A Healthy Obsession With Customer Reviews

We make custom vinyl stickers for hundreds of customers each day, and we know we do it better than anyone else. We know this because our average customer rating of 4.9 stars is the highest of any custom sticker company. When it comes to examining our product and service, there are a number of things we track: how fast we ship orders, the quality of our material, the amount of repeat orders, etc. These are important metrics, but none of them guarantee that your customers are happy — that’s why we obsess over our customer ratings. This is the story of how we use customer ratings, what they have done for us, and what they can do for you.

Monday Morning

Each Monday morning, I share a chart of the running average of our customer ratings (in the #announcements channel on Slack, naturally.) Employees see the current average and how it has changed, day by day, over the course of the year. With thousands of reviews, any one review doesn’t move the average much, but we expand the chart so that every little fluctuation is visible.

Why do we have this ritual? Well, let’s be honest. Who doesn’t like seeing evidence that they are liked? But also, people need to be reminded that they do great work, and that message means so much more coming from customers rather than just a manager.

There’s another, more subtle effect: setting focus on the customer. It’s easy to get carried away thinking about company growth, pleasing a manager, or just getting through orders for a day. That’s all fine, and sometimes important, but serving the customer comes first — especially when making a custom product. We’re not making stickers, we’re making the customer’s stickers.

Employees who Care

It’s worth unpacking the value of promoting a customer focus among all employees. In any situation where employees have repetitive production-related tasks, sustaining a high level of engagement and caring is always a concern. It’s not easy for somebody to help make tens of thousands of stickers each day and maintain an eagle eye for subtle quality issues, but that’s what we expect, and that’s what we get, because every single person who touches an order actually cares that the customer gets something perfect.

I don’t think you can direct people to care about the customer, you can only hire the right people and promote a culture that encourages caring about the customer. Sharing our customer rating company-wide helps to promote such a culture.

We used to track errors, and then we all but eliminated errors. But avoiding errors only gets you to the bare minimum of performance. One of our values is that we don’t print crap. It’s not hard to find a custom sticker company on the web who will gladly take your low resolution jpeg and print it on a sticker. As long as you approve the proof, then it’s on you. We can’t stand that attitude. We take responsibility for the quality of the final product, so if a customer isn’t happy, for whatever reason, we care about it.

Digging Deeper Into Reviews

Reviews go much deeper than the number of stars. Along with the star rating, customers can leave written feedback. It’s the single best source of specific information about how we’re doing, and lets us know what really matters to customers. It rarely happens, but when we get a rating of three stars or less, that review is sent directly to our customer service team so they can discuss it. If there’s anything we can do to make things right for the customer, we’ll do it. If we need to examine our workflow to ensure we avoid the mistake we made, we’ll do that. Nobody can just be perfect all the time, so we work hard to learn from mistakes we’ve made. A team can never reach peak performance by hiding or downplaying mistakes to protect its ego.

Read the Reviews

Reading reviews can also help your product development efforts. What do customers comment on? In our case, we know it’s speed, customer service, quality, and website ease-of-use.

If you want to be really clever, compare your reviews to your competitors’ reviews. How are they different? Can you spot any advantages? Disadvantages? Even the tone of the language used in the reviews can give you clues about the type of customers your competitors have.

Lastly, I would encourage managers and business leaders to read the reviews…and read all of them. It doesn’t take long. And share the really good ones. Some have a real story to tell — about how somebody went above and beyond, or how we messed up but the way we made it right really impressed the customer. What better way to recognize good work than with actual customer feedback?

Have you learned anything interesting from your customer feedback? Share your experience in a response below!

Educational Psychology Ph.D., business analytics nerd, computer scientist, President @MakeStickers