When to Listen to a Customer

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Customer feedback is probably the most over-hyped part of modern business. That’s not to say it isn’t useful, however. It is: not only do you get valuable feedback on your services, you also get great insight on possible new products or upgrades to your brand.

But not all customer feedback is a golden road. In fact, sometimes it can lead you down the wrong path, and drive your business to failure instead of success. There are many factors that affect how useful customer feedback really is.

Consider the Source

Who is the customer, and why are they giving you feedback? Some customers will give feedback on products they know nothing about, just to feel the satisfaction of having their voices heard. Others may see surveys as an intrusion and give misleading feedback on purpose just to mess up the results.

Is this person your target customer? Are they familiar enough with your product that they are giving accurate opinions? Technology, software, and other products with a very high learning curve attract more than their fair share of negative feedback borne from ignorance, and not actual educated use.

Make sure that you identify the customer properly in order to qualify their opinions. If these are customers you consider valuable, then their opinions are valuable as well. If not, it’s best to just set the feedback aside and move on.

Consider the Situation

Is the customer involved in a high tension encounter? When tempers flare, people on both sides of the table can often misunderstand the situation and draw erroneous conclusions. The customer’s feedback may not be justified, or even applicable.

Don’t take an angry customer’s feedback as gospel. Get the story from both sides of the counter, and make your own judgment on whether or not your employee is behaving properly in this situation. Remember that customers can misbehave too, and that the customer is not always right.

Consider your Goals

Are you getting customer suggestions that steer your business in a wholly different direction? Quite a few companies—especially technology and software companies —receive user requests for additional features that don’t suit the product’s core value proposition. Adding the requested features would either break the product, or turn it into something else entirely. But then again, doing so might lead the company into something big.

When a large sampling of customers starts clamoring for something different in your services, take a step back and see how it aligns with your overall company goals. Is this a direction your company was going to take sooner or later? Is it too much of a departure from your core goals? There are many examples of either scenario working, so it all comes down to how well you know your customers, and how well you know your business.

Speaking of which:

Consider your Market

Have any of your competitors ever made such a radical shift before? How did it work out for them? Observing your competitors is a perfectly viable strategy for growing your business, and it can be better to watch them take a risk and fail instead of you falling in their place. Just don’t get left behind.

Do your due diligence and check to see if any other company has been in a similar situation. Learn about the pitfalls they encountered and how they overcame (or fell to) these challenges. Take those lessons and apply them to your business.