Three ways small businesses can get customer feedback for long-term success


chairman at Bishop-Wisecarverleveraging 70 years of success to deliver innovative motion solutions to customers around the world.

Every business owner knows that satisfied customers are the key to long-term success. There is a lot of focus on acquiring new customers and retaining existing ones, but companies often don’t have a clear idea of ​​how their customers define ‘happy’. They read articles, implement programs and try new products, but it is not enough.

This is especially true for the 99.7% of all U.S. companies like mine that are classified as small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). According to Deloitte data from 2017, these companies number 29 million in the US and account for almost half of total private sector employment. Unfortunately, the failure rate for this large number of SMEs is high, with about 20% failing in the first year and 45% in the fifth year in business. Those alarming statistics beg to answer two main questions.

• What makes one SME successful from another?

• What can we do to help more SMEs succeed?

Having been the president of a 72-year-old small company in the manufacturing industry for the past 30 years, my answer to both questions is the same: Small businesses need to listen to their customers. Yes, that statement sounds simple, but it works. The key is knowing how to listen carefully, making sure customers know you’ve heard them, and then acting on what you’ve heard when action is needed.

We’ve implemented several ways to listen to our customers, and below are three current methods that we’ve found to be successful in getting valuable feedback and insights from customers. Each of these is doable — and valuable — for small businesses of all sizes.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

NPS is a customer loyalty and satisfaction measure formulated by asking customers how likely they are to recommend your product or service to others on a scale of 0-10. This score measures customer loyalty, satisfaction and enthusiasm for your business and includes direct comments from customers, which is an important part.

My company has been using these scores for over 10 years as part of our signature experience program to deliver a valued and distinctive customer experience. When we send out the annual survey, we let customers know that we’ve heard from them in the previous year, and we outline how we’ve made changes. As a result, customers know that we don’t just look at numbers, but that we are making real changes based on their feedback. Tracking these scores year after year allows us to see long-term trends and track the progress of the scores with the goal of seeing continuous improvements over time.

The NPS measure is widely used by some of the largest companies, but is simple enough – and important enough – to be used by small businesses as well. No matter what industry you are in and no matter the size of the company, by implementing an NPS survey you can keep an eye on your customers and make the necessary changes sooner rather than later.

Customer surveys by experience

In addition to annual surveys, it is also important to send out surveys at the completion of each client project. We do this as part of our signature experience program to ensure we meet and exceed every customer’s expectations. The best feedback is often given at the end of a customer contact, when the memories are still fresh and the comments are most relevant. Immediate project-by-project feedback, as well as the annual surveys, has generated thousands of responses that have helped us consolidate the positive and quickly make changes in the areas that need improvement.

Make sure these surveys are quick and easy to complete, and always name them in a way that provides the most useful detail for your business. Obviously, with these questions we hope we hear that we are performing better – or much better – than our competitors. Every business wants to hear that, but it’s even more important to hear when you’re not.

Conversations with the President

As a business grows, leaders often begin to focus on the numbers and needs of running that business, rather than working directly with the customers. While I understand the demands of running a business and the need to streamline planning, the fact is that customers are more likely to provide insightful and valuable feedback directly to leaders. Therefore, having instant client meetings is essential to a company’s long-term success.

I travel to meet clients at their locations and organize meetings and dinners at trade shows. During the pandemic, I scheduled Zoom calls. Through these discussions, I hear why customers love doing business with us and how they think we can do better. I also learn about the competition and ways in which customers think we need to change to be more competitive. By talking directly to the company leader, customers know they matter and that any concerns have “reached the top.” For me, talking to customers has a direct impact not only on that relationship, but also on the strategy, vision, products and culture of our company.

From my own experience, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to listen to your customers for long-term success. In the past few years alone, customer feedback has helped my company realize the need for comprehensive online tools and solutions such as online chat, CAT downloads, and a product configurator. Once we introduced them, our current customers provided positive feedback and we generated significant new customers from this offering, bringing our signature experience to more customers than ever before.

That said, have you listened to your client today? Business Council is the leading growth and networking organization for entrepreneurs and leaders. Am I eligible?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here