In an age when just about every industry has been digitised, especially within the realm of training provision, why is paper still the “go to” tool of choice to collect training feedback? Here are five issues with this approach:
- Anonymity — It’s difficult for delegates to be entirely truthful when submitting feedback on paper, especially if comments relate to the trainer. Digital forms, which can be completed in the classroom or sent to delegates at a later date, allow students to provide considered and honest responses.
- Accuracy — For providers that transpose data from paper forms onto a spreadsheet/database, there is the potential for human error, and often it’s simply not possible to log every piece of information, especially if responses include lengthy comments.
- Less is more — Whilst online feedback forms can, perceptually, have lower response rates, experience shows that the additional insight from digital feedback delivers a far deeper (and more useful) level of understanding. Additionally, comment areas, which are mostly ignored on paper forms (unless particularly positive or negative), are readily available for review.
- Timing is everything — Instant visibility of a learning experience which requires immediate response is critical. With paper feedback forms, days or even weeks may have passed before delegate reviews are analysed, and the opportunity to react is missed.
- Analytics — Digital systems give you access to powerful analytics via management dashboards. At the touch of a button you can monitor performance across course type and trainer, in real time.
Digital feedback systems allow your delegates to submit their feedback, in confidence, and you can gather ALL the information you need to evaluate the performance of courses you have commissioned, and of the educators who have delivered the training.
Aside from the obvious conservation element, paper forms have to be printed, collated and distributed (which takes time and costs money). Online forms accurately collect and collate every piece of information the student shares with pre-built analysis available for you to view as soon as the feedback has been uploaded. You can respond to the good, the bad, the ugly in a timely manner.
Online feedback systems enable you to track, in real time, the effectiveness of your learning programs whilst reducing the amount of time and money spent understanding delegate experience, all whilst adding to your green credentials. Training feedback definitely benefits from a digital touch.
Like most training providers, you probably already collect feedback from everyone you train. Perhaps you use paper forms or a web-based survey tool. Either way, the good news is that if the feedback you collect is generally positive, you own a potentially very valuable asset.
In our personal lives, reviews have been an essential part of decision-making for many years. And this is now becoming the norm for many business decisions too. In the ‘olden’ days, you could create a brand by spending (a lot of) money on creating an image of yourself that reflected the way you wanted to be perceived. But social media has changed all that.
These days, a brand is determined far more by the way that you’re seen to interact with your customers. The reality is that people care less about what you say about yourself; and more about what other people say about you. The voice of the company is being drowned out by the voice of its customers; and the most successful companies are those that fully acknowledge this, and join in the conversation.
You may well have glowing testimonials on your website but the problem with this approach is that prospective customers know that the reviews have been hand-picked by you; and that significantly reduces their effectiveness. For it to be credible, people want to see a complete picture of all the feedback you get; and they want to see it on an independent website.
Negative feedback can be good for your business! Since the purpose of showing off your feedback is to provide reassurance to potential customers, you might think that showing off negative feedback would be counter-productive. But it’s not the case. In fact there’s evidence that if all your reviews are five star, people actually become suspicious. What they want to see is that you generally do a great job; and that when things occasionally go wrong, that you handle it well. Showing how you responded when something went wrong can actually be more beneficial than if the problem had never occurred in the first place.
The other key benefit of online reviews, is their effect on search engine results. Search engines can recognize reviews for what they are, and this form of content is ranked higher than other content because of its perceived value to people searching. Google automatically adds Google stars to search results based on reviews, which helps them stand out. Better still, according to Google, people clicking on search results that feature stars, are three times more likely to make a purchase.
In conclusion: if you know your customers generally say positive things about you, then you should make the most of this valuable asset. Handled correctly, reviews can be an extremely powerful marketing tool and drive measurable business benefits.
When it comes to soliciting feedback, there are two key reasons for doing everything you can to maximise your response rates. Firstly, when it comes to assessing the quality of the training that you deliver, you need to have sufficient data to be able to draw meaningful conclusions. And secondly, from an SEO perspective, the more often that reviews are being added, the better.
The way to maximise your response rates will be different, depending on the type of training you offer. If your training facilities are equipped with internet-connected devices, then ask your learners to submit their feedback on Coursecheck before they leave the room. Whilst this may not result in the most insightful comments, it will guarantee the highest response rates. If your approach is to send out a post-course email with a link to Coursecheck, then we suggest the following:
- Brief your trainers on Coursecheck. They should make a point of asking the learners at the end of the course, to look out for an email with a request for feedback and to explain how much it would be appreciated if they could take the time to provide it.
- Ensure that the email is sent out within 24 hours of the completion of the course. Any longer than that, will have a direct impact on response rates.
- Use a subject line that is likely to get the learner to open the email. e.g. "Your recent training with ”. It doesn’t need to mention the word “feedback".
- In the body of your email, explain why you are asking for their feedback, tell them how much you would appreciate it, and emphasise that it’s a short survey form that will only take them a couple of minutes to complete.
If you’re a business that actively solicits feedback from your customers, then it’s important to formulate a strategy for how to respond to what your customers are telling you. When a potential new customer is considering buying your services, they are increasingly influenced by what they read about you from your existing customers. But they do want to hear both sides of the story. Not only does responding show that you do actually read what people say, which in itself says something about you. But it also gives you a chance to acknowledge positive comments and address head-on any negative sentiment.
Responding to reviews – especially on a public website where your words are likely to be read by a wider audience – is quite a skill. So here are six tips.
- Respond promptly. If you’re going to respond to a comment at all, then do it promptly, ideally within 24 hours. Any longer than that – especially if you’re responding to a negative comment – may even make things worse.
- Do your homework. If someone makes a negative comment, then your first task is to assess the situation and decide whether they have a point or not. If possible, look at comparable feedback from others. If it’s not the first time you’ve seen similar comments, it’s strong evidence that you’ve identified an area for improvement.
- Don’t just respond to negative comments. If someone takes the trouble to give you some thoughtful feedback (good or bad), then it deserves a response even if it’s just to thank the reviewer for taking the time to write so much.
- Show them what you’re made of. Even in the best-run companies, things don’t always go to plan. Most people accept that and are surprisingly forgiving. However, what they won’t forgive you for is responding badly. The test of well-run company is how it responds to something going wrong and handled well, a disgruntled customer can often be turned into a big fan. And if that conversion is made on a public website, there’s a good chance of creating lots more positive sentiment from other potential customers too. So be positive and think of a negative review as a great opportunity to show what kind of company you really are.
- The customer is not always right. Responding to unreasonable comments is an art form and skill is needed to avoid pouring fuel on the fire, whilst not offering an unreserved apology when it’s not merited. The trick here is to empathise with the customer by telling them you’re sorry they feel the way they do but without overtly agreeing with them. Remember that you’re writing your response as much for other people as you are for the customer in question. If necessary, respond with an outline of your response and say that you will be in touch directly to discuss the issue. On public websites, people are increasingly savvy about reading reviews and can often tell if someone is being unreasonable. So trust your instincts and think about the wider audience.
- Quality over quantity. The more reviews you respond to the better. BUT, if you’re going to respond to a review, then do it well or not at all. You don’t want it to appear that you’re just going through the motions. And make it personal. Even just using a person’s first name in your response will go some way to achieving this. But you should also refer explicitly to their comments and avoid the temptation to copy and paste.
Encouraging people to submit reviews about your training courses on an independent website, can be a bit like doing a bungee jump. It’s exciting but there’s the fear of not being in control and it feels risky.
The good news is that you don't have to perfect and if you know you run good courses and you generally get good feedback, then you have nothing to fear. The benefits or using an independent reviews website can be considerable but not all reviews sites are the same so here are six things to consider when choosing one:
1. How trustworthy is the site?
When it comes to reviews websites, trust is everything. So what steps does the site take to ensure that all reviews are genuine and where a review breaches the site’s rules, how is this dealt with, and how promptly. And what about confidentiality? Make sure you know who owns the data that’s being collected, how securely it's being stored, what rights each party has to use the data and what happens if you stop using the site.
2. Is the website optimised for search engines?
Search engines like reviews because they perceive them as authentic and rate them higher than other forms of content. But reviews on their own, will not guarantee you a place on the first page of any search results. People search for courses using key words so to be effective, it’s essential that reviews be displayed alongside a full description of the relevant course. The SEO benefits can be significant and not something to miss out on.
3. Can the reviews be integrated with social media?
Social media can be hard to control but we all know how powerful it can be. So having submitted a review, make sure it’s easy for learners to share their comments on social media without having to create a new post from scratch. And make sure that it’s easy for you to track what’s being said and by whom.
4. Is there a right to reply?
In the event of a negative comment – or indeed an extremely positive one, it’s important that you have the ability to respond promptly and publicly with a carefully worded comment of your own. Time is of the essence so there should be a means of alerting you to any feedback that might require a response.
5. How do you integrate the feedback into your own website?
If you’re getting positive feedback on an independent reviews website, then you’re going to want to make the most of it by integrating it into your own website. Check how easy that is to do, and if there’s a particular course you want to promote, then you’ll want to be able to filter the reviews so that only reviews about that particular course are displayed.
6. Can you configure the survey form?
Like many training providers, you probably already collect feedback from everyone you train. But if you can configure the survey form on the reviews website, then you may find you can kill two birds with one stone and adopt it as your primary customer survey tool. You will probably want to ask some questions that might not be appropriate for a public website so it’s important to know whether you can control what gets published and what doesn’t.
In spite of all the recent publicity around fake reviews, many of us wouldn’t dream of booking a hotel without first consulting TripAdvisor. Yet when it comes B2B businesses, there’s a commonly held belief that a modern looking website with a few good customer testimonials, is all you really need. For B2B businesses, especially those selling packaged products and services, here are five reasons to take reviews seriously.
1. Proving how good you are
You may well have glowing testimonials on your website but prospective customers know they’ve been hand-picked by you; and that significantly reduces their effectiveness. If you really want to prove how good you are, you need to show people a complete picture of all the feedback you get; and preferably on an independent website.
2. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Search engines love reviews. This is because of their perceived authenticity and the way they’re trusted by people searching. Google goes a step further and automatically adds Google stars to review-based search results, which is great for making them stand out. Better still, according to research by Google, people clicking on search results with stars, are three times more likely to go on to make a purchase.
In the ‘olden’ days, you could create a brand by spending (a lot of) money creating an image of yourself that reflected the way you wanted to be perceived. But reviews and social media have changed all that. These days, a brand is determined far more by the way you’re seen to interact with your customers. Successful companies understand this and support environments where their customers can share their experiences and be heard by everyone.
4. Negative feedback
Since the purpose of showing off feedback is to provide reassurance to potential customers, you might think that publicising negative feedback would be counter-productive. But it’s not the case. People understand that nobody’s perfect and online reviews are a great way to show that you know how to put things right when you need to. In fact, showing how you responded in those situations can actually leave your customers with a better perception of you, than if the problem had never occurred in the first place.
It’s no coincidence that so many successful technology-based products and services are based on ideas that are already well established in people’s personal lives. And so it is with reviews and ratings. Like many people “of a certain age”, I didn’t grow up with them but Millenials have never known any different and are now in decision-making roles where there’s a natural tendency for them to make purchasing decisions just like they do in their personal lives.
If you know your customers generally say positive things about you, then you should make the most of this valuable asset. Handled correctly, reviews can be an extremely powerful marketing tool, highlight where you could improve, and drive measurable business benefits.