Instantaneous reactions are becoming the norm. Think tweets, likes, and the ever-expanding emoji screen. Certainly, customers expect us to reply as quickly as they can type on their smartphones. If they are sharing their thoughts on social media or in an email to you, these customers want an answer immediately. Sometimes sooner.

You no longer have the luxury of surveying customers once a year for their opinions. Wait that long and they will have already moved on to your competitor who is gathering in-the-moment feedback. With so many places to share their voices, your customer won’t wait long enough for you to collect your thoughts, or their opinions.

Customers want to share their ideas about how to fix problems and provide them with exceptional customer experience. Don’t assume you know what customers are thinking. You have to ask.

Benefits of collecting in-the-moment customer feedback

The faster you can get this customer data, the quicker you can make adjustments. The quicker you make adjustments, the more clearly customers see you were listening to their opinion. This preserves and deepens trust in your brand, especially if they see you are identifying problems you can resolve for them.

America First Credit Union discovered (PDF) that in-the-moment feedback improved both member and employee satisfaction. Employees could help immediately with real-time visibility into urgent issues requiring immediate attention. The result: Customers feel more involved with the company as though they actually do make a difference in what they decide and do. This builds engagement

Tools for real time opinions

One of the best ways to gather this information is in-the-moment feedback through an online survey. Some customers may be wary of these because, in the past, other companies have blasted them with obnoxious ads or they begin to get spammed to death. Or the customer has seen that the company doesn’t care for them or their opinion after all, and has not changed after feedback has been provided. Customers may also have not ever received any notice that the company heard their opinion. These actions have led some customers to believe online surveys are a waste of time.

So take the high road. One of the best approaches is to use the online survey and then follow up, or “close the loop,” with customers. This has become easier thanks to technology that allows for personalized automated responses. Companies can also directly contact customers to receive more context for the online survey replies, which also may surprise and delight customers that were initially pessimistic that their opinions would be heard, let alone implemented.

Get the right feedback to make the best decisions

Just remember that going back to the customer and asking their opinion is not enough. You could be asking the wrong questions, which leads to collecting and measuring data that does not lead to the best decisions. Ask for more than just whether the customer is satisfied or not. Go deeper with the questions, pulling out a customer’s values, goals, and perceptions. The feedback must also be divided by demographics as well as by touchpoints like call centers, emails, chat logs and social media comments, and even customer reviews on review sites.

Make sure your team understands that in-the-moment feedback is important and should be a priority as part of their customer service skills. Train your service team to close the loop with customers and disseminate responses among the team to provide the necessary information to all those who are responsible for making changes. This real-time data can then become a powerful and differentiating mechanism for generating an enhanced customer experience that sets your brand apart from the rest.