a rule it’s a helpful guide to ensure you’re dealing with customer feedback effectively. If you delegate your customer insight, ask the person responsible what structure they have in place. It’s a smart way of improving the insight process immediately and at no cost.

2. Embrace negativity

Bill Gates was once quoted as saying “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Nothing should be ignored – publicly or privately. Acting upon complaints, suggestions and comments will help to show your customers that you care about their issues. Customers hate to be ignored, so always acknowledge feedback, even if it’s just a thank you. If it’s a negative message on social media try and manage it privately via direct message, email or a telephone call.

3. Manage multiple sources of feedback

In many cases businesses can get lost in the multiple streams of feedback. Whether through Facebook, Twitter, comment cards or surveys, it can be convenient or easy to ignore valuable customer input. At VoteHere we built an entire platform to handle this problem. Instead of having to ask lots of different customers, lots of different questions, over lots of different platforms, ask them through us and all your customer feedback will be collated in one place.

Final thoughts

Remember, if you are counting on satisfying your consumers solely through repeat usage you’re already positioned to fail. For your business to thrive, to grow, and to be profitable, you need to give more than the minimum to your customers. Great customer service and insight means more repeat customers and more positive word of mouth, which leads to more new customers in a cycle that will keep your business going for years to come.

So don’t ignore or dwell on customer feedback, embrace it!