Why Retailers must embrace Customer Feedback

Vicky Katsabaris | CX Subject Matter Expert & Principal Consultant | Qualtrics

Why retailers must embrace customer feedback to deliver a superior customer experience

In this highly connected age, customers are quick to share their experiences with a broad network of people. There have been numerous recent examples where negative experiences gain a wide reach through social media platforms.

People value the opinions of their peers and if they hear a brand has failed to provide a positive customer experience, they’re more likely to vote with their feet, taking their business elsewhere.

While this can be a worry for businesses, the benefits of social media fall both ways. Customers can share their experiences, good and bad, but retailers can also listen to what their customers are saying. In theory, this should make it simple to deliver an experience that delights customers and has them lining up not only to buy from the company again but also to recommend it to their friends.

Customer experience (CX) is therefore a key differentiator for brands in today’s competitive and globally connected marketplace. To deliver superior CX, offline retailers must collect, analyse, and act on real-time feedback from customers about their experiences and expectations, as well as their future intentions to recommend or purchase. However, according to new Qualtrics research, a significant proportion of shoppers in Australia and New Zealand believe their feedback never reaches someone who can make a difference.

Qualtrics conducted a multi-national surveyof 1,700 in-store shoppers, including respondents from Australia and New Zealand, to understand customer services concerns across the retail industry. The insights from the research showed that customers believe their feedback is ignored 45 per cent of the time regardless of whether complaints are made via social media, surveys, or directly to staff. Despite this, shoppers still have high expectations for how quickly retailers should respond to questions and complaints, with 42 per cent of shoppers expecting a response to their social media post on the day of posting. The majority of customers expect a response within a few days (82 per cent).

The research showed the impact of negative experiences on new customer acquisition, finding that for 59 per cent of customers their expectations about retailers are set through social media or referrals from family and friends. Further, 58 per cent of shoppers blame a retailer if one of their employees provides unfriendly or unhelpful service.

That heavy reliance on previous experiences demonstrates that it’s critical for retailers to deliver a consistent, seamless experience every time and more importantly, act on the feedback they receive. Those that fail to do so are missing out on a huge opportunity to grow their business. Worse, they can contribute to a narrative in which their business is portrayed as the villain, perpetuating a perception that could snowball into further negativity for the retailer, affecting its ability to attract new customers.

Most companies offer a platform for feedback, whether it’s a simple Facebook page or more formal feedback mechanisms. However, too many companies gather this feedback then fail to act on it. Retailers who do this may as well stop asking for feedback altogether. The damage that can be done by failing to act on feedback can be significant, and can be worse than never asking for feedback at all. They risk their customers developing a more intensely negative opinion of the brand.

This is because people want to be heard.

When a company says it’s listening and they act on customer feedback, they demonstrate that they care. Their customers are more likely to engage with that company if they believe their voice has been heard and their suggestions considered. Even if the customer’s initial experience was negative, by demonstrating that the business is eager to rectify the situation, retailers can turn unhappy customers into loyal ones. In this instance, responding in the moment is extremely valuable.

Retailers also need to know which feedback to respond to. Retailers who have sophisticated CX management platforms are able to understand what truly matters for customers, and what doesn’t. To be successful, retailers must gain an insight into overall customer behaviour, not just the opinions of individuals. They also need to learn how to identify and attract key demographics to their store. By implementing feedback channels, retailers can begin to build a more comprehensive picture of what customers like and dislike, and what drives certain behaviours. Responding to customer feedback at scale is also important because not every customer takes the time to provide feedback.

By aggregating customer feedback and understanding what matters, especially for high value customers, you’re able to make changes crucial for business growth. By focusing on customer needs, retailers can identify the right areas for improvement as well as potential areas for business growth and further success.

Doing this successfully means installing listening posts at the right moments to learn about customer needs in real-time – not annually or in an ad-hoc way. Retailers need to constantly review the customer experience they’re delivering. Working with feedback in real time is an absolute requirement for retailers that want to close the customer experience gap. Doing this across all the key customer touchpoints and moments that matter and then providing their people with timely access to this feedback will deliver the greatest benefits.

Vicky Katsabaris is a principal consultant and customer experience subject matter expert at Qualtrics. She provides expert guidance to organisations implementing customer experience programs. Prior to joining Qualtrics, Vicky spent 3 years as the General Manager of Customer Advocacy strategy at Telstra, leading the team responsible for developing Telstra’s corporate strategy for improving customer advocacy.

Qualtrics has released its Customer Experience Management: 5 Competencies for CX Success recommended for any organisation that is looking to build or start a CX program. The competencies outlined in this e-book detail how organisations large and small can focus on customer needs, inject that view into the company, and use those customer insights to drive business results.