Today I’m pleased to share a guest post by James Johnson of Questback.

How often do you listen to what your customers have to say?

I don’t mean have you heard (or read) what it is that they’ve said. I don’t mean when’s the last time you ran a customer survey. I mean, when do you sit down and listen carefully to what it is that they have to say.

Because what you hear, and what they’re saying, may be two completely different sentiments.

If you’ve ever been in a relationship, you already know that, “Yeah, sure!” can also mean, “If you do that, there’s a good chance all your things will be on the lawn in the morning” in the right situation.

And the exact same can be happening with your customers each time you reach out to them. What you interpret as good feedback could, in reality, be a complaint in disguise.

That’s why getting feedback isn’t enough. It really comes down to:

  • Listening to what your customers are saying
  • Understanding the reason behind it
  • Taking the right action to improve their experience

In this article, I want to show you which common responses are actually complaints in disguise. And, how you can better listen to the reasons behind what your customer is saying.

The more you know, the better their experience will be.

A Simple Trick For Getting To Their Reasons
Now, you’re more than likely not sat in front of each one of your customers hearing exactly what it is that they have to say. And there will be some comments you get frequently that you can’t find in this post.

Don’t fret.

A great way to get a deeper understanding of what your customer is saying comes from Chip and Dan Heath, the authors of Made To Stick.

After you read a piece of feedback, ask yourself the question, “Why is that important?” three times over. Firstly, for their answer. Then the next two times for your own answers.

For example, if your customer declines to say anything:

  • Why is that important? Because they were too busy to speak to us.
  • Why is that important? Because if they had something good to say, they would have made time to comment.
  • Why is that important? Because our service (or experience) didn’t give them what they were looking for.

It might sound simple and basic, but it’s a method that’s going to let you learn more from the feedback you’ve gathered. No matter how concise – or blunt – it may be.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common comments and what they really mean then, shall we?

Comment #1: “I Like Your [Product/Service]”

This would be really easy to take as a compliment, right? Just like if someone in the office was to tell you that they like your new shoes.

However, you’re just waiting for the word, “But…” after that statement. Because what they’re actually saying is, “I like it. But, I don’t love it.”

Well done for getting this far! You’ve got them into your brand, and that’s a huge step in itself. But now they’re looking for a reason to stay with you – or to go with a competitor.

That means you can’t sit back and hope that time – or convenience – will turn them into a loyal customer. Instead, you need to dig deeper and find out what you can add, or change, to improve your service and make that customer fall in love.

Comment #2: “I like it, but I also like [X]”
When you’re compared to another product, it’s easy to think that this means the two of you are on par. When, in fact, it can often mean the exact opposite.

If I was to use coffee shops as an example:

I really like the coffee at your coffee shop, but I also like New Tea Power across the road” could actually be saying: “If I want a Cappuccino, I’m going to come here. But if I want an Americano, I wouldn’t dream of it.”

The same goes when you’re compared to someone else, too. It means that they’ve found something in the other experience that they can’t find in yours.

You should be asking the questions:

  • Is this a common piece of feedback for us?
  • What does the other product/service deliver that we don’t?
  • How can we incorporate that into our own experience?

This doesn’t mean you should become a carbon copy of your competitor. Not at all. Instead, it means that you should be looking at how you can improve your own customer experience – and incorporate the missing elements – to set yourself apart from the rest.

What, on the surface, seems quite a nice compliment is actually a great learning experience for you. So be aware, and pick up on it.

Comment #3: They Say Nothing
You say it best, when you say nothing at all” is more than just a cheesy 90’s pop song. Despite being silent, this is one of the loudest pieces of feedback you can get.

Although, when a customer won’t comment, you probably think:

  • They didn’t have anything to say
  • They were just too busy to comment
  • They couldn’t find anything to complain about

And whilst there are times where this may be true – I mean, we’ve all turned down a survey because we were busy at one point or another – there is a deeper meaning behind all of this. Even when you think you’re just too busy to stop.

What you’re really saying here is that whatever the survey was about wasn’t worth your time to comment on. It wasn’t remarkable enough for you to stop what you were doing and leave the feedback.

But if you were asked to give feedback for your favourite – or least favourite – brand, you’d almost definitely have something to say.

The same goes for when people are filling out your surveys, too. They haven’t commented because their experience wasn’t good (or bad) enough to need a comment.

As Seth Godin once put it: “Remarkable doesn’t mean remarkable to you. It means remarkable to me. Am I going to make a remark about it? If not, then you’re average.”

That may be a little blunt. But the point shines through. If you want your customer experience to be infectious – and worth commenting on – you need to improve it from where you are right now.

It’s great that there was nothing to complain about, but now the question is: What can you do to give them a reason to comment?

Comment #3: “Your product/service could really use ‘X’ feature”
You can easily take this as a suggestion of ways to improve. Then just stick it in your back pocket and come to it at a later date. Because, on the surface, it just seems like a piece of friendly advice, or a throwaway comment.

Yet, in reality, this translates to, “Your product really is great. But, it’s missing something.”

Now, here’s the problem you’re faced with:

  • Do you add the feature based on the suggestion?
  • Or find out more about what it is you’re actually missing and focus on how to improve that experience?

The answer here is to probe deeper. You can never have too much information on what your customer want, right?

It’s also a bad idea to just add features because your customer has asked for it. That customer may want this one single feature, whilst a large portion of your others might not; but they may still feel it’s missing something.

Comments like this then are a great learning opportunity for you. Because you may uncover:

  • A bigger problem: The hidden reason behind why they think you need that feature.
  • A better solution: How to solve this problem more cost effectively for more customers.
  • A new idea: A different direction, or improvement, for your product that you had never even considered.

Don’t pass up on this learning opportunity and brush it off as a simple suggestion. Take the time to find out why their suggestion was brought up and how you can address it properly.

It could just be the missing piece in your customer experience puzzle.

Comment #4: “It costs too much”
There’s an argument here that you should just let this customer slide by and keep your focus on the ones who value what you’re doing.

But there’s also a counter argument; you need to provide more value to justify the cost.

When a customer feels they can’t justify the price of your product, they’re going to complain that they’re paying too much for what they’re getting.

However, if they feel they want your product – and are getting the value they deserve – they’ll pay it without question. Especially if the service is good. In fact, 81% of customers are willing to pay more for good customer service.

To identify the problem here, you need to look at two separate issues:

  • Have you priced out your target audience? Sometimes the people who want your product, and the price you’re charging, don’t match up.
  • Are you adding enough value? Personally, I don’t need to buy my favourite bottle of Whiskey – especially not for the price it runs me – but I’m happy to pay the money because I want the way it makes me feel. That’s my cost-benefit.

Can the same be said for you? Are you providing enough value for the price you’re charging? Or, does the cost outweigh the benefit?

Sometimes, but only in extreme cases, it’s the first option. Mostly it’s because the customer feels the need to get more value for the price you’re charging. Because, well, money is only ever an obstacle if it doesn’t fit the value.

In this case, you need to make your experience provide that value for them. By giving them a service that screams value. That, at every turn, they feel a part of the system and that everything you’re doing – or that they can do with your product – justifies that cost.

Once you show them the value; they’ll show you the money.

There’s Always More To The Story…
Hearing what your customers have to say about their experience, and actually listening to what they’ve said, isn’t the same thing.

Gathering feedback is important for the success of your customer journey. But, what really enhances the experience is listening to what’s been said and acting upon it – going to that next level and unmasking what the customer wants.

Remember to:

  • Ask yourself, “Why is it important?
  • Not write certain types of feedback off; use them as a learning opportunity
  • Always look for the reason behind why they customer has said something

As Marsha Collier once said to me in an interview, “You’re a customer; you know what you like.” So picture yourself in the customer’s situation, filling out your survey, and think about what you’d be doing faced with the same.

James is the inbound content creator for Questback; he’s working to help people understand their customers, improve their experience and make the most of the feedback they do have.