Gathering feedback, ideas and information on an ongoing basis.
In a previous post I explained what it means for businesses to scale empathy and why it’s important. I laid out 3 steps to help you scale empathy across your business. My first post in this series described how to get closer to your customers by creating and utilizing personas. The second step explained how to apply what you developed in the personas to customer touch points online and offline. Now to close the loop with the final of the 3 steps by creating open channels for feedback and communication.
Assuming that you’ve gone beyond just looking at the customer personas you’ve developed and actually put them into action, you’re going to want to keep up your empathy momentum by creating and utilizing open channels of feedback.
The internet and online tools provide a supremely scalable way for just about everyone your business touches to share ideas, provide criticism and contribute to what your doing. Creating customer personas is a great first step, but in order to minimize future effort and stay ahead of the game you will want to create ongoing ways of learning about the human beings connected to your business. The following are some suggestions on how to do this.
Identify the Audiences to Include
Although I’ve used the word “customers” a lot in this series, there are more segments of people you may want to communicate with on an ongoing basis. Identifying those various segments will help you understand how to open those channels and what to do with the feedback provided.
- Employees – Those that work directly in your business are an excellent source of ongoing feedback and ideas. In many cases, these folks are the ones working most directly with your customers.
- Channel Partners – Another group that spends a great deal of time in direct contact with your customer base, channel sales partners are used to hearing all the reasons why your current and potential customers don’t want to give you their money. If you don’t mine them for what they know, then you are missing out.
- Customers – The most obvious group of people to engage is of course your customers. Some businesses have been vocal about what they feel the downsides are about encouraging customers to provide feedback, especially in a public place like Twitter. If that’s a considerable concern of yours, then you likely need to listen and act on that feedback more than most.
- Potential New Customers – The previous people listed have all had previous contact with your business. What about those individuals who have yet to do business with you? Wouldn’t you like to know why they haven’t yet spent their money with you?
Implement Information Gathering & Listening Tools
Understanding who you want feedback from helps you then decide how you will gather that feedback. There are lots of tools available at low or no cost to help you do this. Sometimes it’s as simple as a form on your website. Not long ago we helped launch a completely revised website for one of our customers that has 17 offices across the US. On day 1, the new website included a form made specifically for their employees across the country to provide feedback, ideas or new information whenever they want. Not only has that made it easier for company’s headquarters to manage the website, but it’s also increased the stake that employees feel they have with their employer’s online presence.
Going beyond simple forms, there are a variety of tools that can be initially set up and provide a steady flow of information to help you understand what’s on the minds of your customers.
- Add online feedback tools to your web site – Tools like Uservoice and Zendesk give you relatively easy way to create an online community to collect ideas and feedback. You can integrate each directly with your web site and can even connect some with your social networks.
- Set up social media listening stations to listen and respond – Social media channels are some of the best places to tap into the minds of current and potential customers. Endlessly scouring the web to listen to customers isn’t very scalable. This problem is solved by setting up a social media listening tool to do it for you.
- Forms and surveys – I mentioned previously that a simple web form can be quite useful. There are a number of easy to implement tools that can help you quickly set up a form and start collecting information. Wufoo is a great tool and creating forms in Google docs using their form builder is super simple. Although you can create short surveys using most form tools, they often don’t provide easy to digest reports when a longer set of information needs to be captured. Sending out a survey with a tool like Survey Monkey can rectify this.
- Get Face to Face – Any opportunity to talk face to face anyone is an opportunity to ask questions and listen. After meetings, during trade shows or just about any other time you’re out in the field… take advantage of that face time. Your smart phone is an excellent tool to help you capture conversations. Capture an audio note or a video to take back to the office and share with your team.
These are just a few solutions, but keep your eyes open for new ways to gather direct and indirect feedback as often as possible.
Put Things Into Action
All the information gathering, tools and listening doesn’t matter if you don’t put the fruits of this labor into action. Remember, the purpose of this all is to instill and exhibit empathy across your business. This approach to open feedback and communication is meant to help keep the customer an active participant of your business. Sales meetings, product development, marketing campaigns … they should all include time to discuss the information you’ve gathered on a regular basis. Scaling empathy isn’t just about using tools that easily scale, but also how you develop processes that become part of what you’re already doing day in and day out.
For reasons stated before, businesses that regularly exercise empathy have a leg up in today’s connected world. For those that still feel the word empathy represents more the touchy feely side of things and doesn’t effect the bottom line, it’s going to be an uphill battle for you in the near future.