7 ways to find out what your customers are thinking and build loyalty

“I don’t feel like you value our relationship…”

Those words have been spoken at the break up of many marriages, friendships, and even family relationships. While they may not be spoken, the feelings those words express also reflect why many customers and clients stop doing business with companies.

The challenge for small business owners is to make sure customers and clients know that their relationship is valued and one of the best ways to do that is to ask people what they think. Here are seven ways to find out what your customers are thinking using both online tools and in-person strategies.

  1. Live chat. It’s not difficult to get a live chat feature built into your website today. If you get a lot of traffic and your website is central to your business, explore your options. (Sara Angeles does a good job describing some of the best providers in her Business News Daily article, 7 Live Chat Solutions for Small Businesses.)
    I’m using this term in its broadest sense. If a web-based tool would work for you, directing customers to a survey can be done a number of ways including via a pop-up, email, or mobile device. However, telephone surveys are also good and I especially like the “casual follow-up call” when it comes from an important employee or owner, not a survey company.
  2. Suggestion box. We all know about “employee suggestion” boxes, how about doing the same thing for customers? You can also build an online suggestion box into your website.
  3. Review software. As with live chat, there are good third-party review apps available for your website.
  4. Social listening. Monitor the Internet for mentions of your business or for hashtags that directly relate to what you do. When something hits your radar screen, jump into the conversation in a positive and proactive way.
  5. Your social media channels. Respond to comments made to posts on all the social media channels you use.
  6. Feedback cards. I mentioned using a suggestion box above. You can make it easier for your customers if you hand them a feedback card. Alternately, you could put a stamp on it so customers could simply drop it in the mail.

Another important tip is to solicit an opinion soon after you have an interaction with a customer. If you’re in a service-based industry, following up every time you render your service with a request for a rating and general comments is a good idea.