Why you should listen to your critics (when they’re your customers) » SMEInsider

Why you should listen to your critics (when they’re your customers)

Starting a business often means defying the naysayers and ploughing on with an idea that you believe in – but once you’ve built a customer base, make sure you listen to them.

Even if your products or services seem wildly popular, you can’t afford to be complacent. People will quickly switch to a competitor if they sense you stagnating, and if you fail to innovate, your rivals will develop a better, cheaper version of what you do while you’re still resting on your laurels.

A great example of a company that has used feedback to their advantage is Domino’s. In 2009, the company was in crisis: videos were circulating the internet showing employees doing some rather nasty things to the food and shares were in freefall. The company asked for feedback from customers and were told, among many other things, that the food was “like cardboard”.

Incoming CEO Patrick Doyle responded by investing millions in a total overhaul. “We changed the crust, we changed the sauce, we changed the cheese,” he said. The company also launched a new online ordering system and addressed the feedback in an extensive advertising campaign, demonstrating in detail what they had done to fix it.

By 2014, Domino’s stock value had risen from £5 to £44 and sales continue to soar, both in the US and the UK.

While not every SME can afford a multi-million dollar rebrand and the attendant advertising campaign, there are few excuses for not asking customers what you can do to improve and then making sure you act on it.

Social media helpfully bypasses the tricky problem of reading customers’ minds by giving them a platform to tell you exactly what they think of what you do. Make sure that you not only ask – regularly – what you can do to improve, but that you make it clear you’re taking the points on board and will seek to work the feedback into your new and improved products.

Nothing builds brand loyalty like the feeling you’re being listened to, and that the brand in question is working to anticipate your needs.