by Dave Murashige
As any good retailer knows, putting your customers first is the key to success. Unless you’re competing primarily on price, you must differentiate your customer experience in order to grow. That differentiation needs to be based in understanding your customers: there’s no way to deliver an exceptional customer experience unless you deeply understand the interactions that your customers are having with your brand every day.
At Avtex, we hear every single day from retailers who are choosing to invest in their customer experience, but who lack visibility into which components of their programs are working well, or who don’t know how to develop insights from the rich data and feedback they have. A Voice of Customer (VoC) program can help you put the pieces together and ensure that feedback is being utilized to enhance and inform the customer experience.
Let’s take a look at four key steps every VoC program should include.
Step 1: Laying the groundwork for Your VoC program
The first step is to fully understand the current state of your customer experience. Think holistically, including which channels and touchpoints your customers might travel through. To better understand your current state, ask yourself these questions: Who is our customer? Where do they shop? What do they care about? Do we understand the moments that matter most? By answering these questions, and then tying those answers into your brand positioning, you can get a good outline of what your customers want from your brand and what’s working today—and where you might be delivering an experience that is falling short.
This current state step also requires a deep understanding of the current state of your organization. Are you clear on who the critical stakeholders are, and how you’ll involve them along the way? Are you starting from a culture of customer centricity, or do you need to remind everyone why it’s important to listen to customers? Do you have clear objectives for the program? Do you have an executive sponsor? (Hint: You’ll need one!)
It's important to be strategic about these choices. An executive sponsor in marketing will set different program goals than one in operations. After all, your digital partners will need very different data than your contact center teams, or merchants. By meticulously identifying all key decision makers and data needs from the very beginning and laying out a clear change plan, you can ensure that your program gets off to a productive start.
Step 2: Standing up the program
Once you’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time to start designing the program. This step involves crafting the feedback ecosystem and selecting the right technologies to support it.
Feedback comes in many forms, but a critical delivery component is your survey program. Consider: In which touchpoints do you need feedback? How does that vary by channel (stores, contact center, digital, etc.)? What’s important to the customer in those moments?
By asking only the most important questions, in only the most important moments, you can keep your surveys short and simple. You can also lean on open-ended questions to go one step deeper or identify hidden issues. By then combining your survey feedback with other sources of feedback, such as social media or your contact center, you can get a well-rounded view of the experience.
As you define your feedback ecosystem, you will need to select technologies to enable it. There are several technology platforms that can run a retail VoC program: it’s critical to find one that can integrate with your existing data and systems, and that provides you with the flexibility to solicit feedback across your various touchpoints.
You’ll also want to integrate a strong text analytics platform to help you make sense of your unstructured feedback. In retail, text analytics can be especially useful in analyzing individual product feedback. Whether you’re selling apparel, groceries, or sporting goods, you’ll need to understand a range of issues around fit, quality, flavor, durability, style, nutrition, safety, and a host of other topics in order to engage with customers around their experience of your brand. A text analytics platform can help your product design teams get instant feedback on more aspects of a product when it hits the shelves.
Step 3: Act on the data locally
Store directors and contact center leaders are busy people. Your feedback platform needs to integrate seamlessly into their existing reporting and technologies, while any new routines around customer feedback must be easy to implement and explain and have a worthwhile impact. Implementing an alert system can help them prioritize the feedback they’re reviewing, and some simple email response templates can help them follow-up with individual customers as needed.
Different feedback should be addressed by the department best equipped to handle it. For issues affecting individual stores, such as service or cleanliness, a follow-up from a local store leader will be much more meaningful. The same goes for the contact center. Issues pertaining to a particular agent are best handled by that agent’s leadership. For topics best addressed by headquarters, such as policies, technology, or the supply chain, routing alerts to a central contact center can be effective.
Step 4: Drive customer-centric prioritization
Once you’ve enabled your local store teams and your contact center leaders to review customer feedback, follow up with individual customers, and improve their teams’ overall performance, you need to turn your attention to headquarters. What are the broad themes in the feedback that need to be addressed at the corporate level, including in your digital platforms? Where can you get the most bang for your buck as you prioritize investments in customer experience? By deploying a combination of driver analysis, financial linkage, and text analytics, you can elevate the most pressing issues all the way to the C-suite.
If you know the value of a happy vs. unhappy customer, and you know what’s making the most customers happy or unhappy, you can combine that information with estimated costs to address those issues. The places where (1) value of experience, (2) big pain points, and (3) the cost to fix a pain point is low can be used as a guide to drive clear prioritization and help you make an immediate difference in the experience your customers are having—and in the frequency with which they shop your brand.
Putting it all together
Each time a customer takes the time to give you feedback, it’s an opportunity to learn from that feedback, improve the experience, and solidify that customer’s loyalty to your brand. It’s also, unfortunately, an opportunity for that feedback to go into a digital black hole, never to be read or acted upon. By implementing the right tools, acting on the data locally, and creating insights and routines that drive customer-centric prioritization. Avtex can help you lay the groundwork for a successful Voice of Customer (VoC) program that will help you develop an exceptional signature experience.