By Christophe Pin

When it comes to customer feedback, small business owners can either “take it for ill or take it for will.” Those who take it for ill lose out on something very special…the opportunity to grow.

Yes, I am quite aware that not all feedback is good feedback; however, I remind business owners to remember criticism is judgment and feedback is often a thoughtful evaluation of experience (even if written in discontentment). For this reason alone, small businesses can use customer feedback as a developmental opportunity for growth.

But I would rather not stop there and share more benefits of feedback for small businesses. Here are 7 ways customer feedback can grow your small business.

1. Customer Service Improvement

No matter what kind of day you or your employees have or how dynamic you think all of the personalities are in your business, nothing says the truth more than negative feedback.

Let’s face it, in or outside of business, there is no such thing as being able to please every person on this earth. Why? Because every person is different, personalities are different, and no one has a perfect day every waking moment of the day. The reality is in business every owner has to face is how to deal with difficult or overly demanding clients or customers. The only way to effectively do that is through experience and feedback.

Another reality is every business owner had to face is the unconscious bias to clients and customers; as well as unconscious bias from clients and customers. These are biases and perceptions we do not realize we have because of our personal morals and values and this often changes how we perceive, relate, and respond to others. I mention this because as your business receives feedback, always step back and understanding the motive and perception of the giver and your perception as the reader.

2. Product Improvement

If you are in the business of selling products, nothing (and I mean absolutely nothing) will make your products better than feedback. Why? Because you may have one thing in mind and think you have it all figured out; all the while not realizing what you have created was made with a bit of marketing tunnel vision.

I am not saying tunnel vision negatively; I am merely pointing out that many of your consumers may love it, but some may desire something slightly different that may enhance your product and your brand.

Don’t shy away or ignore feedback regarding your products but rather read them and consider whether or not there will be a genuine revenue increase if you change or tweak what you have. Better to make the change and make money then someone else taking what you have, making it better, and earning from it (believe it or not, this happens more than you may think).

3. Service Improvement

If you are a business that offers a service or services (consulting, training, therapy, etc.), your interaction with clients is constant. It is also predominantly referral based (when clients love you, they want to share their experience) and less from marketing.

Think about it. If you saw marketing for a business consultant, would you immediately take an interest or would you rely on reviews, word of mouth, or a referral? I am sure one of the latter would be your preference (hello, this why Yelp is “go to” for many).

The reality is that of three of these things are a form of feedback and reading them or knowing what is said is vital to the stability of your business. Use the feedback to enhance your services, become knowledgeable of how to better your practices, and improve details that may not be as upfront when it comes to the services your business provides.

4. Opportunity for Technological Enhancements

If there is one thing I have learned about business, big or small, is that it is being driven more and more by technological functions. Whether you are providing services and/or products, how you connect with the world around you will impact your return on investment (revenue). When it comes to technology, feedback will become your best friend and keep you relevant in a world of ever-evolving technology.

How, might you ask? By tech-savvy patrons that provide feedback about functions that are not available (scheduling, websites, social media platforms, etc.). While these things may not matter to you, they matter greatly to those who want to connect with your business. Let’s face it, society is driven by connection now and as a small business, you want to ensure you, at a minimum, know what opportunities are available to make you relevant.

5. Increase/Change Your Target Market

If you developed a business plan (or conducted some level of business planning) before launching your business, you decided what market you wanted to target for your products and/or services. Planning for anything, especially when it involves people, come with some level of uncertainty.

Quite honestly, I consider it a risk businesses take because one can never be sure if the market they seek is the market that will provide the most return on their investment. Here is why feedback will matter when it comes to your target market: people do not like exclusion and will voice their opinion, perceptions, and thoughts when they feel excluded.

If you look at the hair or facial products sold on social media sites, take the time time to scroll and read some of the comments. In those comments, which is a form of feedback, there will people asking if it is for certain skin or hair types (even if it is clear and evident it was created for a specific target of people). Again, inclusion matters and this will increase or change the market you were targeting (and of course this will increase your revenue as well).

6. Better Your Marketing Strategy

Marketing strategies are crucial to your business because it is how your brand will become known. It is also how your brand will compare or stand out to its competitors. Whether it is feedback from social media post, Yelp, Trip Advisor, or any other media platform, it is important that business owners leverage those outlets for smarter marketing.

How do you know if someone takes an interest in your brand? Often it is through some form of interaction (a “like”, a comment, or from others tagging their friends). If you find that certain marketing strategies are not working, look to and maximize on the ones that are. Always keep in mind, that feedback will come in many forms and business owners have to shape and reshape their strategies around that (especially if feedback is in the form of interaction and engagement.

7. Process Improvement

I do not believe anyone launches a business with the expectation of remaining stagnant over time. And most business owners do what they can to work not just smarter, but more efficiently.

Just as much as customer service is important, so are the processes you have in your business. People will give you feedback on many (if not all) processes you may have. Everything a business does from answering phones to invoicing can result in feedback from clients or customers.

For example, have you ever tried to contact a company and you have to select 1 for (fill in the blank), select 2 for (fill in the blank), and so on and so forth.  And after going through all of the numerical bypasses, you may still have a wait time of five minutes or more. Some businesses offer a survey after the call (which I think is very smart) and this is one process that receives the most feedback and it is not typically favorable feedback when it comes to the ease of getting in touch with someone.

While this is one example, there are many forms of feedback that can be given to help with process improvements, but small businesses have to allow for feedback to be given. This can be on the website, in a survey after each interaction, and even in an email signature. There is also nothing wrong with outright asking a client or customer about their experience.

Overall, these seven ways are just a start and small businesses should effectively use feedback for growth and not treat negative feedback as a failure. Trust me, it will only make you better.