With the advent of technology and social media, visitors of downtowns and main streets are able to easily and quickly document their experiences, take surveys, fill out questionnaires, and post comparisons, critiques, and comments about your area. It’s essentially free information regarding how those you serve feel about what you’re providing. But once you have that information, figuring out how to use it can seem a bit of a daunting task, but keep one thing in mind. You have problems that are specific, so your game plan should be as well. 

Divide and conquer

To begin, the staff over at Inc.com suggest preparing your organization by breaking down suggestions into three “strategic horizons.”

1. The first horizon involves suggestions that can be considered immediate adjustments also known as “quick wins, red-alerts, and lifelines.” Some examples would be fixing unclear street signs, providing more trash bins at an event, or giving a business a shoutout at a concert.

2. Horizon two involves feedback that directly impact revenue generated over the next year. A good question to ask is, “Will this help or hurt my ability to generate significant revenue?” If the answer is yes, that suggestion belongs here.

3. Finally, your last horizon involves ideas that are game, changing. Those that are grandiose, long term and typically require the consultation and approval of other parties such as the city , state, investors, etc. 

It’s time for the test drive!

Once you understand which suggestion lies where, you can begin to create and test solutions. I like to call this the test drive. This is the time for trial-and-error. Inc.com encourages thinking in stages. First you’ll want to gather input from front-line employees as well as senior managers and investors.

For example, if customers have hesitations about a policy, review that policy and make the appropriate reaction. Keep it and make your reasoning clear to eliminate confusion, find common group by modifying the policy, or if the policy is outdated or no longer relevant get rid of it! 

You will then need to define your plan and compare it against your budget and resources to determine its feasibility. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. This also might be a great time to build new partnerships and seek out in-kind (service) donations.

Lastly, you will want to create a focus group of your best customers (or maybe in your case your most frequent visitors) to see if they are receptive to your idea. Your customers will tell you if its worth testing. Before you put more money and effort into a project, see if its what they want!

Close the gap

When you come to the time where you put the solution into action, close the loop! Return to the original source, inform them of your plan and thank them for their continued effort towards making their community a better place. Are you legally (or otherwise) obligated to this? Probably not, but it will go a long run in terms of your relationship with this customer. When they realize that you are willing and ready to listen, they will be far more likely to speak up!

In conclusion, be sure to track not only the progress of your implemented change, but also track the feedback that you continue to receive. Change is constant and it will only be to your benefit to keep up! Remember that you (obviously) don’t have to take every suggestion verbatim (or at all!), but they will always be a starting point for improvement.

It’s amazing what customer feedback to do. By creating a regular system for feedback and effectively addressing challenges, you give community members and investors tangible evidence that you acknowledge and appreciate what they think and have a deep-concern for the well-being of your downtown or main street.

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