By Adam Ramshaw

While I think they’re great I sometimes wonder how many customer survey responses are never read or acted on. Which is a pity really because, apart from being a great way to improve your business long term, you can also use them to drive sales today; you just have to know how.

1. Give happy customers a voucher or offer
The easiest approach to getting sales from your customer feedback is to simply contact the customers that gave you high scores with an offer or a discount voucher. Think about it, the customer feedback process has provided you with an excellent customer segmentation variable: “likes my company”. Now all you have to do is take advantage of that information.

One organization I know sent three vouchers to each high scoring customer.

1 voucher for the respondent
2 vouchers for their friends and family

The results were an amazing 33 percent conversion rate and 10 percent new buyers from the family and friends vouchers. It was one of the best marketing campaigns that they have ever run.

You do have to be careful do this because you can create the wrong incentives. Make sure that you don’t tell the recipient that they are receiving the voucher or offer because the provided a high score. If you do that then the whole customer feedback process becomes compromised because people will start giving you high scores just to receive a voucher.

2. Ask customers who gave you a high score for a testimonial
In a similar way you might want to ask customers who give you a high score to provide a short testimonial that you can use in your marketing.

Some of our clients use the last page of their customer survey to ask this question. If a customer has given a high score earlier in the survey then on the last page there is a link to a product review site and a request for them to provide a short testimonial.

3. Contact Customers Who Gave You a Low Score 
Conversely, you can contact customers who give you a very low score. This may sound odd but calling unhappy customers and fixing their problem can make them even more loyal than customers who were never unhappy. This is called the [service recovery paradox] and it’s quite well documented.

Implementing this could not be more simple. On a regular basis just sort through your customer feedback and extract those responses with the lowest satisfaction or Net Promoter score. Then give them a call to find out what caused the issue and, if possible, resolve it. If you can’t fix the issue then simply apologize, that alone will turn them around to some extent.

Normally the customer is so surprised that someone actually read their feedback that converting them to a loyal customer by fixing whatever issue they had is easy.

These calls are not even negative or stressful. In fact it is quite the opposite. Anyone that has taken the time to provide negative feedback is still engaged with your company and more than happy to help you fix the issue. It’s a win/win situation.

4. Identify New Products and Services Your Customers Already Want
One of our clients told me that, in their experience, 1 in 1,000 survey comments is the gem of a major business changing idea, but you don’t even have to read that many.

Simply by reading the comments that your customers leave with an open mind you’ll find ideas and issues that your clients have. Look for places where the customer expresses a problem or need that is outside what you currently deliver. Then consider how you might be able to expand your current business to deliver that service or product.

Better yet, when you are ready to test the idea you can go back to those same customers and ask them if they’d like to buy the new service or product. They have already expressed a need so they will be your best prospects.

At the heart of every customer feedback process should be the goal of analysing what your customers tell you and correcting systemic issues in your business. Strategically that will build you a stronger business over the long term; one that will be robust and repel competitors.

However, that doesn’t stop you from using also the feedback in a tactical way to drive more sales in the short term.

Adam Ramshaw owns a boutique customer feedback consulting company. With more than 15 years working in small business he knows the challenges it brings. RunOurSurvey is his answer to some of those challenges where you can [download free Small Business Customer Feedback Resources to use in your business.