Have you ever spoken to someone so inquisitive that they ask you more questions before you’ve even finished answering the first? Or even worse, as you answer their questions thoroughly, they don’t even give you so much as a head nod to let you know they’ve understood? It is a frustrating situation to feel as though you aren’t being heard, or that your voice has gone in one ear and out the other.
In the retail industry, the customer is at the core of success (as the saying goes, “the customer is always right”), which is why there is a constant desire to know more about them. What do they expect, what do they like, did they enjoy visiting the store, were the employees helpful? Generally, we believe that the more feedback we solicit, the more data we receive. And the more data points acquired from the customer, the better retailers can understand how to both cater to and enhance their experience.
But is that true? More isn’t necessarily better. In the vastness of numbers and data, what is essential is often lost — or, truthfully, not even discovered. Retailers know it’s important to collect numbers that are pertinent to the customer experience, like Net Promoter Score (“likelihood to recommend” metric) or Purchase Propensity (“likelihood to repurchase, renew or expand” metric) to understand and listen to the Voice of the Customer (VoC). But by getting caught up in asking for data and not acting upon it, oftentimes their voice is never truly heard. Some ways to begin effectively acting upon data include:
1. Understand What Data You Already Have Available
Data gathering, while an important and ongoing step, is not the end-goal — gaining insight from the data and taking action is. Rather than deploying another survey just for the sake of doing so, retailers must focus on the data already available to them, because the answer could be at their fingertips, lying in the existing numbers and insights they currently have access to.
The data received is not just a number, and the purpose isn’t to check off a box that says, “We did a survey!” The data is real insight from real customers who are taking the time to give feedback with the intention that retailers will use it to improve their experience. Instead of treating the numbers as simply numbers, treat them as the customer’s voice and understand what they are saying. If the customer voice is heard and understood, and then incorporated in daily operations, organizations can avoid getting stuck in the cycle of surveying and gathering, and instead start acting on the data already available to them.
2. When You Understand The Data, Close The Loop
When you ask less from your customers and act more upon what they have already told you, retailers can work more efficiently to meet their customers’ expectations. After all, retailers do not want to be perceived as a nag, who constantly asks but never really hears their customers. At the same time, customers want to see and feel the feedback they provide being implemented — whether that’s actually seeing the changes at the point-of-purchase level or at the very least, proactively hearing from the company that their feedback was useful and appreciated.
Closing the loop is a two-step process. It means first, acting upon VoC insights by implementing the necessary and relevant changes. Then second, following up with the customer, and letting them know that their voice has been heard, and exactly how it has been useful. This leaves the customer feeling valued, understood and incentivized to continue their relationship with the brand and provide additional insights in the future.
3. Listen To The Voice Of The Employee
Don’t forget that the Voice of the Employee (VoE) matters too. For brick-and-mortar stores, employees are on the front lines each and every day — so not only are they the eyes and ears of the customer’s feedback, they also have a direct impact on the customer experience. A happy or positive employee can vastly improve a customer’s shopping experience, while a negative or upset employee can have the opposite effect, and perhaps even cause the customer to shop elsewhere.
Retailers must gather feedback from their employees to couple with the data gathered from the VoC. It’s crucial to make an effort to really hear what employees are saying, and give them the opportunity to provide feedback in the right way and at the right time. And as they are often the first point of contact, engaged, empowered and informed employees often have the necessary insight to understand a customer’s reasons for discontent and what can be done to rectify the situation in real-time.
Remember: Every Retailer — And Customer — Is Unique
Enhancing the customer experience is not a one-size-fits-all pursuit. Every retailer will have unique ways to cater the experience to fit their customers’ needs. However, remember that the customers’ needs are voiced in the data you collect. It is essential to treat the data you receive as the true VoC and act upon that feedback. When faced with a question about customer preferences, satisfaction or expectations, don’t immediately assume the answer is to deploy another survey or poll. Take a step back for a moment, and consider what they have already told you. Ask yourself if you have acted and communicated on the data already provided.
Additionally, keep in mind what your employees have to say — the VoE is an equally valuable form of data as the VoC. By leveraging available data first and acting on existing insights, you can avoid what is likely an unnecessary, additional survey and deliver a stronger customer experience in the process.
Stacey Nevel is CCXP, Director, CX Consulting at Confirmit. She is a seasoned Customer Experience (CX) professional with over 20 years of experience designing and managing customer and employee feedback programs. She has a background in CX feedback measurement and management within client-side financial services and insurance companies and, for the last 14 years, with vendor-side CX technology and consulting providers. Throughout her career she has sought to better understand and share the linkages between VoC, VoE and operational metrics to positively impact the customer experience, customer loyalty and product usability. Her current role as the Director of CX Consulting at Confirmit involves championing industry best practices among current clients, helping new clients define or re-define their VoC program strategy and helping to shape Confirmit’s VoC methodology and services offerings. Nevel holds a B.S.B.A. in Marketing / Psychology from Georgetown University as well as CCXP, CEM and NPS® industry certifications.