How to seek customer feedback. And why it’s important

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They say the customer is always right, but how closely are you listening to what your clients are actually saying?

 

Seeking – and acting on – customer feedback should be a priority for any brand, says Anastasia Lloyd-Wallis, head of consumer insights at the Retail Doctor Group. She explains that any feedback – good or bad – can deliver valuable insights that will help your business grow.

 

“It’s so important for retailers to listen to their customers and understand what they want and why they want it. From analytical feedback like five-star reviews to personal recommendations shared on online forums, retailers need to tap into that knowledge to shape best practice.”

 

With so many different ways to source customer feedback, we’ve rounded up the top five methods and put together a cheat sheet on each one.

 

DO: “Offer incentives like a 20 per cent discount code, a free gift or $5 off their next purchase. Not only do customers respond well to incentives, the offers will encourage them to interact with you again,” she advises.

 

DON’T: “Make the survey longer than 10-minutes. Customers have a limited attention span, so they lose interest quickly. Keep your questions short and make the survey as interactive as possible – with fun graphics and visual components – to keep the customer engaged,” Lloyd-Wallis adds.

 

Customer surveys

When it comes to surveying customers, timing is everything, says Lloyd-Wallis.

 

“Retailers need to ask themselves at what point in the sale journey after purchase should you request feedback. For example, if you’re selling a piece of furniture, you want to give the customer enough time to unpack it and try it out,” she explains, adding that email surveys often produce more accurate results because there isn’t the pressure of standing at a cash register and looking a salesperson in the eye.

Retailers need to ask themselves at what point in the sale journey after purchase should you request feedback.

- Anastasia Lloyd-Wallis, head of consumer insights at the Retail Doctor Group.

For immediate gratification and data, Lloyd-Wallis recommends using a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey, which asks the respondent to rate how likely they would be to recommend a company, product or service to a friend or colleague.

 

For more in-depth feedback, it’s worth enlisting the support of a professional, who can help you perfect the wording and ensure that you’re not putting answers into your customers’ mouths.

 

Mystery shoppers

For decades, the spectre of mystery shoppers struck fear into the hearts of retail assistants in shopping malls worldwide, and now mystery shoppers have gone digital.

 

“Whether it’s in-store or online, mystery shoppers can test a brand’s customer experience journey to find where the holes are – and fix them,” says Melisa Molini of mystery shopping specialists Retail Reality.

 

“For brick-and-mortar businesses, mystery shoppers critique the in-person service, including how long a purchase took, what policies and procedures were followed, if the customer felt valued and whether add-ons – like Afterpay – were offered.

 

"For online shopping, we test the website experience, how long deliveries actually take, if the chat function adequately answers questions, whether incentives – like loyalty programs – are offered at the checkout, and what the return policy involves.”

 

The reports produced by mystery shopping companies, which can be found online, can then be used to inform training programmes, price guides and merchandising displays.

 

Ultimately, the success of mystery shoppers comes down to how the retailer chooses to use the insights they supply. “It’s what businesses do with that data that counts. If you get a negative review, the shortcomings need to be addressed. And likewise, if there’s positive feedback, the team should be praised.”

For online shopping, we test the website experience, how long deliveries actually take, if the chat function adequately answers questions, whether incentives – like loyalty programs – are offered at the checkout, and what the return policy involves.

- Melisa Molini of Retail Reality.

DO: “Mystery shop your competitors,” says Molini. “We can go through the exact same process with your competitor to find their strengths and weaknesses – and compare them to your own. That data can be even more important for getting an edge in the competitive retail market.”

 

DON’T: “Just rely on in-house mystery shoppers because their findings are too easily skewed. When assessing your own brand, you can either be too easy or too hard on yourself, so it’s best to trust an independent reviewer who fits your target demographic,” Molini adds.

 

Social media feedback

The rise of social media has created a unique opportunity for brands – the opportunity to communicate directly and in real time with both existing and potential customers.

 

The trick to getting the most information out of your social media followers is understanding that different customers interact with different platforms, says Lloyd-Wallis. “Each platform varies, so it’s important for retailers to check their analytics and understand what kind of customers follow them on Facebook and how they’re different to their Instagram, TikTok, Twitter or Snapchat followers.”

 

For example, Instagram Stories offers a dedicated polling feature for quick, simple feedback, as well as the opportunity for followers to type short responses. Facebook offers similar polling features, and it goes without saying that all social media channels can also be used to promote or amplify customer surveys on other channels.

 

DO: “Gamify your surveys with online polls,” says Lloyd-Wallis. “Social media users are often driven by a challenge, so you can catch their attention with an online poll via Instagram Stories, for example. Doing a quiz, poll or emoji barometer on Stories is a quick, easy and fun way to get feedback.”

 

DON’T: “Underestimate the power of flattery. Some customers want to be the centre of attention, so you can approach them to say they’re one of your top supporters on social media and encourage them to write more reviews. Don’t just like and share comments, go a step further and interact with your customers to boost engagement,” she adds.

 

Online forums and reviews

For hotels, there’s TripAdvisor. For beauty brands, there’s MakeupAlley, and for everything else there’s Google Reviews. Online forums can be a wealth of knowledge for retailers – as long as they are willing to respond and address any negative feedback promptly.

 

One trick? Set up a Google Alert to track brand mentions and customer feedback.

 

DO: Make the most of positive feedback. Positive reviews or endorsements offer valuable social proof, which can be an effective acquisition tool. Received feedback from a happy customer? Post it on social media to influence and attract more customers.

 

DON’T: “Let negative feedback get you down. If someone leaves a bad comment, you should ask yourself if they’re your target customer and, if not, remind yourself you don’t have to be everything to everyone. If they are, look at what you can do to improve their experiences,” says Lloyd-Wallis.

 

CRM systems

A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is data-driven software that helps businesses manage and maintain customer relationships by tracking sales leads, automating marketing and delivering actionable data.

 

There are a number of different systems available to retailers – including Microsoft Dynamics 365, Insightly and Salesforce. Choosing the right one for your business is vital as a CRM will store and track customer activity, which will offer valuable insights into customer satisfaction. Most CRMs will also store customer contact information, which is crucial for seeking information on customer satisfaction.

 

DO: “Get personal. Retailers should consider what they want to know about their customers so they can create a truly tailored experience for them. Once you’ve answered that question, you can find a platform that gathers the information in a way that’s easiest for you to interpret and utilise,” she suggests.

 

DON’T: “Solely use CRM systems to push a product,” explains Lloyd-Wallis. “You should use that database to help create a relationship with your customers, which will instil their loyalty. If a customer has an emotional connection to a brand, they will walk past a competitor and go straight to them. Brands can use CRM platforms to help foster that connection and evoke emotions.”

 

Alley Pascoe is a journalist who has written for a range of publications including Sunday Style and The Sunday Telegraph’s Stellar magazine

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