No one likes to hear where they messed up or have failed. When we bring up the concept of asking for feedback, that is the way most people view the process, or they quickly respond “The feedback we get is always great. Our customers love us.” Constructive feedback can have a major impact on the success of your business. Companies that regularly look for input have the opportunity to fix what is not working and build upon what is.
Feedback Can Be Painful
When you first decide to ask people what they think about your business, it can feel like a personal attack. You put your hopes and dreams into your company, and you think it is awesome. The reactions you get may indicate it isn’t going as great as you thought it was. We are frequently biased in our view of how things are going. Negative feedback is tough to handle initially. This is true for most of us. Very few people start out with an openness to criticism. Over time, it becomes easier to handle and even welcomed. It starts by adjusting your perspective a bit.
It’s Is About Perspective
Your perspective and the perspective of your client both play a role in making most of this process. First, don’t consider the input to be criticism. Think of it simply as observational data. The customer is telling you, from their personal point of view, where you did well, where you could improve, and where you dropped the ball. This is just their assessment. If you don’t take it as a judgement, you have an opportunity to evaluate if others feel the same way. If you find consistent experiences and feedback, this subjective data can be used objectively to make positive changes.
Why Seek Feedback
The reason we support feedback is because it can guide you to make informed changes. There are many ways to utilize the results of your assessments. Customer feedback can give you an opportunity to learn how a particular market perceives your business. It can indicate demographics you might not have considered focusing on while letting you know if you are wasting efforts with another. You can learn about an added service or product your customer is buying elsewhere, or would like to buy from you, giving you the chance to bundle it into the package. Get in the habit of regularly soliciting feedback, and you will find all sorts of opportunities to improve. You should even do your best to find out why someone did not do business with you. Can you imagine the impact that type of information could have on increasing your sales?
How To Ask for Feedback
Determining how to ask for feedback depends on what you are going to do with it. We recommend a combination of in-person and confidential methods. Most of “your fans” will not want to hurt your feelings sitting across the table from you. They will, however be willing to tell you what they love about doing business with you. This can also be quite a good opportunity to ask for a review or referral.
Have formal questions ready for them that are open-ended. You don’t want just “yes or no” responses. They simply don’t provide enough information. If you must limit a response in this manner, find a way to at least have a ranking system to increase the details. Using a 5-point scale, ranging from 1 (not likely) to 5 (highly likely), can get you a more thorough analysis.
The anonymous portion is best done through a 3rd party. There are many low-cost options available. Some companies will email a form while others will provide a link to a website providing the questionnaire. It is important to make sure your customer knows this information will be completely confidential if you want their honesty, and you do want honesty for this process to work. The in-person strategy is to find out what you did well and how to do more of that. The goal of this second stage is to find out where you let them down and where you can improve.
Quality Data Requires a Process
You don’t want to leave the task of receiving feedback to chance. Implement processes and procedures at every stage along with metrics to track your progress. To be successful you must:
- Determine what you are going to ask
- Decide who is responsible for asking
- Know what methods you will use for reporting/collecting
- Set a system to evaluate the data
- Understand how you will apply the results
You also want to find ways to get regular feedback from your team. They can help guide where you are being effective and indicate processes that need to be adjusted. Asking for their assessment will increase your accountability to them, reduce miscommunication, and improve the understanding of expectations. Companies frequently find an increase in morale, contribution, and ownership by simply asking their employees and managers for their observations. These should also be solicited in-person and confidentially.
Is it Analysis or Criticism
In Napolean Hill’s “Laws of Success” he refers to 10 rules of self-discipline. Rule #8 is “Learn the difference from friendly analysis and unfriendly criticism”. He goes on to say “Even though it is unfavorable, if it is friendly analysis he likes it because he can improve by it.” He advises, to know the difference between analysis vs criticism answer questions such as, “What is you relationship to the person providing feedback?” and “What is the tone and manner of the comment”.
His overall guidance is that friendly analysis is productive and guides you on to where you can do better. Unfriendly criticism isn’t something you should put a lot of time into considering. It will usually upset you. Don’t react to it and get defensive. Take a brief moment to gain your composure and consider if there is any truth in it. Then, quickly move on. Focus on the feedback you gained by friendly analysis and continue to build upon your success.