Customers are key to the success of any business. Your business presumably relies upon making sales, and to do that you need customers. Customers also provide valuable feedback. Heed this feedback and make adjustments based upon it, and your business will go from strength to strength.
Just how important is customer feedback? 52% of people globally believe that companies should take action on customer feedback. Outcry tells us what is lost if no action is taken on feedback: one complaint ignored means an average of 26 customers lost.
In short, customer feedback is crucial. Let’s look at how you can use it to pivot into your niche and reach your business goals.
Different Types of Customer Feedback
According to Canny, there are two types of customer feedback: solicited (that which you asked for) and unsolicited (not asked for).
Examples of feedback you get without asking for it might include bug reports, feature requests, questions, reviews on public sites, and praise for a job well done. Examples of feedback you ask for include your Net Promoter Score (NPS) responses, sales objections, and support feedback.
There are many ways to proactively solicit customer feedback, including usability tests, customer feedback surveys, and customer interviews. The latter can offer particularly valuable qualitative information. By directly talking to your customers, you learn first-hand how they feel about your company, products, and services, whether those feelings are positive or negative.
How to Solicit Actionable Feedback from a Customer Interview
There is an art to conducting effective customer interviews. Always ask open-ended questions - those that cannot be answered in just one or two words. The idea is to give the interviewee space to open up about their experience with your company in a way which is detailed and nuanced.
Other tips for good customer interviews:
- Be active in listening. Show that you understand by being attentive and asking relevant follow-up questions.
- Ask specific questions. The more detailed and specific your questions, the more valuable the data.
- Don’t ask biased questions. These are also called “leading questions” and are questions which make it clear that a particular answer is expected. Phrase your questions neutrally.
Make detailed notes or, even better, record the interview (get permission first!) The more comprehensive your data, the more accurate the picture you can build from it.
You should also ask your sales team to share any customer feedback that they receive, whether solicited or not. They are uniquely placed to generate feedback as they are the people who interact with your customers each day.
Identify Customer Pain Points
When soliciting feedback through any medium, you have one main goal: to identify customer pain points. Pain points are the specific problems your customers have that relate to your product or service. Your goal should be to offer solutions to those problems. Bear in mind that these problems may not only be derived from the product. According to Wordstream, pain points can also be finance-, process-, productivity-, and support-related.
Here are some questions you can ask to ascertain relevant pain points:
- What problem(s) were you trying to solve when you initially came across our product or service?
- How could we improve [product, service, or company] to better meet your needs in solving that problem?
- What’s holding you back from using [product or company name]?
- Do you feel that [product or service] represents value for money? Why or why not?
- What words come to mind when you think of the service you receive from our representatives?
You can also identify pain points in feedback your customer service teams receive. For example, if a sales rep reports that a client refused to buy the product because it was “too complicated”, that is a clear pain point. If a member of your tech support team receives a complaint about a product malfunctioning, that’s a pain point, too.
Review These Pain Points Against Your Competitors
Once you’ve identified the relevant pain points, you can find ways to address them. It is worth spending a little time analyzing your competitors and how they are dealing with similar pain points.
You probably already know who your competitors are. If not, a simple Google search will yield this information. Check out their websites and blogs, look at their social media accounts, and read their customers’ reviews.
If you see that customers are happy with how your competitor addressed a pain point, then by all means replicate (or improve on) what your competitor did. The goal is not to copy, but to be inspired. If customers are not happy with your competitors’ solutions, that’s valuable information too.
Reviewing your competitors’ customer pain points has another advantage: it can help you head off problems before they arise. For example, if you see customers complaining about how your competitors’ product lacks a specific feature, you now know that that feature is desirable. You can then use that knowledge in your product development.
How to Find Your Blue Ocean
At some point, you may well find that addressing your customers’ pain points will require you to make a pivot. This can seem scary, but is actually a good thing. Pivoting based on quality data allows you to focus all your energies on what is working, and change or discard what isn’t working. In other words, it will allow you to be more productive and minimize wasted time and energy.
As you pivot into a particular niche, you should look for the “blue ocean”. This refers to creating a new and uncontested market space, making the competition irrelevant, and avoiding the “red ocean” - an existing market with high competition.
Blue Ocean Theory states that, by identifying relevant customer pain points and creative ways to address them, you can redraw industry boundaries and operate within that new space. Your goal is no longer to outperform the competition. Instead, you render the competition irrelevant. Your customers also no longer have to choose between value and affordability.
Let’s take a look at a fantastic example of Blue Ocean Theory at work.
Ford Motor Company unleashed a “blue ocean” with its Model T, a car that was much cheaper than the typical $2000+ models of the era. Ford made a pivot in its business model to provide an affordable vehicle, making car ownership accessible to more people than ever before. Skilled craftsmen were replaced with an assembly line of ordinary laborers, who worked faster and more efficiently.
How do you find your own blue ocean? Try these tips:
- Identify gaps in the market. What are your competitors not doing?
- Return to your customer interviews. Are there any recurring patterns around what your customers want?
- Have you experienced any setbacks or problems you can turn into opportunities?
- What are you best at? Play to your strengths.
Once you find your blue ocean, you can set about making the pivot. Ensure that you plan thoroughly at every stage. You want to be fully prepared when you bring your new product or service to market.
Next Steps: Monitor Feedback & Adapt
So you’ve made that pivot and so far, sales are through the roof!
A good business owner, however, will not rest after an initial success. The next step is to continuously monitor customer feedback and keep making adjustments as necessary.
Ford did not stop making adjustments after the Model T revolutionized the automobile industry. In 1909, a year after the first Model T was launched, the car’s price dropped from $850 to $609. By 1924, the price was down to $240.
You can continuously monitor feedback in several ways. Solicit feedback after service interactions, undertake an annual customer survey, and keep an eye on your online reviews. Your sales and support teams should also continue to share any unsolicited feedback they receive.
Remember: paying attention to feedback is not a one-and-done task, but an ongoing process.
In order to succeed, a business must identify customer pain points and make adjustments to its product or service in order to address them. There are many ways to identify customer pain points, but customer interviews are a particularly useful method.
Once you have a clear idea of your customers’ pain points and gaps in the market, you may choose to make a pivot with your company’s offering into a specific niche. Using the Blue Ocean Theory, you can create a new space for your product instead of competing in an already crowded market. By doing something no-one else has done, you carve out a space that only you can fill.
Before, during, and after your pivot, you must continually monitor and act upon feedback in order to retain your success. Your customers are the life of your business. Listening to them, and ensuring you are always customer-focused, is the way to thrive.