by Katie Lundin of crowdspring
Everyone knows that clients can offer priceless insight into your business.
Your clients have a fresh perspective. They notice things that you don’t. They can tell you if you’re successfully meeting their needs. Or not.
And some businesses – like design, marketing, or branding agencies; interior design firms, freelancers, and contractors; among many others – absolutely rely on client feedback and collaboration in order to do their jobs.
Creative work of all kinds demands a constant feedback loop between client and service provider.
But, it’s not always easy to get clients to spill the beans. And, it’s not always clear what to do with the client’s insight once you have it.
Client feedback, like any data, is only valuable if it’s actionable.
So, we’re here to help. As a creative business, we’ve become experts at collecting and acting on client feedback. And, we’re excited to share what we know.
Here are our top techniques for collecting actionable client feedback:
Send follow-up emails.
One of the most effective techniques for gathering client feedback is a simple email.
Email is still king when it comes to reaching people.
Hubspot shares that 99% of consumers check their email daily and that 73% of millennials prefer business communications to come via email.
It’s best to contact your clients after they’ve had the opportunity to experience your service. So, give them time to do so – and process the experience a bit – before reaching out.
Now, you could just make a blanket request for feedback.
But if there’s specific information that you’re hoping to learn, that’s not the best approach. We recommend that you include a survey with targeted questions (more on that below).
Keep your message short and sweet. Provide a link or clickable button to take the reader directly to the included survey. And, sweeten the pot by offering a reward for completing the survey. This could be a discount for a future purchase, a gift card or any other reward that your clients would value.
And make sure it’s clear the email is from you. Far too many emails are generic emails that could have been sent by thousands of other businesses. This is where you should smartly incorporate your agency’s or business’s brand identity (including your logo and brand colors).
Finally, automate your email campaigns so that they send on a regular schedule triggered by your clients’ activity. Tools like Constant Contact, Intercom, MailChimp, and Drip are all worth looking into. And, once you’ve set these email campaigns up, they run automatically – making this a low-time-investment technique with great potential returns.
The Art of the Survey.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to create a survey.
Include too many questions and you’ll discourage most users from participating.
Include too few questions, and your data will be incomplete or unreliable.
We recommend that you aim for 3-5 questions. This means that you need to design your survey with a targeted topic in mind.
You’ll gain the most from specific, but open-ended questions.
When gathering feedback you should be completely open to whatever opinions and observations your clients think are important enough to share. Limiting the participants to multiple choice answers or rating systems really curtails the depth and range of responses that you’ll get.
If there’s room, leave a free field for the user to provide any other info they think you should know. This “wild card” field is invaluable for learning what you don’t know you don’t know.
So let’s recap:
- Send follow-up emails after clients have had a chance to experience your product or service.
- Automate your email delivery.
- Offer a reward in exchange for completing a survey.
- Aim for 3-5 questions per survey.
- Ask specific, open-ended questions.
- Have a plan in place for processing responses.
Build feedback collection into your website.
Some businesses don’t just want client feedback – they need client feedback.
Maybe you’re a design, marketing, or branding agency, or a freelancer, and you need specific feedback about a project you’re working on for a client.
If your business is like ours, and it absolutely relies on collaboration with your clients you’ve got to make the feedback process easy.
For instance, at crowdspring we’ve built client feedback tools right into our website.
In our design and naming projects, clients can leave specific feedback directly for the creative or designer on each entry. In all of our design projects, ranging from logo design to product design, clients (and collaborators) can contextually connect their feedback to specific areas of the design.
And, once a client chooses a winning design (or name), they can easily communicate with their creative in a dedicated wrap-up area.
Plus clients, including agency clients, can use our free focus group tool to quickly and easily get feedback on designs from clients, prospective customers, friends, and colleagues.
Our agency clients have an additional feedback tool available – our client presentation tool. This allows agency clients to present select design entries from a project to their client in a whitelisted, custom-branded mini-website. This mini-site is optimized to make providing feedback on each design simple and quick. Everyone can see all of the feedback on one convenient platform.
If your business is dependent on client collaboration and feedback, bake the process right into your website so that you and your clients can access all of the relevant information, materials, and feedback all in one place.
Tap your customer support team
Your support team deals directly with clients every single day.
They get the unvarnished, no-punches-pulled truth straight from your clients’ mouths. This means that they have a wealth of knowledge that you should be taking advantage of.
Here are 3 techniques for applying your customer support team’s insight…
Schedule regular check-ins
Set up regular check-ins to learn what issues clients are facing. Better yet, automate the process!
You can use a project management tool like Basecamp to send automated check-in questions on a regular (weekly or bi-weekly) schedule. Ask just a few questions to minimize the burden on your support team. And, make sure the questions really count.
- Ask which issues or concerns arise most often. (Fixing these will make a positive impact for a wide range of clients.)
- Ask for feedback on any new initiatives. (New efforts may need refining. Your clients can guide that process.)
- Ask if any high-priority problems have been reported and confirmed. (These are clearly issues that need attention.)
Make these check-ins an automatic, default activity. Building the process right into your regular practices is an easy way to keep valuable client feedback flowing in.
And, finally, be sure to create a protocol for following up on this info. Information is great. But, without action, you won’t gain much.
Encourage open internal communication.
Foster an environment that supports open communication between support and other internal teams.
Your support team should know whom to contact if and when important customer concerns are reported. (Or if a client reaches out to customer support about their project instead of their project lead…) So, provide a brief guide with appropriate contacts and contact info for each team support may need to reach.
If your support team doesn’t know whom to contact – or worse, feel that they are not allowed to reach out with important information – then their effectiveness is drastically restricted when issues arise.
Mine existing support records.
If your business is like most, then your support interactions are automatically recorded. Saved phone calls, chat transcripts, and support tickets provide a stockpile of valuable insight.
Take the time to read or listen to what your customers have to say. What drives them to reach out? Do they sound happy, sad, or angry?
Reading the messages customers share with your support team is a great way to peek into their frame of mind and see your agency or business from their perspective.
Look for patterns and repeating issues/concerns. These are the problems to prioritize solving.
Use feedback monitoring tools.
Today’s consumers rely on online reviews. People proactively leave reviews for both positive and negative business interactions. And, they seek out reviews when planning a purchase.
In fact, a 2017 study reveals that 93% of consumers say online reviews impact their purchase decisions.
Reviews are happening whether you ask for them or not. And, your agency, firm or business is gaining or losing clients as a result. So, tap into this resource and track the reviews that clients post. Luckily, there are tools that make this easy.
Google Alerts is a free online tool that will notify you via email whenever new content is posted about a specific topic. So, set up Google Alerts for your business so that you can stay effortlessly informed when people on the web are talking about you.
It’s best to follow-up with online reviewers. This shows your audience that you care about and value their feedback. So, designate a member of your team to manage your Google Alerts and respond to online reviews whenever possible.
But, if you’re looking for more control over (and insight into) your online reputation data, consider a paid tool like Reputology. Reputology gathers all of your online mentions in one convenient place. But, even better, it allows you to measure and analyze the data.
Reputology explains that its “semantic analysis technology converts the unstructured content from reviews & feedback into actionable data.” So, no one needs to manually analyze content for actionable trends. This saves you time and makes it easier to act on your data.
These are only two of many available online reputation monitoring tools. Investigate your options and choose the one that’s best for your business.
A Final Word on Feedback.
Every business is built on relationships. Inviting feedback and collaborating with your clients is an essential part of maintaining those relationships.
So, don’t treat feedback and client collaboration as something to do “if you get around to it.” Make it a central pillar of your agency, firm or business.
Listening to your clients and cultivating those relationships will help you deliver a better product or service and grow your business faster.
Katie Lundin is a marketing and branding specialist at crowdspring, one of the world’s leading marketplaces for crowdsourced logo design, web design, graphic design, product design, and company naming services. She helps entrepreneurs, small businesses and agencies with branding, design, and naming, and regularly writes about entrepreneurship, small business, and design on crowdspring’s award-winning small business blog.