Web Exclusive

How to Grow Your Business: Put Customer Feedback to Work

So you have customer feedback – here’s what to do with it.

Consistently Record and Review Feedback: The way Barry Maher sees it, gathering feedback is an essential part of a salesperson’s job. The internationally renowned author and sales trainer, who has appeared frequently on network news, says reps should both directly ask -- and use their intelligence to indirectly discover -- how customers feel about everything from the sales process and your company, to products, the competition and promotional possibilities. “This is the kind of information that should be gathered over time and recorded in a CRM file and reviewed before each call,” says Maher. By doing this, you’re better prepared to meet the needs of that customer.

Analyze Personal Criticism Constructively: When you receive feedback about your sales skills or service from customers, it’s important to remain unemotional and look objectively at what’s being said. If a pattern of complaints or suggestions for improvement emerge, then you may need to adjust your behavior. You must, however, resist the anxious urge to make too much of an isolated complaint. “If it’s a customer service complaint,” says Maher, “you do want to make sure you do whatever’s necessary to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But if it’s a single isolated complaint or two about your personality or sales skills, note it, try to be objective about its accuracy, but don’t necessarily start rushing around making changes.”

Pass It Along: If you gather information from clients that can benefit the distributorship for which you work, be sure to pass it up the chain to sales managers, marketing departments and other relevant colleagues.“Nothing’s worse than working with a rep who tells me they’re getting repeated requests, yet they’ve never mentioned that to anyone in power,” says Maher.

Accentuate the Positive 

At Robyn Promotions (asi/309656), key account executives frequently connect with clients to gather important feedback following a sale. Whether through phone calls, e-mails or face-to-face meetings, this practice helps reps learn what they can do to improve service for that client -- and other customers too. It also aids reps in their mission to leave the most positive impression possible with a buyer.

The latter point proved particularly true on a recent campaign in which Robyn provided apparel for approximately 1,600 employees of a financial industry company that has 24 locations. Employees ordered apparel through an online store, and the transaction success rate was nearly 100%.

Nonetheless, in a few instances, there were issues with items on backorder with the manufacturer. As these things usually go, the client’s main buyer heard much more about the issues than the flawless delivery of nearly all the attractively branded apparel. In a post-sale meeting, however, a Robyn rep was sure to emphasize solid statistics that showed the campaign’s overwhelming success and how the backorder blips were handled – this in addition to asking how the distributorship can improve to better serve the client in the future. “By following up and putting everything in context,” says Robyn CEO Bobby Lehew, “we were able to give the client a good understanding of how well we actually did. We also showed we cared about the customer’s happiness, and that we want to get better for them. That helps us learn and improve, and it builds the relationship.”