The importance of customer feedback can not be overstated in any business. Without it, how can you grow in the right direction, or maximise the productivity in what you do? For businesses that need to sell, customer feedback is absolutely vital as a part of the sales cycle. Without it your agents will be facing plenty of swiftly terminated calls and doors shut in their faces.
What, then, is the sales cycle? Well – every single sales operation has one. Quite simply, it’s the method through which a salesperson sells! Of course, this can vary from enterprise to enterprise – a company that makes its living through cold calling people about PPI would need a different sort of salesperson to a company that sells top of the line BMWs. But regardless of the product, sales cycles have the same constituent parts.
The first is prospecting for leads – or in other words, finding people to sell to. This involves identifying who is the most likely customer to buy from you. For a business that manufactures and sells, for instance, women’s clothes, your leads will be women. A business that sells walking canes will likely concentrate their market on the elderly. This quantifying of leads allows you to stop your agents from wasting time on leads that never really stood a chance of buying in the first place.
Once a lead is found, they are then added to the sales funnel. At the top of this funnel, the number is large, and as each stage is progressed through some customers drop out, and those that remain at the end are the ones that actually buy your product. The form the stages take depends on the business, but you’ll reach out to the customer, find out if they are able and willing to buy your product, and then present your product or solution. Perhaps the most important step is to next handle with any objections the customer may have, then close the sale, and last but not least try to get a referral or even a repeat sale from your lead.
Collecting feedback via SMS or email surveys about this stage, will ensure your prospecting and targeting methods and aimed correctly.
Naturally this process has a lot of factors which influence its success. A salesperson who doesn’t take no for an answer will do better than one who does. Selling face to face is more likely to lead to a successful sale than cold calling. But the most important factor which determines sales success is whether the salesperson is listening to the needs of the customer through their feedback. This feedback can come in two ways: either directly as the sales process is being run through, or afterwards in the form of feedback through surveys, complaints or enquiries. But however it comes to the salesperson, importance of customer feedback potentially gives them the opportunity to sell where they wouldn’t otherwise.
Post-sale and non-sale surveys are proven to drive conversion success rates higher in a ver short period of time.
It’s an interesting use of customer surveys – whilst many companies use them to improve customer support, at VIRTUATel we work with several market-leading companies who use our surveys to inform their sales process.
The most obvious example of the importance of customer feedback in the sales cycle is when managing objections. Managing objections is, in fact, impossible if it’s not tailored to the specific lead being sold to! One lead might think the product – let’s say for example a nice pair of blue jeans – is too expensive, since they have extra bills to pay this month. Another customer might only ever wear the finest Armani jeans, and think that the pair you’re trying to sell can’t be anywhere near as high quality, since they’re cheaper.
Both of these objections are legitimate concerns but can only be managed through listening to the customer and judging what they might think based on their personalities and potential responses. The easiest way to get this feedback is, believe it or not, the most obvious: press your lead for info on what’s making them hold out on buying ‘right here, right now’, and tailor an answer just for them. Customers appreciate when they feel listened to and are much more willing to listen to you if they believe they’re in a two way conversation, not listening to a sales pitch.
The next most important way in which a customer can influence the sales process is after the customer has been through the cycle, through giving written feedback like a review, or indeed, a complaint. Unfortunately in many companies using modern sales tactics like a formalised sales cycle, listening to customer feedback seems to stop once the sale is finalised and money has changed hands. That’s why you see a lot of businesses out there that have great sales figures and a healthy profit margin, but dozens of bad reviews – it doesn’t matter to them so long as they close that sale.
Using survey techniques such as Net Promoter or VIRTUATel’s Advocacy Index will give you a valuable “recommendation” benchmark that you can measure progress against.
But in businesses which actually respect and listen to feedback given after the fact of the sale, these reviews can have a great influence on the sales cycle, particularly in this online age. If a lot of reviews come in about how the product is completely irrelevant to them and their needs, the business can listen and adjust how they find their leads. If reviews point out how their salespeople are too pushy, management could discuss with their staff how a sales pitch can also be a two way conversation. If reviews say that the offer seemed great at first but they lost interest because the salesperson kept waffling on, then perhaps remind staff to Always Be Closing!
The take-away message from this post, then, is that feedback effects the sales cycle by improving, enhancing, and specifying the techniques a salesperson uses to sell – using customer feedback is absolutely vital to honing this process and maximising the potential of a sales team. A sales cycle can’t be implemented straight from a book, but has to be put in place, imperfect at first, and constantly improved upon. Customer feedback is how you can make those improvements.
Photo credit: wonderferret via VisualHunt / CC BY
If you’re looking for a DIY approach to survey building, we know that sometimes it’s difficult to come up with a great customer satisfaction survey without resorting to boring templates you can find online. These are useful, but to really create something that will make a difference for your business, we think you have to scout around and find out what the best businesses and retailers out there are doing.
Of course, we’d recommend working with *ahem* an expert, but we know that not everyone wants to make that initial investment…
That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the best survey examples: take a quick look at ten customer satisfaction surveys that will make you think twice, and maybe incorporate some of their ideas into the survey you’re working on. Each one has something going for it which can really make your survey better.
In no particular order:
First we’ve picked this survey from the U.S. retailer Walmart. While the website visuals leave a little bit to be desired, it highlights something really important: right at the beginning of the survey there is the option to pick which language you want to complete the survey in. With our surveys, you can tailor even further. We integrate your customer data into our platform, so the survey will appear in the correct language from the start – essential if you’re working in a country like the US which has such a high proportion of Spanish speakers.
Second, we’ve picked U.K. grocer Sainsbury’s survey. Their specific website, tellsainsburyssurvey.com, sports an impressive 1.2 million recommendations on Facebook – so presumably they have a lot of responses to sift through. The best thing about this survey though is the way they give you open ended questions, not just ‘out-of-10’ ratings. ‘What was good about your visit today?’ leaves the door open for a response you could never see coming with prescribed questions.
Next we’ve picked a survey from the UKECC, the UK European Consumer Centre. While they won’t get as many responses as an Walmart or a WHSmith, the UKECC have done something clever with their survey. Towards the beginning, they’ve put a section where the respondent outlines ‘reasons for contacting’. This allows the UKECC to sort their responses by this metric, giving them more specific data should they need it.
Back to supermarkets, we have Asda. This survey highlights a very simple tool to make more people respond to your survey: offer a reward! This Asda survey offers a £1000 prize just for entering, and like always the survey only takes a few minutes. Offering a prize really takes advantage of that ‘why not’ attitude, which is all-important – because if you don’t, it will be likely that the only people responding are people who want to complain.
This survey, set up through Surveymonkey for HMV, is not as well-tailored as some of the others on this list, but there are still positives in it. It really highlights the importance of asking specific questions to get the data you need. HMV has been struggling recently and has poor ratings for customer satisfaction, and this survey is trying to find out why. It asks whether their goods are too expensive, and in another question asks about the importance of illegal downloading to respondents. With the answers to these questions, they could try to implement new policies and revive their old famous brand.
Again, Argos have an offsite survey, i.e. not on their regular website, something which is quite common among UK businesses. Unlike others though, the Argos survey has something pretty unique, although depending on your business you may not be able to implement it. Like other surveys the respondent is required to input a receipt number to prove that the survey is genuine; but unlike others, the Argos receipt also has a till number, meaning that in the event if a major complaint (or positive point!), the shop can easily identify the employee in question.
Apple (as you would expect) have a snazzy section on their website for their customer satisfaction survey, done in their own particular style. Apart from the usual questions, Apple have also included a few questions which actually help them with their sales, for instance: ‘Are you aware that you can upgrade your contract or activate an iPhone on a rate plan with a mobile carrier directly at the Apple Store?’. With these questions Apple surreptitiously sells their own products in the middle of a survey!
The Tesco survey is very much what you expect to find, but don’t let that fool you – it is well put together. Tesco have lots of questions – ranging from stock availability to whether the staff were dressed presentably – but phrasing these questions correctly is of the utmost importance. Take care when you craft your questions!
Hilton are perhaps one of the most recognisable brands in the world. They rely on top-notch service to keep their brand stellar. So it’s no surprise that their survey feedback form is excellent. Where other sites have page after page of questions, Hilton have kept it simple, keeping it to one page and only asking a few detailed questions. Of course being detailed can be a good thing – but for a customer filling out a survey, nothing is more of a turn-off than 20 long-winded open-ended questions – they won’t even bother finishing!
Last but not least is this survey from Oddbins, U.K. alcohol retailer. The survey itself is rather normal – but the prize isn’t! Unlike 90% of other surveys whose prize is some voucher or other, Oddbins give away a premium bottle of champagne to their customers! This is a contested point in the world of surveys – we would argue that if you work with an expert to make your survey relevant, targetted and concise, there should be no need for costly prizes. However, it’s a tip worth bearing in mind if you’re going DIY!
Read all that and think you’d like to explore the expert option? We’re here to help! Email us for a cost effective and high quality solution.