In any business, it’s crucial to know what your customers are thinking. Most new businesses know this and ask for feedback as standard.

In fact, some of the biggest success stories of recent years — think Airbnb and Uber — have put customer reviews at the heart of their business model.

But what about established brands? Shouldn’t they be collecting feedback too?

Feedback’s always been important

It’s not like feedback’s suddenly become relevant overnight. We may be living in more responsive, smartphone-assisted times than 10 or 20 years ago, but back then it also paid for established brands to listen to their customers.

Just look at what happened to Kodak. In the early 2000s, digital cameras were fundamentally changing the way people thought about photography. Sales were booming. But instead of adapting their offer, Kodak tried to protect its film and film processing business — essentially, putting its fingers in its ears and saying “La la la”. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2011.

Digital analyst Brian Solis, who we interviewed for our latest podcast, sums up the “Kodak moment” like this:

The “Kodak moment” is when you fail to recognise that your markets are changing from a behavioural and value standpoint – not just failing to make the shift to digital but failing to recognise how digital impacted on the consumer relationship with pictures.

So it’s not only about keeping pace with technology but understanding how mindsets and attitudes change too.

It’s a similar story with Blackberry or Blockbuster. Both companies ignored the changing needs of their customers and failed as a result. (OK, you can still buy Blackberry phones, but when did you last see someone actually using one?)

How feedback can help

Feedback’s not only useful for driving positive change and giving you insights into how your customers think. It can help you out in other ways, too.

It shows you care

Skype’s  “How was your call?” short survey not only helps eliminate bugs, it also shows customers the company’s listening. Customers getting a review request in their inbox after they buy a tool, or a car, or take out an insurance policy does the exact same thing.

It’s good for publicity

When a Virgin Trains user tweeted that he had been caught short with no toilet roll on the 19.30 from Euston to Glasgow, the company tweeted back at him and sent a member of staff to hand him a replacement roll.

The story was picked up by all the major news outlets and gave Virgin Trains some invaluable free publicity.

And if you watched the Apple keynote earlier this week, you might have seen this – a lovely video compiling real letters people sent to the company after the Apple Watch helped them get healthier.

Apple has form when it comes to using user-generated content – we’re big fans of the company’s ‘shot on iPhone’ campaign.

It drives sales

We find that Reevoo reviews on a webpage boost conversion by an average of 2.7x.

And as well as straight-up lifting your conversion rate, it can help be seen in crowded marketplaces too. Here’s a good example – Lexus generated feedback from UK customers by using Reevoo’s review platform, and published it loudly and proudly on its website. This provided authentic advocacy for other potential car buyers, who the company had been struggling to cut through to in the UK.

Don’t get left behind

Let’s stay with the Lexus example for a moment.

Lexus belongs to the luxury-but-affordable section of the car market — a traditionally popular segment, but one that should be looking in the rear-view mirror nervously right now.

The pressure is on. Our research shows that consumers expect high average review scores in this sector.

These stats are from research we carried out this year. We asked consumers to tell us what they thought was an acceptable score for each industry.

So a brand can’t afford to let standards slip.

Meanwhile, rival manufacturers are speeding up the outside lane by releasing electric cars, hybrids and sports cars. In the car industry, boundaries are blurring and class distinctions fading.

Those brands content to stay in cruise control and rely on their “luxury” status are going to be overtaken unless they act quickly.

The likes of VW, Audi, Skoda and Fiat risk having their market share eaten up if they’re complacent.

Thinking like a startup

Everyone knows about Tesla — the disruptive brand that has done the unthinkable and made electric cars cool.

Tesla’s the most revolutionary car brand jeopardising the luxury-affordable sector right now.

But it’s not just reinventing the cars. In its attitude to service and responsiveness to feedback, Tesla is thinking more like a tech startup than a car manufacturer.

Contrast that with VW. The company had been deceiving its customers for years and took a huge hit in 2015 when the emissions scandal blew up. This resulted in billions of dollars in fines, plunging stock and depressed profits. Although profits bounced back this year, the near future looks challenging for VW unless it radically alters its relationship with its customers.

In the luxury-affordable sector, no-one’s safe right now. But least of all VW.

The Lexus example

Lexus had confidence in the quality of its vehicles. Its problem was getting on to the consideration lists of UK car buyers. The solution was to use existing owners as a mouthpiece.

Lexus enlisted Reevoo to collect reviews from verified owners, which the company then displayed on its site. It also took advantage of Reevoo’s “Ask an Owner” feature, allowing potential customers to quiz existing owners.

(Incidentally, we analysed all this Q&A to put together a report into what car buyers are looking for – if you work in automotive, it’s worth a look.)

Publishing the reviews resulted in people spending up to 5x longer on the site and 2.5x more page views. From our awesome case study:

Lexus had expressed confidence in its range, and that was reinforced with an average score across all vehicles of 9 out of 10. Review content wasn’t just for show, however – Reevoo embedded the review content on individual product webpages, enriching Lexus’ website with natural language perfect for search engines.

The level of detail Reevoo is able to collect in the reviews also provided plenty of valuable customer insight. Lexus Europe uses this insight regularly in the development process.

In conclusion: Lexus realised that customer feedback was the key to remaining competitive in this day and age.

The company took action, and reaped the benefits.

How long can other brands in its sector afford to wait?

Is any brand above collecting feedback?