The rise of online communities, peer review sites, and social media has forever changed the impact of the customer’s voice. Customer feedback has evolved from something owned and managed by customer service teams to a force influencing every department across an organization: product, HR, finance, IT, and marketing.

Marketing agencies are experiencing this shift more acutely than most. In these types of companies, all these functions fall within a single person’s responsibilities – anyone from the CEO, the agency’s marketing lead, or even the office manager. You’ll often find the same person ticking off jobs belonging to disparate job sets: everything from tracking leads to scheduling invoices and issuing marketing communications to chasing late payments.

Running between tasks to put out one fire after another, it’s not difficult to see why customer feedback can fall to the bottom of the pile. It’s a classic case of the cobbler’s children having no shoes – agency heads and their teams advise clients on best practices but struggle to find the time to define their approach to customer feedback.

A new currency

Not managing to engage with positive feedback could be costing marketing agencies:

  • New leads – customer testimonials = customer referrals
  • A more significant number of sales – 88% of customers have been influenced by an online review when making a buying decision
  • Higher profit margins – highly-engaged customers spend 60% more per transaction.

Missing out on the different potential is one thing, but in the age of social media, failing to act in the face of a negative response could spell a severe nosedive to the bottom line for any business. It’s a new currency. Customer service experiences have a long-lasting impact, with 24% continuing to seek out vendors for two or more years after a good experience. However, the distaste for lousy customer service has a bigger impact that can last even longer. The same survey found that 39% of customers continue to avoid vendors for two years or more after a bad experience.

Social media drives the majority of reviews and comments on customer service experiences. Unfortunately, bad experiences drive the kind of viral social communications that brands would ordinarily crave. 45% of customers share bad service experiences on social media, surpassing the 30% who post about good ones.

Directing the roadmap

Feedback should always be welcome. Inviting and actioning feedback shows customers that their business is being taken seriously and that their custom matters to a company. Beyond just the financials, it can be an essential health check for performance against many internal and external metrics; it takes satisfied customers and happy employees to create a positive brand image. However, even with all this excellent information, many companies fail to utilize and manage their feedback to further propel themselves ahead of their competition.

Tech-led approaches like ‘the lean start-up’ and DevOps have infiltrated mainstream business culture and entrepreneurship, particularly in small to mid-sized agencies, advocating iterative product development models fuelled by customer insight. In this way, customer feedback can inform the roadmap, arming companies with the confidence to launch new services, and safe in product-market-fit knowledge. Some organizations, like Salesforce, have taken this a step further by co-creating new offerings with their customer base. Last year, this led to more than 50 new ideas for product development, signposting opportunities for new revenue streams through services that loyal customers have already endorsed.

Where to start

But this level of engagement can’t be manufactured overnight. Surprisingly, 60-80% of customers who describe themselves as satisfied do not return to doing more business with the company that initially made them happy. Often, it’s due to the lack of connection. It takes time to create genuine loyalty – resources that small to mid-sized businesses often don’t have. And managing customer feedback can be daunting, especially as the functionality needed to tackle such a big task can often lie amidst a mix of the company’s existing tools and platforms.

The first step is understanding where you’re starting from. Small to mid-sized agencies looking to leverage customer insight for growth need a full view of the customer lifecycle, the sales pipeline, and the finances. Only then will they be able to develop the holistic strategy required to drive customer engagement and loyalty.

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