I was recently asked this question by a long-standing client. My short answer was no. There is no magic formula because every situation and every customer contact is different. Contact A may be concerned about price, Contact B delivery, Contact C quality, and so on. Each person is bothered by something different that is very important to him or her. Each person’s issue may be causing them to be a less than enthusiastic supporter. Lowering prices will satisfy some, improving quality or delivery time others, but again there is no single, one-size-fits-all formula.
While there is no single best practice to accomplish this important task, there is an approach that has been proven effective over time. That approach involves listening carefully to customers, understanding what they are saying, and following through by taking action to address their concerns; it takes commitment and effort.
We believe the single best way to gather strategic feedback from customers is….. (are you ready?) talk to them. More importantly, listen to their words. Talking to your customers enables you to learn as much as possible about each customer’s situation, including among other things, What, Where, How and Who:
What is your company currently doing well to meet your customer’s needs?
Where do you need to improve?
How will your customer’s needs change in the future?
Who does it best in your customer’s opinion, your company or your competitors?
However, no matter how well you listen, it is not enough to simply speak with customers. The very act of speaking with them raises their expectations. They expect their time will be well spent. They expect something will actually be done to address their concerns. In short, once they speak with you they expect things will improve, they hope their jobs will become easier, they expect you will become better and more effective at meeting their needs.
Achieving the goal of turning detractors into neutrals and neutrals into supporters, like most things worth having in life, requires hard work.
The questions for you to consider:
Are you willing to put in the time and effort required to speak with customers?
Are you willing to listen to their feedback?
And are you willing to follow through by taking action?