Getting, using and understanding customer feedback

Your customers may not always be right, but their views are always useful. They’ll tell you what you’re doing right and what you need to do better. And it’s a smart business that goes out of its way to get feedback, listen to it and – crucially – understand it.

The two types of customer feedback

There are two types of feedback:



Direct feedback is simple. It’s where customers tell you what they think about you. You can see it in your voice of the customer programme or simply in the complaint emails and letters of thanks (rarer, but all the more wonderful for it) that hit your desk each day.


Indirect feedback is a lot harder to recognise but it gives you massively valuable insight. You can see indirect feedback in the way your customers behave and buy – or don’t buy.

For example, one of our financial clients used to struggle with getting investors to claim money that was rightfully theirs (seriously). A simple change to the way a form was laid out boosted claims (and thus FCA compliance) by just over 200%.

You’ll also get some cracking indirect feedback by asking employees where customers struggle in your processes and dealings with you.

Where’s the most value?

Feedback is usually a bell curve. You’ll do a few things that wind customers up enough sufficiently to complain. You’ll do a few others well enough that they’ll thank you. But what about the mass of everyday actions that no-one gets in touch about? It’s here that you’ll find the most value. Making a lot of small changes can often boost your net promoter score and decrease your customer effort score in a way that one big projects doesn’t. But you need to know what those little things are.

Customer behaviour, if you interpret it, can tell you. But asking customers directly usually gives you a clearer starting point.

How to avoid ‘tickinnabox’ feedback

Here’s how:

  • make feedback part of the purchase process
  • make it human
  • make it about the customer

1. Make it part of the purchase process

No-one wants to wade through a 20 question feedback form, but a simple ‘how did we do?’ with a 1-10 slider is often enough to give you a good idea of performance. Make sure your data can link scores to customers so if someone ranks you low you can go back and find out why.

2. Make it human

Here’s an old introduction to a feedback request from one of our clients (it looks rather different now):

“AnyCo continuously strives to find better and more efficient solutions for the benefit of the customer and to improve…”

Sound like a human when you’re asking customers for their comments. Do that and they’ll feedback in a human way – and do more of it too.

3. Make it about the customer

Your customers don’t care about your feedback processes. Instead, they want to be listened to, have their feedback acted on and be thanked. So keep feedback processes short – three questions at most. If you want more information, choose a special group of customers and ask them more detailed questions.

Listen to what customers say. That means giving them scope for freeform feedback rather than just pre-determined answers to set questions. Freeform feedback can be incredibly valuable. Ask customers one, single, simple question “what’s the one thing we could do to make being our customer better?” Be prepared for a few facetious answers, but you’ll get gold dust too.

And if customers are feeding back face to face or on the phone, make sure the teams talking to them understand active listening skills thoroughly.

Finally, say thank you and tell customers what you’ve done in response to their feedback.

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