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12 Rules for Getting Actionable Feedback from Customers

Oct 7, 2020 | Blog, Customer Feedback

Rules for getting actionable customer feedback are straightforward to follow.

Actionable feedback is essential to a successful business. After all, it is the business’ responsibility to ensure that they know how they are delivering on the needs of their customers. Failure to do so means defecting customers, embarrassing social media  and dwindling revenue. Most importantly, the feedback has to drive action – leading to an improvement operational standards and connection with the unhappy customer. After all, there is no point in requesting an opinion without a commitment to driving change.

Responsibility here is not only with product teams – but in every department. With this in mind, we developed 12 Golden Rules to follow, that apply to both product feedback and service feedback. These are available for download.

So what are the rules for getting actionable customer feedback?

1) Never Call it A Survey

Never, ever call the list of questions a “survey.” This is an immediate turn-off to most people, and it is likely to leave you without adequate customer participation. When people hear the word “customer survey,” they tend to disengage from the conversation because they are typically associated with the following traits:

  • They take too much time and effort.
  • And driven by illegitimate intentions.
  • Often conducted with little or no context and poor understanding of the process.
  • Always requesting sensitive information – with little value.
  • More of a social, unstructured conversation, perhaps online or in person


2) Ask for the Customers Help Instead

Instead of asking your customer’s to participate in a survey, ask them:

  • “I am the owner – can I pick your brain on customer experience?”
  • “Can I get your opinion on ____?”
  • “How might we think about increasing your satisfaction with our brand?”
  • “We are looking for users to give feedback on the biggest issue in their journey with us…?”
  • “What improvements would increase the level of customer service here?”
  • “What is the number one feature we should add to our service?”
  • “Help us improve our understanding of the issue without a customer survey”
  • “What is your main comment to us as you go through the customer journey?”
  • “What is the one piece of feedback our product team or service team needs to hear?”


3) Carefully Time the Request for Customer Feedback

Ask for feedback at the moment your customer is consuming the service. This is “the point of their experience” and is the best time. There are three main reasons:

  1. Waiting too long will reduce the response accuracy AND quantity of responses
  2. Without intervention, the unhappy customer will comment online. Specifically on social media to vent about the company
  3. Worst of all, a delay will mean the business cannot deliver an on-the-spot fix before the customer defects. This is the ONLY time where feedback should be delivered for actionable insights to be obtained​

4) Request Feedback from Customers by Invitation Only

Invite (not force) customers to give their opinion – and let them answer on their terms:

  • Do not make it an obligation.
  • Do not push out requests to users when they have not consented.
  • Make it clear that sharing their opinion is optional.
  • That the data will never be used for any other purpose than improvement
  • That you are looking for honest feedback, service and product ideas – not just complaints or customer IDs..

5) Give an Anonymous Option

Clients and staff become anxious when asked to share their personal info. This means fewer customer responses so less data. The solution is to enable actionable feedback with an anonymous option. You will get more responses and still have the data to take action without necessarily contacting users.

6) Feedback Any Which Way

Always allow your customer to feel in control of their feedback. Give them the agency to fulfill your request on their terms with any type of feedback. Specifically this means:

  • On a device they are familiar with – usually their own cell phone.
  • Using their preferred language.
  • With their most convenient input method like SMS, Web, Phone call
  • At the most convenient time for them – ie. unsolicited feedback at all customer touchpoints.

7) Only Ask for the Information you Really Need

How to translate customer feedback into actionable feedback? Simple – only ask your customers for the information you need that will increase your level of understanding. Otherwise, you risk low response rates and irritation. This also means you can be brief. In more detail:

  • Keep feedback time to 2 minutes max – about 7-9 requests. If you need more data, rotate them over time. Only keep common questions if they add value and lead to the drivers of customer success.
  • Do not be complex. Deliver the simple question so that actual feedback received from the customer base is accurate.
  • Think about what you do not know and of this, what is the most important. Specifically, which business decisions will change upon the receipt of this data, and how this might affect strategy.

8) Be Feedback Smart – Use Dynamic Questions

Dynamic questions change based on a previous answer. Eg. If your customer delivers a low rating – then the dynamic follow up is to ask ‘what was the reason?’ This delivers greater insight for the company. In turn, this means immediate, specific and actionable feedback is delivered. Moreover, these additional follow-up questions are only applied to the segment that gave the low score – so not a burden on all respondees.

9) Only ONE Open-Ended Question

Single-choice and numerical varieties can be analyzed and tracked, They are also easier to convert to corporate action. Qualitative feedback is only useful if it provides descriptive value underpinning the numbers. Remember that open ended responses cannot – so need to be limited to one per feedback event.

These improvements in feedback completion time and puts less thinking burden on the customer – which means less “survey fatigue“.

10) TWO Minutes – Max

Do not fatigue your customers with a lengthy process. Out of home customer feedback surveys should never be over 2 minutes otherwise the incomplete rate will increase.

This means 7-9 questions – to be changed every few months but always leading to actionable feedback. This might be a new feature, operating improvement, staff training or customer service level change.

11) No Incentive Required

Begin the program without any incentive. If you need more responses, add in a modest one eg. a monthly drawing for a $50 gift or Starbucks card. Your product team should also publish the incentive online and in social media to generate more interest.

12) Take Action

Does your business have a culture of action? After all, there is no point collecting 12 feedback data unless the business acts. It would also be disingenuous to everyone if customer insights were not actioned. Make it clear their effort will lead to improvement and become part of an action plan. For example, if their answers score at a low level, your staff will be alerted, and the problem will be addressed promptly. The business can connect with the customer and satisfaction with the brand will increase..

There are many documented reasons to get customer feedback, but these articles fail to emphasize the importance of action. Specifically that the only reason to collect feedback is that it results in the business doing something with the data. Likely improving the brand,  customer service or adding a new feature, and always increasing satisfaction.

Feedback Resources to Deliver a Return

As the owner of the enterprise or simply as the one accountable for customer experience – know there are 12 rules to be followed. These rules improve the feedback process and empower your people to deliver business improvement. Get ahead of customer feedback and understand how to improve operations, lower HSE risk and deliver greater customer loyalty. Feedback exclusively online, or worse, through social media is always too late and always disastrous for the brand. Generate business growth through meaningful insights in real time and turn these insights into action with these 12 rules.


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