Incorporating feedback into your business planning

21st Oct 2020

“Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights.” —Pauline R. Kezer

Customer feedback is a critical tool for every business. It allows you to decide if you're going to follow the trends set by your competitors, or respond to what your specific customers are expecting as the world around them changes.

Driving action is critical in times of change, and there is no denying that this is a time of change. You need to try multiple approaches to figure out how to add value in a changed landscape. Knowing and doing are two very different things, and you don't have time to waste; your competitors are taking action now.

Start by asking your customers open-ended questions. This gives them the opportunity to share their feelings and provide a glimpse into their experience with your brand. For example, by asking customers to, “Tell us about your experience with our new online store”, you could end up with answers like, “I couldn’t process my payment” which means you may have a problem with your POS integration, or, “It took me forever to find the checkout icon”, indicating that you may need to simplify your UX.

These insights can help you identify issues that can then be prioritized based on their level of impact to your business. Delegate cross-departmentally to drive quick and meaningful action, while aligning your organization in the process.

But remember, it's also about recognizing that if you've had to pivot and introduce new processes (curbside pick up, delivery, e-commerce) that not only you, but also your customers are trying something new. There will be pain points as we are all forced to evolve and adapt to change.

Shift your focus from validating customer needs, to being able to understand them. One executive shared on this subject, “The companies that will rise out of this the quickest, both financially and in earning customers’ memories that your company cares, will find ways to learn and understand their customers’ pain points, their priorities, and where you can add value. You want to earn the right to be a part of their memory of people who helped them during this time.”

Acknowledging the challenges we are all facing is the first step, but recognizing the small changes that can lead to bigger impact is part of the transformation. Small changes can contribute massively to your business plan, and the expectations we used to assess aren’t as relevant right now.

Trend data is of course important, but you also need to expand to measure areas that were once basic expectations. Segment your feedback into transaction types, time of day, items purchased and so on so you can really drill down and learn what your customers expect, and where in their journey they recommend the most, or need more love from you. This means taking a more high-touch approach that will allow you to hone in on what is driving the most value.

By incorporating customer feedback in your business planning, you can provide your customers with a higher-level of personalization, making every transaction feel tailor-made. You didn't become a brand by doing what everyone else does, your brand is unique to you and your customers. You have a once in a lifetime opportunity to leave a lasting impression and to beat out your competition for good.

Understandably, many brands are grappling with whether or not it is appropriate to solicit feedback during a pandemic. But keep in mind that by having a continuous feedback mechanism, you can keep your finger on the pulse of what is or isn’t working well, as we all adapt to our new normal. Be relevant, transparent, and open to constructive criticism.

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