Customer feedback loops represent synchrony between business owners and their customers. For feedback loops to become truly successful, you need to not only show a willingness to accept customer feedback but you also need to find an effective means to receive that feedback. Certainly, all small business owners take comments, reviews, and customer advice seriously … but collecting feedback and analyzing your customers’ sentiments can be a time-consuming and expensive effort if not managed correctly. It is then imperative that business owners interested in creating and maintaining customer feedback loops know about free and accessible tools available to them .
Getting a feedback loop off the ground and keeping a loop in working order, however, are two entirely different processes. So, depending on your business’s current capacity and scope, certain tools may suit your system better than others.
Creating a Feedback Loop
Free Survey Platforms
Google Forms: Google Forms is a great starting point for small businesses who are interested in creating their own surveys but aren’t certain what features would best suit their current arrangement. Unlike other big-name tools which limit the number of responses free users can receive or view per survey, Google Forms allows users essentially unlimited options for creating their own multiple choice or open-ended questions.
SurveyPlanet: Another robust option for creating surveys from scratch is SurveyPlanet which houses all of the tools a small business would need to get feedback and more. On top of legible and slick templates, SurveyPlanet allows for easy sharing via social media, meaning that if you ask in your survey, your most loyal customers can actively widen your feedback loop by re-sharing your surveys. On SurveyPlanet’s free plan, administrators can create infinite surveys and collect infinite results meaning you can continue using the same survey indefinitely – unlike other tools which may limit your total engagement.
Free Live Chat Platforms
Tidio Live Chat: For ease of integration and versatility without the price tag, Tidio Live Chat just might check the right boxes for small business owners looking to begin a live chat system with no financial obligation off the bat. Tidio’s free, basic account allows business owners to integrate a widget for the program directly into any WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, or Shopify website. Tidio allows free accounts to chat without message limits with up to 100 unique visitors per month. One big downside to Tidio’s free package, however, is that only 3 chat operators can work simultaneously for your website. Impressively, however, Tidio’s free plan also allows up to 500 follow-up response emails to be sent to chatters each month; this can be a big help for businesses looking to improve their feedback loop’s efficiency.
HubSpot Free Live Chat Software: HubSpot’s well-known CRM software comes packed with a lesser known live chat software which may just fit your small business’s needs. If your business isn’t already using HubSpot for your CRM solution, you can set up a free account easily. HubSpot Live Chat’s free package functions near-identically to Tidio’s widget format, so add the chat system directly to your website. Unlike Tidio, however, HubSpot gives free users access to their chatbot builder program meaning that business owners can customize their responses and styles even more than any other free program. Free users, however, must deal with rather visible HubSpot branding and an inability to customize the color of their chat widget. Of course, if you find HubSpot’s program fitting to your needs, even the most basic paid packages allow you to customize your bot to almost no end.
Maintaining a Feedback Loop
Free Data Analysis Tools
LibreOffice Calc: LibreOffice is a collection of software acting as the open-source alternative to the Microsoft Office Suite. While Microsoft Excel has several means to get free access like student accounts and other workarounds, LibreOffice Calc offers identical and sometimes superior tools at absolutely no cost. Calc is likely one of the best free options for transforming your survey and customer sentiment data into actionable information.
Google Charts: If you are looking to create more complex and detailed data visualizations, finding a free tool becomes increasingly difficult. Luckily, Google Charts includes several of the more high-end features typical of paid alternatives. As long as you know your way around the basics of HTML, you can even add charts and meaningful data to your websites and employee resources in order to quickly share visualized data with relevant staff.
Free Social Media Monitoring/Listening Tools
Mention.com: Monitoring and analyzing your business’s mentions on social media without the help of a tool can become a full-time job faster than you may think. Even if you have a staff member meaningfully watching your business’s social media mentions and chatter, sites like Mention.com aggregate social media posts based on keywords and phrases, streamlining the most menial part of social listening. Mention.com is free and allows users to track keywords in both mentions and replies between Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Google Alerts: While traditionally seen as a tool for aggregating news stories based on a similar topic, Google Alerts can be a useful tool for bookmarking direct mentions of your business on the web. Google Alerts are completely free and can be bound to any keyword you choose. Further, Google Alerts can be tuned to specific platforms like Facebook or Twitter, but of course, maintaining a meaningful feedback loop means collecting and acting on as much data as possible. Once you set a Google Alert, uses of your chosen keyword will be sent to an inbox or device whenever a match is found.
Of course, Google Alerts doesn’t help businesses follow up directly on customer feedback unless the business owner goes out of their way to investigate the source and legitimacy of every alert. But as free tools go, Google Alerts can help small business owners get a better idea where and who is talking about their business before they further fine-tune their strategies.
A Unique Loop for Every Business
It’s unlikely that a small business would need to use every single tool on this list to create a fulfilling feedback loop for their business, but that simply speaks to the case-by-case nature of feedback loops themselves. Feedback loops change and grow in parallel with the products and practices of the business itself. In that same right, feedback loops are anything but static. These free tools are safe and test-friendly playgrounds in which you and your staff can develop the right system to collect and meaningfully respond to feedback.