Soliciting customer feedback offers many benefits for independent agents. It helps you fix processes that are broken, show customers you have a willingness to learn, build supportive relationships and gain new insights into the communities you serve.
Here are some specific ways to solicit that feedback and translate it into practical steps you can take to better market your business.
Ask Customers Directly
The best time to ask for feedback is immediately after a customer purchases a policy. The experience is still fresh in their mind and their observations may contain some interesting details.
While feedback through contact forms, surveys and email has its place, connecting in-person teaches you more about the unique needs of each customer than any other technique, writes Chia-Luen Lee at social media monitoring app Brand24. When you establish a personal connection, customers will be more comfortable sharing their thoughts — either positive or negative — with you again in the future.
The key to getting valuable input is to encourage a “free flowing response” rather than simply asking for a yes or no answer or number rating, says Nandini Jammi at customer service software provider Kayako. Try to dig deep and get answers that go beyond just the surface level.
Entrepreneur Alyssa Gregory, founder of the Small Business Bonfire, gives examples of some questions to get the conversation started:
- Why did you choose our insurance agency?
- In what areas did we meet or exceed your expectations?
- What are some areas where we could improve?
In order to get valuable feedback, you need to ask the right questions without asking too many, she adds.
Call Loyal or High-Potential Customers
Another direct technique is to simply pick up the phone and call your customers. This is a personalized approach that should give you a good feel of how your current customers feel about your business and any frustrations they may have.
“The advantage of this method is that you get firsthand feedback, straight from the customer,” explains growth marketing specialist Judit Pál. “Moreover, hearing your customer’s voice and tone provides an opportunity to sense their satisfaction.”
Ideally, call between 8 and 9 a.m. or 4 and 5 p.m. Studies have shown people are more willing to respond during those times. Do not call between 1 and 2 p.m., which is usually when people are at lunch and any interruption would be very unwelcome.
Because calling requires considerable effort, it’s an approach that’s best used on loyal customers with whom you’ve built a rapport or those with high potential.
Use Online Surveys
When it comes to digital-based customer feedback strategies, online surveys have a lot of benefits. They’re cost-effective, flexible, convenient and provide accurate, objective feedback says Chanel Sutherland at journey analytics software provider Explorance.
The results are also easy to analyze. Data can be presented using intuitive reporting in a variety of formats like graphs and charts so you can gain tangible insights and quickly put them to use.
There are two main ways to go about it. You can use short surveys, which are often presented as a “slider” for customers browsing your site, explains content marketing lead at Shopify Greogry Ciotti. Or you can use longer surveys where you get input from a smaller but more engaged segment such as repeat customers.
Short surveys can be created using software like Qualaroo. This is useful when asking basic questions or conducting a brief poll where you obtain feedback from customers using your website. For longer questionnaires, Ciotti recommends using platforms such as Survey Monkey, Typeform or GetFeedback. All three are user-friendly and allow you to create customized surveys to better understand your customers and identify your strengths and weaknesses.
Use Social Listening
A key component of customer research is social listening, says digital marketing writer Christina Newberry. Social listening is observing, analyzing and responding to conversations about your independent agency on social media, and can be instrumental in gaining valuable customer feedback.
“Social listening finds root causes behind social conversations and implements long-term strategy changes,” explains marketing communications writer Swetha Amaresan. “By performing social listening, you can create the kind of content your followers actually want, come up with new ideas based on industry trends, improve your customer experience by interacting directly with customers and continuously shift your customer strategy to fit the current need.”
For example, you might pay attention to comments customers leave about your agency on Facebook or Twitter to gauge overarching sentiment and see how satisfied they are with it as a whole. It could also help you identify any major pain points that you need to address in order to improve customer satisfaction.
Some of the top social listening tools include Hootsuite and Brandwatch Analytics, writes Ruxandra Mindruta at Brandwatch. Both can be used to track customer sentiment and provide you with objective insights into how your customers perceive your brand.
Send Customer Feedback Emails
Over half of Americans check their email more than 10 times a day, and it’s their preferred way to be contacted by brands, says Caroline Forsey, a staff writer at HubSpot’s marketing blog. That means using emails to solicit customer feedback is a logical move and one that can give you the inside scoop on potent marketing opportunities.
Correctly strategizing your emails so the maximum number of recipients reply is crucial. Emil Kristensen, cofounder of lead generation tool Sleeknote, recommends first choosing an attention-getting subject line, which should be personalized, make clear it’s a request for feedback and has a benefit.
In the body of the email, immediately get to what you’re asking for. “You only have so much time to capture the reader’s attention. Get to the point by avoiding unnecessary text and being clear about the reason for your email,” advises Kristensen.
If you’re sending emails to a small number of customers, ask for responses by return email, advises the team at email and marketing automation platform Campaign Monitor. You can go through the results manually for insights. If you’re doing it on a larger scale, they recommend using a tool like Zapier, which can transfer the information onto a spreadsheet for easy analysis.
How to Put Customer Feedback to Use
Now that we’ve discussed some of the most potent methods for obtaining customer feedback, what exactly should you do with it?
Use the feedback to find areas where you can improve, says Harsh Vardhan at email collaboration product Hiver. He stays to “stop brainstorming” and use the actionable information you’re given by customers to stop making the same mistakes. Maybe you’ve learned that a particular strategy like direct mail marketing is getting a poor response from customers and should be scrapped. Or there’s strategy like content marketing that your customers are receptive to and wish you would do more of. You would want to use this information to eliminate mistakes and fine-tune your efforts to maximize your return on investment.
Prioritize the level of importance of each idea that you get from customers, adds creativity consultant, Katrina Pfannkuch. In this way, you can begin immediately providing existing customers with better service and more value.
Also, if feedback indicates that your customers are most active on social networks like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, you could use that information to decide which platform to build your presence on first, looking at factors such as the number of users, engagement and cost.
Finally, be sure to act on your feedback in order to show your customers that you’re actually listening, writes Heike Young at Salesforce. Maybe a customer was disappointed with your communication when you attempted to reach out to them via email. Perhaps they didn’t find the content engaging, but offered ideas on how you could improve by making your emails more personalized, using a more natural voice or adding visuals.
You would want to implement that information right away and start writing emails based on the feedback you received. For example, you might segment your email list into smaller segments so that each one is highly personalized and throw in relevant images to make your content more aesthetically appealing.
Improve Your Marketing by Using Customer Feedback
Many customers are willing to provide their input to independent agents, and the majority really want agents to incorporate their ideas. In fact, 78 percent of U.S. consumers have a more favorable view of brands that ask for and accept customer feedback than those that don’t (but only 63 percent believe most brands take action on their feedback), according to Microsoft’s 2017 State of Global Customer Service Report.
Using the right channels and putting your findings to use effectively not only helps you unearth potent marketing opportunities — it can also help strengthen customer relationships because most will appreciate that you took their feedback to heart. In other words, you can improve the return on your marketing investment and build a more loyal customer base with these techniques.
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