Businesses of all sizes have a valuable resource right at hand for improving the success rate of their products and services — yet many often never tap into it. What is it? Customer feedback.

Recently, Website Magazine featured an article by Kevin Dunne entitled, “Check Your Ego: How to Avoid Killing Customer Feedback,” which addresses the importance of hearing from and listening to your customers.

“To succeed in a fast-paced world with increasing customer expectations, development teams need agility. Agility means adapting product to customer, and that agility can only come from visibility into what the customer really wants,” writes Dunne.

Gaining that insight can be challenging, he adds — as most customers never provide unsolicited feedback. When there is an opportunity to hear customers’ feedback (solicited or unsolicited), he advises making the most of it and encouraging repeat occurrences.

Yet not all customer feedback is created equally. “The customers who are considered power users of the product are the ones that it is most valuable to foster close relationships with,” he writes.  “It is important to make sure they are comfortable in sharing what they really think about the latest products, and that they are aware as early as possible of new ideas or features ….”

Furthermore, he recommends reassuring them that their honest opinions, both positive and negative, will be considered both seriously and objectively.

Keeping an open mind is essential to gaining the most value from customers’ perspectives. ” … A majority of customers may be using the technology in ways that might have never been thought about,” he writes. “Always be willing to challenge assumptions and gather customer intelligence to influence future product development – not to merely validate it.” To truly understand how customers are using a product/service, Dunne recommends tapping “active monitoring tools” such as customer relationship management systems and analytics software, which provide feedback without introducing opinions – in addition to talking to customers.

When it comes to their opinions, the customers are ‘always right’ – as the common cliche indicates. “Their opinion of the product, not the product itself, is what matters most,” Dunne writes. Therefore, he warns the reader against becoming defensive of the product/service being critiqued.

Bottom line: The majority of customers will be pleased that you have heard and valued their opinions (and asked for them, where applicable). And by hearing both positive and negative honest feedback, your business will have gained a valuable resource that can be used to improve delivery of the product/services the customers need and want.

How has your business benefitted from listening to honest customer feedback? Share your experiences with all of our readers by using the comments tab below.

Image courtesy of didriks, Flickr Creative Commons