One of the most important things a business can do to improve is listen to customer feedback. Instead of waiting for the occasional compliment or customer complaint, you can be pro-active and add more communication channels to facilitate feedback. Here are five of our favorite ways that customers can get in touch online.
Forums are perfect for online discussion in an ongoing format. This facilitates communication about tech support issues and product enhancements. Since your users can post on the forum themselves, someone on staff should be responsible for replying to questions and moderating topics and replies.
Choosing forum software can be a little daunting since there are dozens of web forum options available. We prefer to use bbpress for simple forums on WordPress or phpbb as a standalone option. BuddyPress is also a reliable option for a WordPress-based forum.
2) Social Media
Chances are you’re already active on at least one social network. For your business, your Facebook page or Twitter feed can be a vital channel for getting a message out to your clients, but it’s just as useful as a way for them to get directly in touch with you. There’s a degree of informality that is associated with social network communication – you can get more candid responses from people than you would in-person or over the phone. Just like with your forum, you are going to want someone to moderate your social media presence.
You can use social media’s SEO value to your advantage by making sure your company pages are completely filled out, including your address, phone number, and an email address customers can reach (don’t use your personal one or you’ll get flooded with spam). Since social media pages tend to show up high on search results pages, people tend to go to these pages first when looking to get in touch, sometimes before going to your company’s website.
3) Schema-Tagged Phone Number and Telephone URI’s
Even if someone has come to your website, they may want to get in touch by phone. Since a good portion, maybe even half of your users, are coming to your site from a mobile device, you can make your phone number “clickable” by adding what’s known as a URI (Uniform Resource Identifier). This acts like a hyperlink but instead of linking to another website, it will call your phone number.
Additionally, there is a set of tags called “schema markup” that can help your phone number show up on Google search results pages when people search for your business’ name. Schema Markup for your phone number is easy to implement and we recommend it for just about every website.
Services like SurveyMonkey make it incredibly easy to create your own surveys and polls and post them on your website or on a social network. An incentivized survey is a great way to encourage your users to respond in exchange for a free download or other premium, but depending on your audience, you may not need an incentive at all. Some customers are more than happy to tell your their opinion. This is the most effective channel for generating a useful set of data from your client communication.
5) Usability Testing
Sometimes you can get client feedback without actually involving any active participation from the customer. By observing customer behavior on your site through usability testing, you can learn exactly how your customers move through your site, what parts are used the most, and what parts could use improvement.
A/B Testing is one popular method – you split traffic between 2 variations of a website layout and gauge performance of both, then after a set testing period, whichever performed better stays up. A more granular version of this is Multivariate Testing, which applies the same concept to individual page elements and many more variations. Heat Maps can be very useful to see how people use your site. Taking a cue from thermal imaging cameras, heat maps translate site activity into “hot” and “cold” spots, highlighting the “hot” parts of the page customers use the most.