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Earlier this week, Marketing Charts shared the results of a study conducted by Qualtrics XM Institute that looked at whether or not customers shared feedback about their experiences – and with whom or how they shared that feedback.

There’s this preconceived notion that customers only complete surveys or tell others if they’re mad – or happy, you pick. I’ve heard both sides of it over the last 30+ years. This point has played out in the Marketing Charts article as follows:

Interestingly, five years earlier, in 2018, research found that US consumers were more likely to share very bad than very good experiences. This has now reversed, with 73% of US respondents to the 2023 survey sharing a very good experience, versus 70% sharing a very bad experience.

So, the jury is still out on that notion.

Who Do They Tell?

Nonetheless, here’s what they found in this study.

Customers are less likely to give companies feedback directly. After a good experience, 33% of respondents shared feedback directly with a company, while only 26% did after a bad experience.

The most popular way for US customers to give feedback to brands after a good experience is by responding to a survey from the company (61%). When they submitted feedback after a bad experience, more folks sent an email to the company (43%) than doing so via a survey (40%).

People most frequently share their experiences with friends and family. After a good experience, 50% of respondents did so, while 45% did after a bad experience.

If the experience was good, 17% noted that they did not tell anyone, while 21% responded that they didn’t tell anyone about a bad experience.

In another study (conducted by DISQO) shared by Marketing Charts, they found that another important feedback method is voting with your wallet. The second most popular method – after surveys (85%) – for letting brands know how they feel about the experience is changing their purchase behavior (45%).

Years ago, I wrote about the most important two feet in the business: a customer’s feet. I wrote:

Those two feet, they can vote. They can vote to stay or to come back again if they love what they see or experience, and they can vote to leave or to never return if they are wronged. They can vote to bring friends along the next time they shop, or they can vote to walk friends to a competitor’s establishment.

Why Is This Important?

Why is it important to know how customers talk about their experiences? Well, understanding how and with whom customers share or talk about their experiences is important for several reasons:

  • Word-of-mouth influence: When customers talk about their experiences with others, they can significantly impact brand reputation and influence purchasing decisions. Knowing how customers share their experiences allows brands to harness the power of positive word-of-mouth marketing. On the flip side, knowing negative sharing patterns enables brands to address issues proactively and mitigate potential reputational damage.
  • Social proof: Customers often turn to social media, online review sites, and other digital platforms to seek validation and social proof before making purchasing decisions. Understanding where and how customers share their experiences online allows brands to monitor and manage their online reputation effectively.
  • Identifying brand advocates: Customers who consistently share positive experiences with others can become valuable brand advocates. By identifying these advocates and nurturing those relationships, brands can leverage their influence to amplify positive word-of-mouth, generate referrals, and increase brand loyalty. Understanding the channels and networks through which brand advocates operate enables brands to engage with them strategically and cultivate long-term relationships.
  • Customer engagement and retention: Encouraging customers to share their experiences fosters engagement and strengthens relationships with the brand. When customers feel valued and heard (assuming you’ve acted on their feedback), they are more likely to continue doing business with the brand. Actively soliciting feedback and facilitating sharing opportunities demonstrates a commitment to customer satisfaction and enhances overall customer experience.
  • Competitive insights: Monitoring how customers share their experiences with competitors can provide valuable insights into market perceptions, strengths, and weaknesses. Analyzing online reviews, social media conversations, and other public forums allows brands to benchmark their performance against competitors and identify areas for improvement or differentiation. Understanding the competitive landscape enables brands to refine their strategies and stay ahead in the market.
  • Customer journey understanding: Customer sharing behaviors offer insights into various touchpoints along the customer journey. By tracking where and when customers share their experiences, brands can identify key moments of delight or frustration and optimize those touchpoints to enhance the overall customer experience. Understanding the context in which customers share their experiences allows brands to tailor their responses and interventions accordingly.

Knowing how and with whom customers share or talk about their experiences and then monitoring and analyzing those sharing behaviors, brands can better understand customer perceptions, drive continuous improvement, and ultimately strengthen not only customer relationships but also their position in the marketplace.

What Must You Do?

To ensure brands are ready to listen to customer feedback about their experiences whenever and wherever customers want to share, they should consider the following.

  • Implement multichannel feedback mechanisms: Offer diverse feedback channels to accommodate different customer preferences. Make it easy for customers to provide feedback across multiple touchpoints.
  • Monitor and respond in real-time: Utilize technology and tools to monitor feedback channels in real-time. Implement social listening tools to track mentions, comments, and reviews across various social media platforms. Set up alerts to promptly respond to customer inquiries, comments, or complaints, regardless of the channel used. Timely responses demonstrate attentiveness and commitment to customer satisfaction.
  • Empower frontline staff: Equip your frontline staff with the training, resources, and authority needed to handle customer feedback effectively. Empower them to address customer concerns, resolve issues, and escalate feedback to relevant departments when necessary.
  • Aggregate, analyze, and act: Consolidate feedback from various channels into a centralized database or customer feedback management system. Analyze the data to identify recurring themes, trends, and patterns. Look for opportunities to improve products, services, processes, and customer experiences based on customer feedback insights. Act on what you uncover and close the loop with customers.
  • Personalize listening methods: Tailor customer listening approaches and methods to individual customer preferences whenever possible. Offer personalized surveys, feedback forms, or follow-up communications based on customer interactions and purchase history. By demonstrating that you know them, value their opinions, and respect their communication preferences, you’re more likely to encourage customers to share their experiences candidly.
  • Encourage open dialogue: Foster a culture of open dialogue and transparency between the brand and its customers. Encourage customers to share their experiences, opinions, and suggestions freely. Respond to feedback with gratitude, empathy, and a willingness to address concerns constructively. Acknowledge both positive and negative feedback publicly and use it as an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations with customers.
  • Cultivate continuous improvement: Use customer feedback as a catalyst for continuous improvement across all aspects of the business. Actively solicit feedback at various stages of the customer journey to identify areas for enhancement. Importantly, implement changes based on customer insights and measure the impact of those changes over time. Communicate with customers about the improvements made in response to their feedback to demonstrate a commitment to their satisfaction.
  • Stay agile and adaptive: The landscape of customer feedback is constantly evolving. Keep pace with emerging communication channels, technologies, and consumer preferences. Continuously refine customer listening strategies and processes to meet evolving customer needs and expectations.

By implementing these strategies, brands can create a customer listening ecosystem that is not only responsive but also conducive to fostering meaningful interactions with customers across various channels and touchpoints. This proactive approach not only strengthens customer relationships but also drives continuous improvement and innovation within the organization.

In Closing

Sometimes preconceived notions are pointless. Sometimes stats are just stats. When you explain what they mean and why they are important, you’ve got clarity and context. Add to that what you can do about it, and you’ve got a recipe for next best actions that will yield great outcomes for the customer and the business.

And, by the way, it goes without saying: customer understanding is the cornerstone of customer-centricity. Design a customer-centric culture where every employee prioritizes listening to and acting upon customer feedback. That’s where the rubber meets the road.

If you think that statistics has nothing to say about what you do or how you could do it better, then you are either wrong or in need of a more interesting job. ~ Stephen Senn

ABOUT ANNETTE

Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. In 2022, she published her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture That Drives Value for Your Business [Advantage|ForbesBooks], which is available to purchase on Amazon, Books A Million!, Target, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other outlets around the world! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your EX and CX game.

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