We've always asked for feedback after the fact. How was your meal? Did you enjoy your stay? This is a great way to improve future visits from future guests.
But nowadays, after the fact is too late. With so many choices available to consumers, customer acquisition costs have skyrocketed, so you really should be worrying about customer retention. And the last thing you want to do is provide a less than expected customer experience. Go ahead, hand that not-perfectly-satisfied customer a comment card, or ask them to take your online survey. Just don't be surprised when you're left with a blank slate, because there are much BIGGER places to vent, and customers know it.
Now that consumers know they have a voice, they look for as many channels as possible to share it, yell it, and shout it to the masses. Remember the old "have a good experience tell 1 friend, have a bad experience tell 10 friends" word of mouth mantra? Well with online review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, you can throw that old mantra out the window. Now it's more like, have a good experience, you're lucky if they come back for a second, a great experience will maybe get you a 4 star review (if you hope, pray, and sacrifice for these daily), and a less than perfect experience? Well, let's just say you probably shouldn't expect anyone in that customers' giant (and growing) social circle to be giving you a try anytime soon.
Let's lay it out...
Where's the first place you go for information? Most likely Google, or maybe your iPhone (and that's if you didn't go straight to your social circle). Either way, both of these are heading straight to online review sites to give you what they think are the best and most relevant choices. And if people in your social circle have left reviews, you better believe those are given priority. Hmmm, where else are consumers getting their information? How about Twitter and Facebook, where "friends and followers" not only have a decision-making, and decision-changing affect on their social groups, but there is an ability to share those thoughts and feelings and ultimately begin "anti-(insert name of your business here) movements."
But before you pull all of your hair out and start planning which bridge to jump off, remember that there is still good inside of people. Remember that your friends and family want to help you, remember that you have loyal customers and that they genuinely want to be a part of what you're doing. Remember that underneath all of that stress, there is genuine love for what you do, and that always shines through. What you need to do is harness the power within that group.
This means that situations need to be resolved in real-time. And the good feedback received needs to be shared in as many public "social" outlets as possible. For every 1 bad experience it will take 5 positive experiences to win that customer back. So make sure when you receive customer testimonials that you're sharing them on as many social sites as your business is connected to. People tell you things they love about your business everyday, make sure you're asking them to share those thoughts with their friends, family, and social circles. If the simplest way to get people to retweet your messages is to ask them to "please RT", then the simplest way to get customers to share their experiences as your business is to ask them to.
With so much going on today we sometimes fail to focus on the simple things, and it's the simple things that have been proven to work since the beginning of time. Your customers have a voice. Ask them to use it.