There is something extremely critical about receiving feedback that all business owners and entrepreneurs must understand. As small business owners, we look at the tools that are available to help us gauge whether we’re on the right track or not. And because there’s so much information that’s bombarding us constantly, we think it’s a numbers game; the more input the better and higher the output will be. But when it comes to making essential changes and improvements with our business identity, services and/ or products, feedback from our customers plays a big role and we can obtain that feedback with a little formula called 5W+H.
I promise this isn’t a word problem in disguise, but a formula that can really help business owners collect valuable feedback from their customers, their target audience and markets and even competitors. It’s a nifty little formula I’ve use on a number of occasions and although I’d like to take the credit for creating it, it’s actually a borrowed tool from a colleague who teaches and writes. He used this formula in the classroom for many years to help his students become better investigators and deciphers of information when reading and collecting data. The formula stands for What, Where, When, Who, Why and How, hence 5W+H. The premise is that these are the six essential interrogative words used to start questions in which one wants substantial information.
Although we’re taking this classroom lesson and applying to real business solutions, of these 6 terms, the most important to ask when seeking feedback is “How” and “Why” questions. It’s not enough to ask your customers what they would change about the delivery of your services, for instance, but why and how they would like to see it changed. ‘Is it too slow, is it too ineffectual, is it time-consuming’, or whatever may be the case. The “what” tells us the problem the customer is having, however, the “why” explains the problem from the perspective of the customer, it gets to the source of the problem. We can now understand the issues our customers may be having and explore solutions to fix them. But before we jump in and be our customers’ white knight, the “how” questions will let us know what we can do on our end to improve our business relationship with our customers. In other words, ‘should be speed up our service time, increase the number of representatives so that customers don’t have to wait too long, or make the system automated?’. A “how” question is asking the customer what they think would eliminate the issue(s) all together.
But before we dive in, the very first step is asking for feedback, asking the questions. And we don’t need to be afraid of asking the wrong questions. At first, we very well may ask a great deal of wrong questions . But keep asking. Eventually, we’re gonna start asking the right questions and we’ll know it based on the feedback we’ll receive the response from the changes we’ll make.
It’s not enough to know the answer, but seek out the question. Success is always evolving, not because we have all the answers, but because we continue to ask the questions.