Are You Afraid Asking Customers For Feedback Will Open a Can of Worms?

One reason some companies don’t ask for customer feedback is they don’t want to open a can of worms. They don’t want to drown in data and create expectations the company can’t promise to meet.

Is that you?

Let me put your mind at ease. You don’t have to reach out to everyone about everything all at once. Frankly, you shouldn’t reach out to everyone unless you’re asking about a single issue. If you have a complex or strategic issue, ask a subset of customers. Let’s look at both approaches.

Single issue: Billing. Billing is a “tail wags dog” problem for a lot of companies. Unfortunately, nobody is going to attract or close sales because their billing function is a well-oiled machine. Also unfortunately, a broken billing function can infuriate customers making them more receptive to a sales pitch from your competitor.

In this example, reach out to everyone who gets bills from AP. Ask for feedback about your billing process, practices and policies. The can of worms opened will usually be limited in scope.

Once you ask for and receive valid constructive feedback, have your team work to find the root cause (or causes) and address them. Reach out for feedback again in 90 days and 180 days to confirm that the problems have been fixed. A successful outcome reduces customer dissatisfaction, customer turnover, and time wasted by employees as they respond to customer complaints.

That’s using customer feedback to learn what customers think about a single function, product or service.

Complex or strategic issues. On the other hand, if your account growth, market share growth or win:loss ratio needs improving, you’re facing a complex or strategic issue. You will use some form of customer feedback here, too, as a diagnostic tool. But when the issues are complex or strategic, target a specific subset of your customer base for feedback. Let’s look at the examples mentioned.

Account growth. If some of your customers buy from you and from your competitors or they do work in-house that could be outsourced to you, you have under-performing accounts. In other words, there’s a real opportunity for account growth, but a barrier is in the way. Leaving that barrier in place leaves money on the table.

Is the problem your under-performing customers are dissatisfied and their retaliation is to buy from you when they have no other choice? Or are they forced to second-source, and you’re it? Or do they not know the full range of what you offer, and someone else’s salesperson closes sales your salesperson or account manager should be closing?

In this example, instead of reaching out to everyone who buys from you with a feedback tool, focus on specific under-performers. Meet with them about what you can do to earn more of their business. If your resources are limited, only reach out to the customer who represents the greatest revenue-growth potential. Once their issues have been resolved, move on to the next customer on your prioritized list.

Opening this can of worms might be unpleasant in the moment if a customer is upset with your company, but hearing them out and addressing their complaints is usually worth the reward. The steps it takes to turn around one dissatisfied customer just might improve your standing with other dissatisfied customers.

Market share. If your issue is slow market share growth, reach out to your newest customers. Talk to them about what they were looking for, how they found you, why they gave you a chance and what they think so far. Work to understand the buying process from the point of view of those who did what you want more prospects to do.

Win:loss ratio. If your issue is a disappointing win rate, reach out to recent wins and recent lost sales. They both found you and considered you. Why did the wins buy? Why did the lost sales not buy? Do the lost sales have suggestions that can make you more competitive?

More cans of worms that are well worth opening.

Ann Amati, Principal, Deliberate Strategies Consulting, helps companies use guidance from their current and past customers to grow future sales. She has a 20-year track record of using deep-dive interviews to create positive turning points in her clients’ relationships with their customers.

In her national practice, Ann has clients who sell millions to companies that make billions and sole practitioners/LLCs with more modest practices. She is the author of, “What Your Customers Aren’t Telling You That You Need to Know,” a collection of case studies, tips and tools for companies in commercial and industrial sales.

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