Do you think you need to spend big on customer research in order to get actionable customer insight to improve your business? Think again! Here are 5 ways to get feedback on your customer’s experiences today – and it doesn’t have to cost you a thing (a little elbow grease tough):

No.1 – Mystery shop yourself

  • Buy a product or service online or in store (depending on your sales channels)

Have you ever bought a product from your employer (or yourself if you’re the boss)? Gone through the selection tools on your website and input your customer & payment details? It’s incredible how putting yourself in your customer’s shoes can unearth areas for improvement in your processes. We can get so blind to the actual front-end experience whilst we are busy working on the back-end processes.  Have you designed the process with the front-end experience in mind?

  • Make a complaint/social media comment and see what happens

This is a great opportunity for you to see if your customer care staff/agency is following your procedures and timeframes. Think about all the places where you could leave a comment – you may have multiple contact forms and messaging facilities across your platforms and comment fields on all posts & ads too. Are these being monitored and responded to?

No. 2 – Talk to a customer today

  • Either in person, via email or via social media message

Yes it’s that simple, but you would be surprised how many bosses/managers don’t speak to customers on a regular basis.  Follow up on a customer who had called in with a question or posted a comment online and check how happy they were with the response from your business.

No. 3 – Talk to your frontline staff

  • Have an informational talk to your frontline staff (customer service, reception, sales staff) and ask for their input

Another simple yet underutilised insight channel are the people who deal with your customers daily. Ask them what the most common issues are and if they are equipped with the information/authority to resolve those issues. Ask their opinion on areas that can be improved.

No. 4 – Review feedback you are already receiving

  • Customer reviews online

Check your Facebook review section, your Google reviews, your Yelp reviews and your website. Take note of how many recent (under 6 months old) reviews you have. Are they being acknowledged and responded to? Are you happy with these reviews or are they highlighting areas for improvement?

  • Customer comments on social media posts/advertising

Again, check all your social media accounts and website. Do not forget your ads! Are these monitored and responded to? Is there a common theme in the comments that alerts you to underlying issues?

  • Complaints

Review the database where all your complaints are filed. Is there a common theme? How have they been resolved? Do you regularly analyse and draw recommendations for improvement from those complaint cases?

  • Customer satisfaction verbatim feedback

Do you do a yearly/quarterly customer satisfaction study? Do you contact customers after a purchase to see if they are happy? Do you track your Net Promoter Score? Review both the quantitative components (scores, %) and the qualitative (verbatim) feedback. What can you learn from that?

No. 5 – Follow a customer for a day

  • Observe how they use the product/service

This is the gold standard of customer insight but depending on your business not always feasible. Nevertheless, if you can try to arrange to tag along as an observer with your customer when they are using your product or service. You may get to see alternative uses for your product that you have never thought of or see what additional support you could be giving this customer (and others like him).

Final Thoughts

Those 5 strategies show you that customer insight is at your fingertips already. There is a place for paid customer research but I recommend you maximise the above strategies first and utilise paid research when you require more detailed research to drill down on specific issues or to cover insight gaps you have identified.

Which one of the above five ways to gain customer insights are you going to implement next?