13 Ways Business Leaders Make the Most of Customer Relationships

When running a business, the only way your business will rise in the market for the better is if you are extremely open to constructive criticism and new ideas.

Encourage a transparent company culture with leaders who practice active listening skills if you plan to connect on a more meaningful level with stakeholders who will stand up for what your company stands for as you also lean in to address their ongoing needs.

For more ideas on how to get honest feedback from current and potential customers, Fast Company Board of Directors members share some proven methods that continue to serve their business well.

1. TREAT YOUR CUSTOMERS LIKE TRUE PARTNERS.

Put them at the center of everything you do, all the time. The only way to know your customers is to communicate with them. True business partnerships are a two-way street and engaging with them, listening and learning is key. It is essential to ask them what they need and then facilitate a solution. Their business is your business, their success is your success. – Eric Schurke, Moneypenny

2. BE AN ACTIVE LISTENER.

Build a culture where all employees value listening to customers and make listening a routine, sending feedback into internal loops for action; follow up with them so they know you are listening and appreciate their efforts to provide feedback. – Amy Radin, Pragmatic Innovation Partners LLC

3. MEET CUSTOMERS WHERE THEY ARE.

Customers are always willing to provide feedback to brands about their experience with the organization and employees. Understanding their (customer) journey and engaging with the customer in their channel of choice at the moment of truth is key. – Zack Hamilton, Stingray Group, Inc.

4. CONTRIBUTE TO A CULTURE OF IMPROVEMENT.

There may not be one right technique and you can leverage multiple platforms to get customer feedback based on development stage or budget, contributing to a culture of continuous improvement . When working on new products, direct engagement using beta launches and informative talks can provide actionable customer insights, enabling further optimization and development of subsequent products. – Gayatri Keskar, Hardware connection

5. DON’T FORCE.

The best feedback a business can receive often comes at random. Make sure your business is listed on Google, Yelp, and if your business is physical, TripAdvisor and other travel sites. Monitor these sites regularly and be sure to follow any notices you may follow. – Brandon Pena, BrandON Media Group

6. MAKE IMPROVEMENT PART OF YOUR DNA.

Set the expectation that honest feedback is welcome at the start of the relationship. Build feedback sessions into formal customer engagements, such as monthly and quarterly reviews. Build relationships with management that open the door to honest one-on-one discussions at the highest levels. Make continuous improvement an integral part of the company’s DNA at all levels. Seeking feedback is therefore a positive behavior. – Paola Doebel, Enson

7. INVEST IN THE RIGHT TOOLS TO ENGAGE IN REAL TIME.

Always encourage any comments. Use multiple platforms to interact with your customers. Send surveys, create impactful emails, and institute interactive customer service tactics like chat. You should also invest in social media monitoring tools so you can respond to comments, send direct messages, and engage with your audience in real time. – Kelley Higney, insect bite thing

8. BUILD A FEEDBACK LOOP AT EVERY STEP.

It’s industry specific, but if you’re offering services, especially long-term, it’s important to build an integrated system. I strive to build a feedback loop into every step of my work with clients. Simply put, while a one-size-fits-all approach might work if you’re selling a product, on the service side, the best way to solicit honest feedback is to put it front and center in all of your work. – Camille Preston, AIM Leadership, LLC

9. ESTABLISH A COLLABORATIVE AND AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIP.

The first step is to establish a collaborative and authentic relationship with your client. Once that’s in place, you ask direct questions like “Would you recommend us?” and “What can we do better to help you achieve your goals?” Truly genuine feedback will come once clients have the experience and comfort of working with you. Listen carefully and incorporate their comments. – Matt Dom, FifthVantage

10. LEARN HOW TO WIN THEIR TRUST.

To get honest feedback, you need to earn their trust and spend time talking with them. Relationships matter. So take the time to build them. – Eric Brown, Imperio Consulting

11. DON’T BE MANIPULATORY.

Be specific and ask for honest feedback. People know when they’re being manipulated into sharing a good review and even if they do, they’ll resent you and you’ll lose because you won’t know the truth about your work. Be sure to explicitly state that you are open to criticism as well as ideas. You’ll be much more likely to hear something that helps you grow. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

12. USE A NEUTRAL MEDIATOR.

We managed to ask just one question: Would you refer our organization to your peers? Why or why not? Additionally, we’ve built in relationship checks designed to detect if there are frictions in culture, communication style, technology sharing, or delays in decision-making. A partner outside the project encourages the franchise. Often we learn so much about how to develop the relationship. – michelle hayward, blue dog

13. INVOLVE YOUR SENIOR MANAGERS.

Have someone in your C-Suite speak to the most senior contact customer. Senior managers are generally willing to share constructive feedback not only to improve the services or products you provide, but also as a professional courtesy. The customer will also appreciate the high level attention. – chris grosso, Intersection

Joseph P. Harris