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What is Customer experience and feedback?

Customer experience and feedback refers to formal ongoing processes to solicit customer feedback and incorporate insights into both business strategy and daily operations.

Why is it important?

  • Understanding the customer experience and using customer feedback enables employment social enterprises to:
    • Develop and refine product/service offerings to better meet the needs and priorities of customers
    • Maintain relationships by staying on top of any customer issues or concerns
    • Ensure quality by staying informed of customer satisfaction and striving for continuous improvement
    • Increase customer retention by adapting daily operations to the needs of the customer 

Best practices

Determine who you would like to solicit feedback from

  • Existing customers who have already purchased your product or service are easiest to connect with – through post-service comment cards, contact information from their online sales, or social media, for example.
  • Potential customers who have not bought your product or service yet are harder and more expensive to reach, but they can offer valuable insights about a new market segment or first impressions of a product or website.

Decide on what you would like to ask existing and potential customers

  • As you prepare: as you think about what to ask your current or potential customers, consider what information they’ll be in a position to provide and also what biases they may be bringing to the table. You can consider asking customers about elements broader than just the product or service itself (e.g., tell us about your impressions working with us? what other similar products or services have you used and enjoyed working with?). Here are some of the more common types of information ESEs glean from their (potential) customer base: 
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) measures customer satisfaction and loyalty based on a single question (“On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely is it that you would recommend our organization to a friend or colleague?”). This is one of the most common types of surveys used, and it’s particularly useful when judging whether the ESE is in a position to retain its existing customers (much less expensive to retain customers than to find new ones!).
    • Calculate an NPS score by segmenting responses into three groups: Promoters (loyal customers who gave ratings of 9 to 10), Neutrals (customers who are satisfied but not as enthusiastic and rated you 7 to 8), and Detractors (unhappy customers who gave you 6 and below). Subtract the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters to find your overall score (e.g., if 60% of responses are Promoters and 10% are Detractors, your score would be 50%).
    • NPS surveys often have at least one follow-up question to understand why Promoters like you (“What do we do really well?”) and why Detractors are unhappy (“What can we do to improve?”), which can provide rich and actionable feedback.
    • It is helpful to understand an NPS score in context – for example, by comparing it to your organization’s past scores and against industry benchmarks. These types of surveys work well as an ongoing tool to measure your performance over time.
  • Key purchasing criteria are the attributes of a product or service that are most important to a customer when making a purchasing decision (e.g., price, quality, speed). Questions that try to understand what customers value most when buying products/services like yours, and how well your offering meets those criteria, are critical to building your customer knowledge and informing your marketing efforts.
  • Other types of questions that can help identify blind spots and deepen your understanding of customers include:
    • Soliciting ideas on how to improve your product/service offering (“What changes would most improve our product?”)
    • Identifying unique market segments (e.g., “Do you buy our product for yourself or as a gift?”)
    • Checking to see if a specific aspect of the product/service or purchasing process is working smoothly (e.g., “Did our sales staff follow up with you about additional services?”)
    • Seeking specific feedback on a new product or design change that just launched
    • Learning more about customer demographics
    • Crowdsourcing decisions on potential new offerings (e.g., “Which of the following new flavors would you like to try?”)

Consider how you would like to solicit feedback from existing and/or potential customers

  • Surveys are typically automated and sent out by email or phone, allowing you to collect data from a much larger pool than other feedback methods. Surveys work well for short, specific questions; however, if they become too long or ask for more in-depth answers, response rates tend to drop. Review this guide on surveying your customers for more detail on survey planning, common types of surveys and platforms, and frequency considerations. 
  • Interviews are conducted one-on-one, allowing you to connect directly with customers and build a deeper understanding of their needs and perceptions. These work well for more open-ended, exploratory questions, allowing you to dive deeper into topics and ask follow-up questions in the moment. Check out these customer interview guidelines and tips.
  • Focus groups bring people together for a guided discussion led by a moderator and are well suited to in-depth discussions about customer needs and perceptions. They often focus on non-customers who have not made a purchase, asking for first impressions of the product/service and in relation to competitor offerings. Learn more on how to run a focus group.

Establish systems and tools for capturing customer feedback

  • Develop a system for storing customer feedback information and tracking customers who need follow-up (with a focus on large, important accounts). Systems can range from a basic spreadsheet, google forms, or survey tools (e.g., SurveyMonkey account), to more intensive CRM systems like Salesforce. 
  • Draft customer surveys, call scripts, interview questions, and/or facilitation guides to efficiently gather the customer information you seek. 
  • Execute by deploying the survey, conducting interviews, monitoring information coming in through your systems, etc. Iterate and fine-tune your questions (and processes related to systems) over time. 

After gathering customer feedback, process, analyze, and prioritize the information – so you can act on it right away

  • Sort feedback into categories that are relevant to your business (e.g., delivery issues or packaging problems). Look for recurring themes, both positive and negative, as well as specific words that come up a lot. Also keep an eye out for any customer profile themes that might come through.
  • Determine which issues are most pressing, based on both frequency of complaint and centrality to your business. Communicate with relevant staff about feedback and set a follow-up date if possible.
  • Keep track of all positive feedback and remember to share it with staff!
  • Make sure to thank all respondents for their valuable feedback. For those respondents who shared negative feedback, you may want to follow up directly with them, as described in the next section.

Dig into problem areas to find solutions

  • Consider conducting additional follow-up on any instances of negative feedback, especially unsolicited complaints. For example, you could set up a protocol for conversing with dissatisfied customers to understand their concerns in detail.
  • Establish a process to ensure that one-off complaints are handled in a timely manner by the appropriate member of your staff. Create a structure that incentivizes regular, consistent addressing of customer issues.
  • Build longer-term solutions by periodically reviewing customer complaints to identify recurring problem areas, and then improving current processes or developing new processes to address persistent issues.

Conduct customer outreach on a regular basis

  • Consider sending out a periodic survey, such as a single question to gather your NPS score, to help keep an eye on the pulse.
  • Another option might be to establish post-sale follow-up (either a survey or call) as a standard part of the sales process for staff, or to set up automated reminders for salespeople to follow-up at specified intervals after purchase.

Success Metrics 

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS). Ask the question: “On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend [ESE, product, etc.] to a friend or colleague?” Sum up the total number of responses answering 9 or 10. Sum up the total number of responses answering 0-6. Subtract the 0-6 total from the 9-10 total, and then divide that number by the total number of responses (all numbers). 
  • Customer retention rate = ((E-N)/S) x 100, where E = number of customers at the end of a period, N = number of new customers acquired during the period, and S = number of customers at the start of a period

Additional Resources

  • Customer interviews and focus groups deep dive: Learn more about when and how you should leverage customer interviews and focus groups for gathering customer feedback
  • Example customer interview guide: See examples of themes and questions that can be addressed in a customer interview with an existing or prospective customer. You can use this guide as a starting point to create your own guide by selecting and tailoring questions relevant to your business and adding your own.
  • Example of NPS analysis: Learn more about how to conduct a NPS survey and analysis, and see an example analysis output
  • Example customer surveys and survey analysis: See examples of themes and questions that can be addressed in a customer survey and how to analyze the results. You can use these examples as a starting point for creating your own customer survey.