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How to: ask your best customers for ways to fix your business

You want to be open and responsive to your customers’ needs but the loudest customers are always the ones least satisfied. Google is the name of any large business and some of the first results will be from people complaining in blogs, tweets, and forums. Receiving their feedback is easy, but how can you get feedback from the happy and the mildly dissatisfied customers? Big companies survey their customers through inexpensive market research exercises to find out what they think.

In this workshop, Simon Rumble demonstrates how smaller businesses can engage their customers on the cheap, while still getting useful information on which to act.

Sometimes you’ll be missing sales from the simplest things. A mail-order condom business might take all the precautions required to ensure discretion – orders posted in plain paper envelopes billed as Fred Logistics rather than Fred’s Freaky Frangers – but fail to point this out to customers at the appropriate moment in the sales process.

Diligent customers will work it out for themselves, trawling through the ‘postage’ and ‘billing’ pages where you’ve hidden this information assuring them of discretion, but others will get cold feet and you’ll lose sales.

If you’re lucky, a helpful customer who worked this out will tell you he wanted you to explain on your shopping cart page how you discretely package your products. You can’t rely on this kind of luck – you need to make it easy for your good customers to give you the kinds of useful insights that will help you better engage and serve your customers.

Ask the question, prepare for an avalanche

The simplest thing you can do to begin engaging customers in helping you improve your business is to fire out an email to all of your customers asking them to complete a survey.

Don’t send this kind of email as a batch because you’ll likely annoy your regular customers. Instead, send the email out individually, timed a couple of weeks after each order was made.

Services like SurveyMonkey.com allow you to build simple surveys free. Offer a monthly or quarterly prize draw to encourage entries, or give a discount code to those who complete the survey.

Free and paid customer survey services

A number of services exist to help you survey customers in more sophisticated ways. Kampyle, for example, places a feedback icon on every page of your site, soliciting comments from your visitors.

It also intercepts a proportion of visitors as they try to leave your site, encouraging them to let you know why they’re leaving.

Kampyle’s free service allows you minimal customization of the feedback form and button. It should give most businesses enough functionality and depth of information to start with.

Once you’ve tested the service a few times, choose the paid option if you decide you need greater customization and information about the visitors using your feedback forms.

Techniques for getting feedback on social networks

Much has been made about the power of social networking services like Facebook and Twitter. Fortunately for you and your business, the big corporates have failed to really understand the word ‘social’, and have set up social media presences as just another way of pumping out their messages. Use this to your advantage.

For small businesses, acting and sounding human and responding to direct communication isn’t so hard. You won’t need multiple levels of stakeholder signoff before posting a status update or responding to a customer’s question. Be yourself: act human. Relate to your customers as you would if you met them face to face.

Do this and your enthusiastic customers are more likely to form a social, human bond with you. Then you can involve them in helping you improve your business.

One of the simplest ways to get help is to post regularly with direct questions, asking your customers for feedback in areas you want to explore.

‘What’s the worst thing about our site?’ might be a good question to get things started. Be prepared for some nastiness, but don’t be precious: they’re only giving you what you requested.

In your responses, thank people by name and try to use the kinds of words that fill your everyday conversations, rather than the cold, calculated language favored by Big Business.

Take things further and invite your customers to help you design your next product, with prizes for the best suggestions. If there’s a tweet praising your new product, ask what similar products the customer might like.

If your responses are friendly and acknowledge the valuable and freely given ideas of your customers, you’ll be in a better position to form a well-bonded and enthusiastic community of your best customers.

Keep on tracking

Be sure to follow your company’s name in various search engines to track customer comments on social networks. They might not post to you directly, but once you see a complaint or compliment, try to engage the customer through the same medium, using every day and friendly language. Honesty and friendliness will take you a long way.


How to set up Kampyle

  1. To get started with the customer survey service Kampyle, visit Kampyle.com and click ‘Free Trial’.
  2. Fill in the details about your site and yourself and click through to the set-up page.
  3. On the set-up page you can choose the colour of the button and where it will sit on your site. The button is designed to always be visible in one of the corners of every page, or you can use the ‘Within the site’s Layout’ option to put the button somewhere within your site’s existing layout.
  4. The next question defines the percentage of visitors who will be asked to provide feedback when they navigate away from your site. By default this is set at 30% which seems to be a reasonable amount, unless your site gets enormous amounts of traffic in which case you might be overloaded with feedback.
  5. The last step is to add the two segments of HTML to your site’s templates. The first segment needs to go inside the tag of your page and the last just before. These snippets need to appear on every page where you want to see the feedback button, so your main site templates will ensure it appears everywhere.

Note: The trial account for Kampyle includes features that are ordinarily fairly expensive. Use them for the trial period then change your account to the free version, which should give you enough time to decide if the paid version is worthwhile for you, or you can just continue using the free service.

With the code installed on your pages, an icon will appear where you decided and, when clicked, customers get a popup window with your survey questions.

The default settings give customers some standard ways to categorize feedback and record how they feel. You can use this information to improve your site and service. Comments from your site’s visitors show up in the ‘Feedback Inbox’. Check it regularly and get ready to take action on what you learn! #


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