Okay I know your mind probably raced to apps, mobile sites, digital concierges, etc. While these are great and exciting innovations, I am going to offer up that the concept of FEEDBACK – the kind that draws a direct line of communication from the shopper to you – is still a powerful shopper engagement tool for many channels: grocery, general merchandise, dollar stores, convenience, club, apparel, auto. I could go on and on with the list!
A shoppers' eye view of feedback programs
Let’s start with where we are today. The most recent survey of grocery shoppers we conducted at the Retail Feedback Group in 2012 showed how shoppers currently perceive the availability of feedback programs.
Three out of ten indicated they were sure that their supermarket had a feedback program – and it seems to be an impressive relationship-builder. Nearly half of the 38% of who provided feedback indicated the store had responded, and of these 62% said they believed the store made changes based on feedback.
On the other hand, about one out of ten shoppers indicated they believed the store did not have a program – but 85% of these said they would use an online or phone based feedback tool if it were available.
Finally, six out of ten shoppers said they “didn’t know” if the store had a feedback program.
The retailer's opportunity
Headline: The last two points indicate a TREMENDOUS opportunity to make sure shoppers know that they have access to a feedback program whenever needed. So now is the time to either add a feedback program if one doesn’t exist, or to better communicate a program that’s already in place.
In today’s world, it’s rarely possible for a store operator/owner to know everyone who sets foot in their establishment. Automated feedback programs can help, and they especially appeal to customers who choose to – or are more comfortable with – engaging “the store” via a phone or computer. But how can retailers use them to foster personal relationships with customers?
Automated feedback programs start with an invitation to participate in a survey printed on the shopper’s register receipt. The survey focuses on a specific shopping trip, and it can be completed at the customer’s convenience – on the web, with a smartphone, or by landline phone.
Where the magic happens
While the survey is the tool used to “make the connection” with the customer, the real magic happens after the shopper provides their feedback. As part of the survey, each shopper is asked if it is ok for the retailer to contact them. All of the completed surveys flow into a web-based reporting tool where the numbers are crunched and surveys are totaled into several easy-to-understand reports. One of these is an in-box that delivers the shoppers’ open-ended comments. The in-box provides an easy way for store owners and managers to know (immediately!) that a customer has left a comment or concern.
Equipped with information about the shopper’s recent experience, the store owner or manager then reaches out to the customer to respond and hopefully correct an issue or bad experience. But they might also learn how an employee “delighted” a customer – and it’s nice to share that with teammates.
This fosters the kind of personal interaction that typified the general store in the past, but in ways today’s shoppers often want to engage. It’s encouraging for customers to know that they are listened to, and that their concern, comment or even delight is taken seriously. Rest assured, the word of mouth that results from this contact (even a negative one) can be very positive!
But wait! There's more!
Retailers will often offer incentives to encourage feedback, like awarding a store gift card to a random shopper from among all who provided feedback in a given month. The incentive encourages a mix of positive feedback and constructive comments. Plus, the winners of the drawing can be featured in ads, on web sites, and in-store to show that the store is listening – and responding – to real customers’ feedback.
Automated feedback programs have other benefits also. They can be linked to a card or reward program; they can direct shoppers to your social media sites at the end of the survey; and they can provide another way to capture customer email addresses (with their permission, of course).
In the end, providing a feedback tool underlines/underscores that you value your customers’ experiences – all of them – and are committed to improving, especially with the help of folks who take the time to let them know how things are “really” going.