How to Collect Consumer Feedback — and Benefit From It

Remember the “orgasm” scene in “When Harry Met Sally”? Meg Ryan pretends to have an orgasm in the middle of a busy diner to prove to Billy Crystal that women fake orgasms all the time. The unintended (and hilarious) result is that the random woman beside them points to Meg Ryan and says to the waiter, “I’ll have what she’s having.” That is a classic example of customer word-of-mouth!

Okay, so she wasn’t actually reacting to the food, but if her sandwich really were that good, you can bet every woman in the restaurant would want it. As customers, we want to get the “inside scoop” and order the best thing possible, whether it’s a sandwich or a new personal lubricant. There is no source more reliable than an actual consumer reacting in real time! As a brand ambassador, it’s my job to get inside the customer experience, find out which things on the “menu” are selling like hotcakes (and hopefully why!) and which ones are languishing on the shelf. Armed with this critical insight, our company can move forward confidently with new product development, knowing what people want.

I am frequently in stores speaking with managers, sales associates, and sometimes owners about the likes and dislikes of their customers. My top questions are always: What is selling best? What is not selling? What do people gravitate toward in the store? Are you getting any comments or questions about our products? I listen carefully, put myself in the customer’s shoes, and try to recreate their experience. If a sales-floor associate mentions that someone inquired about flip-top caps on a particular product, I make a note, and then ask if that suggestion has been raised by customers at the next store, and the next after that. It’s about gathering data and anecdotes to create a big-picture view. Sometimes you need a micro approach to get a macro perspective. I’ve found sales staff are very receptive to my research because they themselves have very useful, valuable opinions as well, and they are happy to speak up. After all, they want to rack up big sales too, and we’re all on the same team.

This type of “boots on the ground” feedback is pure gold for businesses because it directly informs our choices as a company. The more you can gauge the wants and needs of shoppers, the more you can tailor your products to them and create a loyalty loop that is rightfully earned. Building customer confidence is the single most important investment that a company can make because it inspires people to come back, explore what else is on offer, and keep providing valuable feedback.

Related to this is the magical relationship between customer confidence and staff education. When we do our jobs and train staff properly on our products, they feel confident and motivated to sell them. Who wants to sell a product they know nothing about? Again, it’s the personal investment at the micro level. Prepared with the right set of tools, you can connect a customer with the exact product that’s right for them and feel great about your work. It’s rewarding to generate a sale that actually makes a positive difference in someone’s life and establish a relationship on a strong foundation of knowledge. You know you’ve been successful when product returns decrease and repeat business increases.

The next step for me is to report back to headquarters with our treasure troves of customer information. Along with our account managers, we analyze the information and share with the whole team so that decisions can be made about existing and proposed products. Is there overwhelming hard evidence that people love fruit flavors? Okay, what new tastes can we offer them to give them more choices? Sensation play is catching on all across the country? Let’s develop warming and cooling products they can really get excited about. Facts speak for themselves, and actualities drive our growth.

I’ve worked in retail as a sales associate, manager and buyer in the industry for six years, so I’ve experienced all sides of this process, and I am confident that it not only works, but has positive side benefits as well. When companies reach out with support and education, it forms personal relationships that create the backbone of the market. Retailers feel more confident in selling products when they can put a face to the brand and feel supported in their business. We’re invested in building the trust so that our products are sold with the utmost attention.

Besides live support, we have a few other ways that we connect with customers, like our product satisfaction guarantee which helps obtain direct feedback. If they purchase something they don’t like and email us, our product specialist will get back with them and ask questions to find out what might suit them better, matching them with a more appropriate product equivalent to the price of the one they purchased. This feedback not only keeps the customer happy, but it has also resulted in new product development as we hone our brands.

We also offer live trainings on social media platforms like Facebook, which is the next best thing to a live workshop. Customers and retailers can interact live and comment with questions that always get a thoughtful response. We also provide links to review products, retail support and samples this way, encouraging people to read more and educate themselves on the topic.

Strengthening the bond between a company and its customers is not a guessing game, or rocket science, but it does take a dedicated team of professionals who are ready to dig into the “retail details.” The more comprehensive the information we receive about how a product works for people, the better we can tailor it for them. The heart of the matter is that happy customers are good for the bottom line.

How to Collect Consumer Feedback — and Benefit From It by Staci Cruse originally appeared in XBIZ

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