The Power of Feedback in delivering better customer experiences by Natalie O’Brien

How to gather and implement customer feedback to grow your business?

When was the last time you walked away feeling less than satisfied – or even disgruntled – post an experience you were really looking forward to?

Over the school holidays we visited a few local attractions that certainly didn’t live up to our expectations. We left feeling that there were some simple things that could have changed our experience in a positive way. There were no convenient opportunities to offer feedback other than publicly, which was not our intention.

The list of areas for improvement included unfriendly staff on the front line, dirty toilets, displays in need of a fresh coat of paint or repair, poor food and drink offerings, lots of cheap plastic merchandise, lack of interactivity and innovation, old signage, fake flowers and, sometimes, just dust – lots of dust.

We reflected that not getting feedback from customers was a missed opportunity. That receiving feedback could become fuel for growth– sometimes we can be blind to what others can see, or even dread how it is going to make us feel.

Brian Halligan, CEO of Hub Spot, regarded as a top CEO in America was asked the secret to his success? Brian explained “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

“If we don’t know what’s right, we can’t do more of it. If we don’t know what’s wrong, we can’t do less of it. Without customer feedback, we are destined to fail”. 1

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” Bill Gates

In response to a less than satisfying experience we might do one of two things:

  1. Internalise and harbour negative feelings towards the brand or share the negative experience with friends, or more broadly through social media, OR
  2. Respond to active engagement and the opportunity to provide feedback in a timely way directly with the organisation, to be heard and, hopefully, acted upon.

What’s the benefit of gathering customer feedback?

  • It is proven that loyal customers grow a business faster than sales or marketing.
  • If we never ask for customer feedback, we’ll never understand what drives customer satisfaction. If we don’t know what drives satisfied customers, it will be impossible to create customer loyalty.
  • It costs 5x to 25X more money to acquire a new customer than keep existing ones happy.
  • The #1 most commons source of leads is referrals.
  • Highly-engaged customers buy 90% more often and spend 60% more per transaction. 2

We explore four key steps to using positive and negative customer feedback to build businesses for growth.

Collecting customer feedback

There are several ways you can collect feedback.

  • Some restaurants personally telephone customers post a visit or enquire during the experience. Hotels and hire car companies send surveys to your phone or via email shortly after the experience to obtain valuable feedback on your experience.
  • Third party reviews on booking engines, social media and digital platforms are another important source of feedback.
  • Mystery shopper services are a method used to measure quality of service, or to gather specific information about products and services. Mystery shoppers perform specific tasks such as purchasing a product, asking questions, registering complaints, or behaving in a certain way, then provide detailed reports or feedback about their experiences.
  • Review Pro is just one of the software tools available that gathers valuable feedback direct from guests with customisable surveys. The insights can be turned into actions to build guest satisfaction and, by extension, revenue.
  • Finally, a net promoter score is an important tool that measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services to others.

The City of Helsinki is a ‘feedback’ city.  Residents can give feedback, ask questions or send suggestions, praise, criticism or other comments. Normally they will be responded to in five working days. If permission is given, the message may be published on the City’s website demonstrating transparency. The feedback system makes it easier to process the feedback equally and utilise it in the development of the city operations.

Categorise the feedback

Once you have received feedback from a variety of sources it is important to sort the feedback into categories so that it can be reviewed. You might categorise as follows:

  • PLACE: the physical build, including environment, design, accessibility, aesthetics and ambiance.
  • PEOPLE: the people and processes and interaction of staff with the customer and each other at every stage.
  • PRODUCT:  the hero offering to ensure it exceeds the needs and expectations of the customer.
  • PROMOTION:  review the message, content, platforms and accessibility of information to customers. 3

Product Design is the process of designing products and services with the customer or user experience at the forefront of decision making.  By categorising into key areas, you can assign the appropriate resources to manage the adjustments and any changes that need to be made.

Build an action plan to act on feedback

Work with your team to develop a dedicated customer experience strategy that addresses any negative interactions, enhances the positive and creates actionable plans to deliver unique and memorable experiences for your customer across all the touch points with your business.

It is also important to look closely at positive feedback so you can incorporate it in other parts of the business. I read about a New York restaurant that rewarded positive feedback to the great surprise and delight of diners. The waiter asked the dining couple if they had enjoyed their meal. After positively describing their wonderful service and many of the beautiful flavours they had enjoyed in their dishes the waiter thanked them for the feedback.  When the customers went to leave their bill had been taken care of with a note from the waiter thanking them for their feedback and that he hoped to see them again.

Respond to customers who shared feedback

“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.” – Elon Musk

What makes our customers feel like they are being heard?

Firstly,it is important as organisations that we provide proactive opportunities for our customers to provide feedback.

This might include a very basic set of survey questions, SMS follow up, or simply outlining clear communication contact details for customers to pass on their feedback.

Providing a prompt response time is also important. If complaints are left unanswered for extended periods the issue often escalates in the customer’s mind. Mailing thank you letters to people who gave you feedback –whether positive or negative – to acknowledge that they have been heard. Personalising an email response genuinely thanking them for taking time out of their busy schedules to give feedback is also key.

Feedback can be a healthy partnership between the giver and the receiver if there are systems in place to constructively communicate timely exchange between both. More proactive opportunities to exchange feedback can give rise to new ways of doing things and new opportunities for businesses to flourish.

Need support creating feedback systems that provide deep insights into guests’ experience for your business? Contact Natalie for free consultation.


  1. Hubspot
  2. Hubspot
  3. Natalie O’Brien & CO