5 Ways to Get Customer Feedback — For Free

Sometimes it’s good to get feedback straight from the horse’s mouth — namely, your customers and clients. But doing so via email can be a pain to organize and manage; that’s why the five solutions in this post can be useful if you want to get feedback about your products, services or even your organization in general.

All of the tools covered here centralize the data, and allow visitors to see the feedback that’s been shared already, thus avoiding the headaches involved with dealing with duplicate entries. They also gives everyone an at-a-glance overview of the things that others are thinking and feeling. They benefit your public relations and give your customers a platform to communicate with your firm: a win-win scenario.

Obviously, these tools also give your customers a way to vent and release frustrations. While some companies don’t like to see or hear anything negative about their organization, giving your users and consumers a way to talk to you  — and each another —  is a major plus in the long run. It shows everyone your level of confidence in what you do and signifies a level of commitment to customer satisfaction. Today, consumers are all web-savvy and expect to be able to communicate with an organization and its community.

Here are several services for establishing a customer care center in the cloud for your brand. They’re all easy to set up, and in most cases provide a free package so you can test drive them to see if they have the functionality you need.

GetSatisfaction. I’ll start with the two “gold standard” apps that compete in this space: GetSatisfaction and UserVoice. In a nutshell, GetSatisfaction excels at letting you communicate with your users/customers. You can give status updates on your service, answer questions and provide a useful Frequently Asked Questions list. It also provides your community with a forum-like service to help one another with problems they’re experiencing. GetSatisfaction has different premium plans that allow you to host this service on your own web site, while there’s also a GetSatisfaction-hosted basic free plan, which lets you see how it all works.

UserVoice also lets your users/customers report problems and ask questions, but it particularly excels at letting them submit ideas for new features. Each user gets a limited amount of votes so they have to pick and choose which ideas/suggestions they like the most.

UserVoice also provides a free basic plan for one forum, and recently removed usage limits on all accounts in favor of a “fair usage” limit. This means if your web site has less than 10M pageviews a month, then you’ll have unlimited usage.

Google Moderator (s goog) is a free way to create a forum where your users can vote on the features they most want to see for your product or service. It works similarly to UserVoice but there’s no voting limits for users. For example, here’s one that was created to track ideas and suggestions for Google Buzz features: How to Fix Google Buzz.

Zoho Discussions is Zoho’s customer feedback solution that works very much Google Moderator. You can track ideas and suggestions on how to improve your business/product or service as well as provide answers to problems. It also have multiple plans, including a basic free plan that allows up to two forums.

makefive is the most unusual solution in this roundup, because its primary function is to create and share lists of anything you can imagine. The reason why I’m suggesting this service is because your users can vote on the items in these lists and, best of all, they can even add new items to the lists. So, for example, you could create a Most Wanted Google Buzz Features list, and let people vote on existing ideas and even add their own ideas.

So there’s my five free ways to get customer feedback in a hurry. What tools do you use to get customer feedback? Please give us your feedback in the comments.

Photo by martin schmid on Photoxpress

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub req.): Report: The Real-Time Enterprise