04/14/2015 12:04 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How to Listen to Your Customers and Give Them What They Want, Like McDonald's



McDonald's has recently announced a trial run of all-day breakfast in the San Diego area. And if you've ever woken up on a weekend morning at 10:29 A.M., I'm sure you'd enthusiastically agree with this decision. McDonald's Analyst Janney says, "Testing 24/7 breakfast makes sense. We believe customers generally want to see McDonald's offer breakfast items all day." McDonald's themselves are aware of the customer demand for all-day breakfast so they're trying it out! Though bigger companies have the luxury of testing new products in select locations with minimal risk, there's something to be said for listening to what your customers want and giving it to them.

Here's how you can take Ronald's lead and listen to your customers to give them your own version of all-day breakfast.

Engage on social outlets.

One of the best places to receive feedback from your customers is the comments section of any blog post, Facebook status, or Tweet. Just remember that even negative feedback is free feedback -- you're learning more about what your customers want with each and every comment. So when you get a negative comment somewhere, don't sweep it under the rug and pretend like it never happened or, even worse, delete it (someone will see it before you do). First, respond to the comment in a proactive way with further instructions on how you're going to help him or her fix the issue, and second, actually listen to the feedback. If a couple customers are commenting about wanting the same thing, chances are there are plenty more customers who feel the same way.

Conversely, listen to the good comments, too! Just as people like to complain when they feel they've been given bad service, they also like to praise when an interaction has been exceptional. Be sure to say thank you, and look at specifically what they liked about your business. Did you get things done quickly? Do they love one of your products? Take note and repeat whatever it is they like.

Don't be afraid to throw a poll into your newsletter.

If you want to try out a new product or switch up an old one, poll your customers before spending all that money on creating something entirely new. A good place to do this is in your company newsletter. If you fill your newsletter with informative, interesting content your customers won't mind inputting their opinion to help you better give them what they want.

Try a trial run on a smaller scale.

Unlike McDonald's, small businesses don't exactly have the luxury of testing out something new in a couple smaller locations, but you can test in a different way. Instead, offer a product for a limited amount of time. Only make so many, and see how sales go for a couple months. You can even do this in a seasonally strategic way -- "In celebration of the spring season, we're offering a new product for a limited time only!"

Be sure to emphasize the limited amount of time. Carefully log sales information and customer reaction. If by the end of your test run you can safely determine that you're going to make money on the continuation of this new product, invest the money needed to make more.