12 Tips on Feedback

12 Tips on Feedback

I’ve always likened the process of asking for feedback in business to the debate (that frequently rages in my household) about whether studying history can add value to your future life.

My personal view is that you can’t know where you’re headed until you know where you’ve been and what has worked – or hasn’t. Business is a constant work in progress where learning from past experience – both the achievements as well as mistakes – is part and parcel of being a business owner, bench-marking progress and setting future goals. I’d find it difficult to set my future compass without first tracking the route already trodden and reviewing the feedback received from clients.

Managing feedback was a subject discussed during a recent Colony Networking event I ran and various tips for seeking, collating and sharing feedback were shared. I’ve always sought feedback from event attendees as well as private clients I do business development work for, and I’ve found both the positive and the “constructive” to be invaluable.

Here are my 12 tips regarding the topic of feedback, including ideas shared by others as cited.

1. ASK

‘Don’t ask – Don’t get’, goes the saying.

Ask for feedback for work completed. In my case, after every event (or completed project) I send a follow up message sharing information promised and asking for feedback, either via the Google or Facebook review links I include. For some projects, I also issue a short questionnaire (paper or online version link) using SurveyMonkey (Google forms has also been suggested). Once connected on LinkedIn, you can then ask for a LinkedIn recommendation.

2. SYSTEMISE

It’s all very well asking for feedback but you’ll need to ensure you’ve captured everything, tracked and collated it before you can do anything with it.

Work out what feedback systems you already have in place in your business. What are they capturing, how and what is your process for managing this data. The internet and social media have made it super-easy for feedback to be left about your business but tracking and managing this may take a little more time. Comments on social media, Google Reviews; Facebook Reviews; LinkedIn Recommendations, FreeIndex, inbound email, verbal comments, and polls and questionnaires are just some of the routes that may already be generating feedback for your business.

Audit the platforms and feedback routes that apply to you. Monitor them regularly. Then decide which ones add value and which don’t and could be closed down. You may also decide to engage the help of marketer or reputation management company for this purpose.

3. MAKE IT EASY

Make it easy for contacts to leave feedback. Everyone’s busy after all. If they’ve already verbalised or emailed a comment or posted a social media comment, send a private message asking if this could be re-used in other places (website, other social media, a review site) and provide the review link and text for them to copy across if it’s not an item you can create yourself. Thanks to Rebecca Bate for her comment on this point.

4. BE AUTHENTIC

Readers want to see testimonials from genuine end-users, not general statements without named authors. If you share feedback you receive, give credit to the author and confirm that the source is genuine.

5. ACKNOWLEDGE

Quite simply, don’t forget to acknowledge or thank the person who provided feedback – whatever the content provided! You might send a quick message offline or decide to acknowledge publicly, but definitely don’t forget. Everyone likes to feel valued, to know the time they bothered to give you freely was appreciated, and they may even like a little plug for their business. Gratitude goes a long way.

6. RECENCY

Thank you to Alex McCann for this fairly obvious point. Amazing how often it is not put into practice though. You can have all the testimonials in the world but if they’re not current, then their value is diminished. Experience counts of course but “feedback recency” is key. ‘You’re only as good as your last gig’ they say and we all judge folk on the ‘here and now’, not how good they were several years ago.

7. SHARE

It may not be the most British of traits to celebrate or share our good feedback LOUDLY and publicly but it’s a practice most marketeers encourage. Get over any of that British (or other) modesty.

People buy from people, after all. Lucy Jackman (of Comma Sense Ltd) reminded me recently of the fact that people are generally inquisitive/nosey and want to do their homework on you. Mark Williams (aka Mr LinkedIn) summed up the importance of third party testimony during a recent LinkedIn course he delivered – ‘people feel reassured, and, oddly (perhaps) trust the online opinions of others they don’t even know in the absence of their own first-hand experience before making a purchase’.

A previous client might happen to be connected to a future prospect, so positive feedback may be worth its weight in gold in the purchasing decision-making process. The testimonial may have come from a well-connected person, respected for their opinion. Having them on-board as one of your advocates could add credibility and reach. Their words may sell you even before you’ve engaged with a prospect yourself. Wouldn’t we all like the benefit of a secret sales force, promoting our services without our direct involvement.

8. BE CREATIVE

If you get great testimonial evidence from customers, then use it – and more than once.

Get creative with how you share that feedback. You might add feedback to your website or printed collateral using a handy tool, app and plug-in to display the words. Or turn feedback received into more interesting visual images using a creative tool such as Canva, the free online creative tool. Here’s a recent example of one of mine.

9. RECIPROCATE

We all get busy. We get asked for feedback and often put it on the ‘to do’ list for a quiet rainy admin day. But, we know how lovely it is to receive good feedback so perhaps take a moment to consider if there’s any outbound feedback – verbal or online – that you could leave for someone who has helped you or your business. Contribute to the feedback cycle and pay it forward.

It’s easy for outbound recommendations to be forgotten about when we get on with personal life and our business but it’s never too late to leave feedback and will be appreciated.

A tip for LinkedIn users: scroll down on your LinkedIn profile to your recommendations received and given section to see if there’s any outstanding requests for a recommendation. It is from there that you can also ‘Ask for a recommendation’ from contacts you’ve worked for/with – you’ll need to be a connection first though.

10. HAVE COURAGE

You need to be fairly brave and resilient to ask, and then manage, the feedback process.

Good feedback is heart-warming but the negative can be soul-destroying at times. Be brave, resilient and with a positive mindset before reviewing reviews. All qualities you need in business anyway.

I do have some rules that help those who run their own businesses who might be closer to the work they deliver. My best tip (and occasionally and usually regretfully I break this myself sometimes) is to leave a suitable period of time before reviewing any in-depth feedback. It’s easy to get emotionally attached to something you’ve worked hard on, so get into an impartial state of mind before reviewing. You may find a pattern for your business. Perhaps the verbal and social media feedback is briefer, received more quickly and generally positive. Maybe any negative – or rather constructive – content lurks in more anonymous areas, such as surveys. Whatever happens though, consider and remember the quote below.

11. MEASURE & ACTION

If you’re going to seek feedback, then decide what the purpose of doing so is. You may be happy with a vague straw-poll of whether people liked or disliked your services or product and would recommend you to others. Ideally though, get specific. Put your goals in place, narrow down the best platform, decide whether it is to be open free-form feedback or structured with closed and rating-led questions, and get your measurement plan in place.

Talk to any marketing expert and they’ll fill in the missing gaps on the different attributes and benefits of qualitative versus quantitative research and feedback surveys.

Then, take action. Not much point asking for feedback if you don’t plan to review the content and do something with it, whether that is giving yourself a pat on the back to celebrate your success, sharing the content for promotional reasons, or getting into a more detailed analysis of your promised versus achieved deliverables.

And if the feedback wasn’t so great, then read on to tip 12 because this is where the real value may lie.

12. EMBRACE THE NEGATIVE

When you’re brave enough again, I’d certainly contact anyone who gave negative comment to discuss and to see where you can resolve any issues.

Don’t ignore any uncertain, disgruntled, ambiguous or negative feedback. Decide on your customer service protocols such as your response times, what you manage online versus offline, in what manner and by whom. But respond, clarify and manage uncertainties or issues quickly – ideally out of the limelight of social media. And remember that negative feedback can always be turned into something constructive, however odd it feels at the time. It may lead to uncomfortable dealings or decisions but can also serve to strengthen your resolve, your business, your customer service policy, or your people management skills. Use and build on the negative. And no, I don’t believe that the customer is always right but there are ways to manage a customer who is not happy and other ways that will come back to bite you for sure.

Make balanced decisions, take time to reflect before responding, keep it offline, and read whatever you plan to send as a reply at least an hour later if not a few hours, and ideally with another set of eyes checking your response. Written replies, and their shorter email and message siblings, have a nasty habit of distorting well-intended meanings.

So – what do you think?

Do you have any further tips on how to seek and manage feedback? Feel free to share your thoughts if so. And, if you’ve enjoyed any part of this blog, please leave us a comment or feel free to share it.

In the meantime, enjoy the feedback process in your business – whether it’s giving or receiving.

By Kirsty James, Owner, Colony Networking

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Kirsty James works one-to-one with small businesses on networking strategy and skills training, business development planning, idea generation, brokering connections and signposting to suitable business support groups and local events. She also organises Colony’s mixed-gender and women’s networking events in the Warrington area and assists third parties to organise their own lead generation events.

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