9 Things You Wish Your Customers Would Tell You (But They Won’t)

Regardless of how honest you are with your customers and clients, they’ll never fully reciprocate. They won’t necessarily be dishonest with you, but you’ll be hard-pressed enjoy full transparency. And if you aren’t careful, their unwillingness to be forthcoming their feedback and criticism could undermine your company’s ability to satisfy their long-term needs and wants.

Customer Transparency Doesn’t Exist

People are opinionated. If you have 100 clients and just two of them are offering up criticism, providing feedback, or making suggestions, something is off. The other 98 have thoughts, too – they just aren’t willing to share them. This could be true for any number of reasons, including:

  • They don’t think you’ll listen. Customers become jaded over time. They recall times when they offered a piece of feedback or criticism to a company and nothing was ever done about it. This makes them less likely to offer feedback in the future.
  • They expect a canned response. Sometimes businesses do respond to feedback. Unfortunately, it typically comes in the form of a canned response that’s clearly been copy and pasted. (Canned responses are especially dangerous on social media, where customers can scroll through a company’s feed and see the same responses over and over again.) This discourages people from saying anything.
  • They fear being called out. Has your business every shot back at an employee when they said something incorrect, inflammatory, or unwanted? If so, your customers may have a fear of being called out publicly (even if their feedback is truthful).
  • They don’t understand. Are your branding, customer service, and consumer education efforts pretentious? Do you assume that your customers have certain product knowledge? If customers don’t understand – and don’t feel like you care to explain – they won’t speak up for fear of feeling dumb or exposed.
  • They think they’re alone. Sometimes customers think they’re the only ones who are experiencing certain issues, problems, or questions. And if they think they’re alone, they’re less likely to say something. They’ll just suck it up and move on.
  • They find it difficult. Your customers may actually have a lot to say – they just can’t find a way to get through. This is less of a problem in the digital age, but it can still be problematic. You need ample options for customers to communicate with you (including both overt and anonymous methods).
  • They don’t care. The absolute worst-case scenario is that your customers no longer care. When customers are apathetic towards issues and concerns, they aren’t going to put forth the effort to communicate. They’ll either grit teeth and continue to have low expectations, or they’ll switch to one of your competitors.

9 Important Things Customers Won’t Tell You

If you’re honest, you can likely pinpoint three or four of these issues that are responsible for your customers’ lack of transparency. But what you don’t realize is just how bad it’s biting you.

Here’s a firsthand glance at some of the issues your customers won’t tell you:

  1. “Your Website Sucks”

If your storefront or office is the physical representation of your business, your company’s website is the digital face of the brand. If it’s compelling, you’ll reap the rewards. If it’s ineffective, you won’t get much in return.

The problem is that many businesses have terrible websites – and customers don’t necessarily feel like it’s their place to say something. This allows slow, clunky, visually-inconsistent websites to remain indefinitely. The result is a compromised brand image, lower conversion rates, diminished sales, and suppressed visibility (typically because of poor SEO).

2. “I’m Not Paying for Shipping”

Did you know that 95 percent of online shoppers say shipping prices significantly impact their shopping decisions? Or what about the fact that 36 percent of customers regularly abandon online shopping carts because of steep shipping costs?

Major e-commerce players like Amazon and Walmart have changed customer expectations and made it more difficult for companies with smaller supply chains to compete. One of the ways they’ve done this is by offering free shipping – and often free same-day or next-day delivery.

Your customers want free shipping, too. Research shows that customer satisfaction is 10 percent higher with free shipping – and that a “free shipping” button increases the number of products purchased from 3.4 to 3.7 per order. However, they won’t tell you. They’ll simply go elsewhere.

3. “Your Facilities Are Dirty”

If you have a physical building or storefront where customers and clients visit, you need to keep your facilities clean. You know this, intuitively, yet you don’t always follow through.

While a certain kind of customer will speak out when there’s a clear issue – like a nasty bathroom or broken glass on a table – most of the smaller issues go unspoken. This includes things like foul smells, dusty shelves, or disorganized products.

Even though customers won’t speak up about these issues, they do impact the way they view your business. A failure to address them could sully your brand image.

4. “Your Competition is Doing it Better”

You can do all of the competitive analysis you want, but you’ll always view your industry through a biased lens. It’s hard to know what things look like when you’re on the inside. You need an outside perspective. Customers can provide this unique viewpoint, but they won’t always be forthcoming.

Customers have an internal ranking system for you and your competitors. (They may not have an actual numerical list, but there’s a rough order in their minds.) They know what you do best and what your competitors are doing better. But rather than take the time and effort to explain where you’re lacking, they’ll typically just move on to that competitor. In fact, it takes a lot of brand loyalty for them to stick around.

5. “Your Employees Don’t Want to Be Here”

Customers can sniff out enthusiasm from a mile away – especially if you operate a retail store or office where clients interact with your team in a face-to-face manner. From the second they enter your doors, their experience is directly influenced by how your employees treat them. 

Good treatment usually garners some positive feedback. Bad treatment will typically incite strong negative feedback. But when employees are apathetic, it often goes unspoken. Customers can tell that your employees don’t want to be there, but keep it to themselves. This makes it difficult to make useful changes.

6. “Nobody Greeted Me”

If you work in retail, you know how important it is to set a positive first impression from the precise moment a customer walks through the doors. But if you aren’t always on the floor, you might not know if your salespeople are greeting shoppers and interacting with them.

The problem is that customers don’t know to say anything. They aren’t aware that you’ve trained your employees to greet them – so they don’t feel a need to say anything. This allows bad habits to fester and compromise the customer experience.

7. “I Don’t Feel Appreciated”

Customers have choices with how and where they spend their hard-earned money. The fact that they choose to spend it with you should be something you’re grateful for.

Whether it’s lemonade or Lamborghinis that you sell, your customers want to know that their transaction and loyalty is appreciated. If nobody ever says anything, they’ll take it personally. They won’t, however, speak up.

8. “I Don’t Understand Your Program”

Businesses spend lots of time and resources coming up with programs and initiatives that are designed to engage customers, reward them for their loyalty, or provide a value-add service. But sometimes they’re too complex.

When customers don’t understand how something like a loyalty program works, they get frustrated and simply stop using it. They’re not typically going to go through the process of asking a bunch of questions and seeking clarity. This leaves you with a convoluted program that’s resource-intensive, yet provides little tangible value.

9. “I Just Want The Product”

Customers don’t want to clear a bunch of hurdles just to buy your product. While there are exceptions where the shopping experience is part of the process, they are few and far between. Most customers just want the product.

The issue is that customers won’t pause to tell you your multi-step conversion process wears them out. (Doing so requires even more time and effort that they don’t have.) Instead, they’ll give up and choose to work with one of your competitors who offers a superior user experience.

Are You Making Feedback Easy?

So your customers aren’t talking…now what?

Well, the story doesn’t have to end here. If you’re willing to acknowledge your shortcomings and address the underlying issues in your customer feedback loop, you can overcome communicative gaps and establish two-way transparency. Here are some solutions:

  • Offer live chat support. The objective is to remove as much unnecessary friction as possible – and time is one of the biggest elements. If you can abbreviate the amount of time between when a customer experiences something and when they provide feedback, you’ll get better and more accurate results. In an online setting, you can accomplish this by offering live chat support. 
  • Make anonymous feedback easy. Some customers are afraid to speak up because they fear embarrassment or backlash. They’re willing to provide details of key concerns, but they’ll only do it if they’re convinced it won’t be traced back to them. In light of this, it’s always a good idea to include options for anonymous feedback. Surveys and polls are useful in this regard.
  • Be active on social media. Most businesses use social media strictly for marketing and promotion purposes. However, it’s also an excellent customer service medium. The key is to be active and responsive. Whether it’s a comment on one of your posts or a direct message in your inbox, always attempt to respond within a few hours. Even if you need more time to develop a thoughtful response, acknowledging the feedback goes a long way toward making the customer feel heard.
  • Ask your closest clients. If you’re in a service business where you have relationships with individual clients, you should brainstorm a list of your loyalist customers and regularly seek one-on-one feedback. Some will schmooze you and tell you what you want to hear, while others will use this as an opportunity to cooperate.
  • Pay your customer service agents well. It’s unfortunate that so many businesses pay customer service agents so poorly. In many companies, these are considered the entry-level positions – barely above the janitorial staff (in terms of authority). But why is this? Your customer service people are the individuals who interact with your customers more than anyone else. If you want to motivate them to seek out and provide rich insights on your customers, you need to pay them well.
  • Study your website analytics. Customers don’t have to provide written or verbal feedback all the time. Sometimes the way they interact with your company online tells a complete story. If you run an e-commerce website, your analytics will tell you a lot. Study things like bounce rate, conversion goals, and referral sources in detail.
  • Display feedback. No customer wants to feel as if they’re the only ones speaking up. You can put their minds at ease by displaying feedback on your website, your product packaging, or your blog. This creates a culture among your customers where speaking up is the norm.
  • Offer incentives. No matter how easy you make it to supply open and honest feedback, you’ll always encounter customers who are reluctant to give you encouragement or criticism. In these cases, some simple incentives can go a long way toward getting them to speak up. It could be as simple as a free sample, discount, or other inexpensive rewards.

Depending on how long your customers have been trained to remain silent, it could take a while before they feel willing or equipped to provide honest feedback. The only solution is to implement these techniques and patiently wait for healthier relationships to form. Eventually, customer communication could become one of your company’s key strengths. 

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