Why Asking for Customer Feedback Can Cost You Sales – by Mike Boyette

Your product is strong and your service and pricing unmatched. But ultimately, your opinion doesn’t matter. What really counts is what your customer thinks. And the only way to uncover what they think is to ask them.

But that can be a risky proposition. If asked the wrong way, your question may lead to a less enthusiastic customer – and possibly lost business.

Let’s start with a feedback question many salespeople ask, “So, Mrs. Customer, how are we doing?”

This seems like an appropriate question to ask, right?  If your buyer tells you they love your services and have no complaints, you can take pride in a job well done.  If not, you’ll be able to learn more about what their concerns are and change what’s not working. But it’s not as easy as it sounds.

The reality is, if your customer hasn’t already communicated their tremendous satisfaction or dissatisfaction, they likely don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other about the service they’re getting.

The odds are, when you ask someone to give you feedback, they’re more likely to focus on things they’d like to see improved. In a sense, you’re inviting them to criticize you, your product or your service.

“How are we doing?” sounds like a harmless question, but it’s not. It makes your  customer think about “the perfect vendor” – and what you’re doing, or not doing, that makes you inadequate compared to that vision.

You’ll never win that competition. Nobody will ever tell you that you’re too responsive, or your price is too low, or that you provide too much customer support. They’ll start thinking of ways you’re falling short.

But you can’t just give up. You must find a way to get necessary feedback in a way that amplifies your customer’s satisfaction.   Here’s how:

First, don’t wait until the end of the semester to get your report card.

Solicit feedback continuously, in small bites. Continuous feedback allows you to make midcourse corrections, seamlessly aligning your sales efforts with your buyers’ expectations and building satisfaction as you go along. For example:

“Mrs. Customer, we’ve just made our first shipment. Is it what you were expecting? Was the invoice clear? Did it have all the information you need?”

Second, ask for facts, not value judgments.

When you ask, “How are we doing?,” you’re asking your customer to judge you – to decide whether you’re “good” or “bad.” That misses the point. It’s not about you – it’s about whether the customer is getting what he or she needs.

Value judgments are emotionally loaded. They put you on the defensive. If the buyer says you’re doing a bad job, what can you say? You can either defend yourself – essentially, telling the customer she’s wrong. Or you can apologize and promise to do better. Either way you lose.

Fact-based questions reduce the emotional risk and keep you focused on the customer’s needs. For example:

“Mrs. Customer, when we first spoke, you mentioned that one of your goals was to increase productivity. Are you seeing the productivity gains you expected?”

Also, a fact-based question lets you offer a solution without being defensive or apologetic. If your customer responds, “Well, we’ve seen some improvement, but not as much as I’d like,” you can reply: “Let’s set up a training session with your production staff.”

Finally, don’t just focus on problems.

Ask for feedback in good times and in bad. Don’t forget to seek out customer comments when you know their response is going to be positive. That helps lock in satisfaction. If you know there are problems, don’t ask how you’re doing. Fix the problems first and then ask for feedback.

When you follow these three rules for customer feedback, you can shape your customer’s attitudes and build up a series of high-satisfaction moments.

And then you can ask:  “How are we doing?” Because you already know.


Michael Boyette is the executive editor of the Rapid Learning Institute Selling Essentials e-learning site and editor of the Top Sales Dog Blog. Contact Michael via email at topsalesdog@rapidlearninginstitute.com  or connect via Twitter


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