Rethinking The Importance of Customer Feedback

This CANNOT be overstated - customer feedback has poor reputation, but without reviews, both your business and your customers will suffer

Adam Fout
October 16 2017

Asking about the importance of customer feedback to a business is like asking about the importance of air to lungs.


It is important.

In fact, the importance of customer feedback is such that no business can really expect any sort of realistic growth beyond mid-market, and even that is a stretch. At a certain point in the lifecycle of any business, all that delicious low-hanging fruit gets eaten right up, and all that’s left is the hard grind upward into competition land.

Those who want to compete would do well to start farming reviews from the beginning.

There’s more to it than just sending out surveys

So when we talk about customer feedback, we can really include a broad range that includes:

  • Survey responses
  • Reviews
  • User experience testing
  • Focus groups

And, well… we can add a lot to this list, but I’m not sure it’s going to do you much good — even focus groups can be a serious stretch for a lot of businesses, and it might be all you can do to just get people to answer those pesky surveys.

(Just FYI — most people aren’t going to want to respond to your surveys even if you offer them a free appetizer or tire iron or whatever.)

User experience testing is also extremely expensive and not something most companies can afford to worry about. And frankly, though every business can benefit from a little UX testing, it’s only really necessary for certain types of businesses.

However, if you can afford it, make UX a priority.

Which means we can focus on those first two items — survey responses and reviews.

So let’s get real honest here about surveys, cause I’m starting to feel like I might have misled you about the price of these things…

Doing surveys correctly and ensuring that they give you reasonably useful information requires a lot of money and time as well — it’s just a lot of friggin’ work to cut out the bias and ensure you’re getting accurate data.

Which really only leaves us the reviews…

Reviews Are Your Most Critical Pieces of Feedback, but Be Wary of What They Say

Here’s why I love reviews more than any of the above stuff — whether solicited or unsolicited, your other customers can see them online and you can use them on your website.

And that, my friends, is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

It’s a form of social proof, it means more to customers than you’d ever imagine in your wildest dreams, and, at the same time, it acts as a form of feedback on how you’re doing.

Oh, and did I mention that it usually costs you almost nothing to get a review? That they’re often given freely?

Free — that’s my favorite price!

But better than the price is the effect they have on other customers and potential customers. Reviews can be the difference between a sale and a lost lead, the difference between that big account giving you a ring and another day of a silent phone and lost revenue.

Reviews convince customers to buy. They didn’t matter quite as much 20 years ago as they do today, but the modern customer almost has an addiction to reading reviews before making a purchase.

However, you need to take what they say with a grain of salt, and here’s why.

When I had a brief-but-glorious stint as a student teacher at my Alma Mater, I noticed something in my student reviews.

When the reviews were solicited, 90% of them were complete bull hooey — the other 10% were either extremely angry or from the kids who I knew were going to write a glowing review anyway.

That is to say, the kids who didn’t give a damn, the majority, the ones who might have actually been able to offer constructive criticism, well, they had nothing to say at all, even when I offered them extra credit to give me a dang review.

The kids that left glowing reviews? I surely did appreciate them, but they didn’t help me any, other than boostin’ the ole’ ego a bit.

And the super negative reviews? They were from students who were, frankly, jerks, and who didn’t do well in the class because they didn’t do the work or follow the rules.

Not exactly useful either.

Oh, and when I didn’t solicit reviews? I only got the really good and really bad ones, so not much help there either.

Which is to say that, really, all the reviews were worthless to me as a teacher and didn’t really help me improve at all (the really negative ones were hilarious to read, but that’s about it).

So, though reviews are excellent little pieces of social proof that can help your business gain traction, they’re unlikely to do you a whole lot of good in terms of improving your products or services the way a survey or some UX testing might.

Remember this — just because one idiot online thinks it’d be a great idea to add a second steering wheel to the new Tesla Model 3 doesn’t mean it’s actually a good idea. And also, people troll online — if you ask for suggestions, some people are just going to mess with you.

Don’t feed the trolls, man.

The Ability to Drive Sales

Though you’re not going to learn a whole lot from online reviews, they’re still extremely valuable. Your customers and potential customers pay attention to them, and I can promise you that it makes a huge impact on both your sales and on your existing customers.

Now here’s where things get deliciously interesting — as a marketer, the numbers I’m going to share with you make my mouth water.

(Most of this info comes from this awesome infographic — thanks Khalid.)

“92% of users will use a local business if it has at least a 4-star rating.”

“74% of customers read between 2 and 10 reviews before trusting a business.”

“86% of customers will hesitate to purchase from a business that has negative online reviews.”

“90% of customers read online reviews before visiting a business.”

Oh, and here’s my favorite of the whole bunch:

“88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Holy crazy consumers Batman!

When you look at these numbers, if you have even a modicum of understanding of the truth behind reviews and the people who leave them, the unreasonably large amount of trust that people put into online reviews should make your head spin.

This — this right here is the importance of customer feedback.

What this tells me is a few things:

  • Most people are going to look up my business online
  • Most of those people are going to trust whatever reviews happen to be there, whether those reviews are fair and reasonable or not
  • Those people will trust said reviews as much as a recommendation from grammy and gramps

Now, you and I both know that many of those reviews are just about practically useless in terms of giving reliable, accurate information about what your business, your products, and your services are actually like.

But customers are going to take your online reviews very literally.

If your reviews are generally positive, if you’re managing the negative ones intelligently and compassionately… well, who are you to disabuse them of that notion?

Address Negative Reviews Quickly and Reasonably

Look, we can all agree that reviews are important — we need a way of warning people when a business is doing shady stuff, and we also need a way of letting people know that a business is awesome.

Even if we skew too far one way or another, it’s good for people to be able to learn, in a general way, how a business operates from a customer service point of view.

Because they’re your reviews, you can take the best of them and slap them on your website — this encourages purchases and helps remind your existing customers that you are still awesome and still worth doing business with.

In fact, this is an often-overlooked benefit of good reviews — keeping existing customers from jumping ship. If retention is your focus, you absolutely need to keep your online reputation squeaky clean.

That being said, negative reviews are a fact of life — somewhere along the line, you or one of your employees is going to have a personality clash with a customer, one of those types who could probably benefit substantially from a punch in the face and a night in jail.

Or maybe you’ll just make a mistake and someone will get upset — it happens.

The question is this — what are we to do about a situation like this?

The manner in which you respond to negative reviews is going to make a substantial impact on how that review pans out. A good response can get a negative review removed. An unsatisfactory or bad response can make you look like a fool and kill your sales and retention in the process.

Who could forget the wedding venue that fined people $500 for leaving a bad review — I promise you that things did not turn out well for them.

That’s not a reputation you want.

Handle negative reviews like a professional, provide some excellent customer service so you don’t get stuck dealing with a negative review in the first place, and throw the best of them up on your website.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Now that you know a bit more about the importance of customer feedback, check out this article by the bodacious Chris Morrison about how to build loyalty in those pesky Millennials.

Until next time.

Adam Fout

Adam Fout, resident content and brand sorcerer at BlueSteelSolutions, guides brands through the mystical process of creating website and blog content that enchants customers and entices leads. He also writes fiction in his free time at My Website

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