3 Critical Ways to Boost Customer Satisfaction in an Omnichannel World

More than two decades after the first secure online purchase, the “bricks to clicks” revolution continues to transform the world of retail. In their forecast of the global retail market, eMarketer predicts that 8.8% of worldwide retail purchases will be digital by 2018. Does that mean physical stores are fading into irrelevance? Likely not, according to a recent A.T. Kearney Omnichannel Shopping Preferences Study that indicates bricks-and-mortar locations remain the favored shopping channel despite age demographic.

Regardless of whether consumers choose physical stores or digital commerce to make their retail purchases, both are viewed as a single entity, one that is a part of the customer experience continuum. Successful retailers recognize all facets of the shopping experience—both in the real world and its virtual counterpart—are absolutely essential to driving strong customer satisfaction and building strong, long-lasting consumer relationships.

Savvy retailers today, like hhgregg and Mattress Firm, are accomplishing this with three critical approaches to boosting customer satisfaction:

  1. Integrating retail channels now
    A true omnichannel experience—one that integrates a retailer’s online, in-store, mobile or social presences—is essential to nurturing an intimate connection with customers and differentiating brands from the competition. Consumers want engagement across the physical and digital elements. Retailers have two choices in the new world of shopping: Adapt or face declining profitability.
  2. Leveraging new technologies to
    create a more seamless experience

    Retailers are turning to customer experience reporting solutions, voice of the customer (VoC) programs and other cutting-edge technologies to effectively manage and improve the omnichannel environment. Email surveys, website feedback tools, social media dialog and other interactions offer invaluable perspective into what customers feel about the retailer and—most importantly—why.
  3. Listening to customers and acting on their feedback
    The growth of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter alongside consumer review sites like Yelp illustrates that consumers of all ages and all backgrounds want to share their stories with the world at large. Forward-thinking retailers should listen carefully to what their customers have to say across these channels and probe even deeper into the consumer psyche, implementing social advocacy and leveraging reviews that not only give shoppers a voice but allow them to tell their stories wherever and however they feel most comfortable.

Check out our playbook, Experience is Everything: 3 Critical Ways to Boost Customer Satisfaction in an Omnichannel World, to delve into these three approaches in greater detail, along with real-world examples.

New Research: 5.5 Secrets to QSR Success

Ever wonder what makes a QSR a QSR? Speed of service is a classic defining characteristic, followed by inexpensiveness and food consistency. However, QSRs must go beyond these three traits in order to be successful in today’s competitive market.

The InMoment QSR Benchmark Report, which had more than 9,000 American consumers weigh in, showed some surprising—and some not-so surprising—secrets behind what truly makes a successful QSR brand. Read on for 5.5 of a dozen learnings we came across.


  1. Just One Thing Great Will Differentiate
    None of the brands that ranked in the bottom 20 had a single high-performing driver to positively differentiate their experience. In fact, their overall scores were lower than 40%. Scoring above average on just one of the five top drivers we identified in our QSR consumer report statistically guarantees an overall score above the bottom 20.

    The lesson for low-performers? Start with one key differentiator, rally around it, and build on it.
  2. Value Goes Beyond Inexpensive Price
    While differentiating on price is well engrained in the QSR biz, our research confirmed that “value” is not as simple “inexpensiveness.” While digging around in the Value metric, we identified two distinct types of value brands: (1) those who serve above-average quality food at a “fair price” and (2) those who serve low-quality food for the lowest price.

    While the two groups rated similarly on Value, those that also rated high on Food Quality rated much higher in overall satisfaction. Better quality food at a slightly higher price will leave guests thanking you for their better experience.
  3. The South Is Doubly Social
    QSR guests in the South are recommending restaurants via social media roughly twice as often as those in other regions of the U.S. (~1 in 2 vs. ~1 in 5). Relatedly, snack and dessert-type QSRs were recommended on social media more frequently than other QSR types, falling in line with conclusions from a separate study that “Across all peers, the eating pattern most likely to be shared by socially connected individuals was ‘alcohol and snacks.’”

    QSR snack brands should be aware of the social nature of their establishment and build the experience around it.
  4. Being Big Appears to Negatively Affect Perceptions
    The inverse relationship found between a brand’s number of locations and its overall ranking in our study was hard to ignore. Evidence showed that big brands tend to be held to a different standard than smaller brands. The explanation for this phenomenon blends the operational struggles of large-scale service delivery with the psychosocial reticence of guests to award high overall marks to a larger “mainstream” brand.

    Rather than seeing this simply as an excuse for low scores, large brands should focus on measuring the how closely guests behaviors align with survey responses.
  5. What Gender Gap? Order Accuracy Is Unisex
    Believe it or not, when it comes to QSR preferences, the battle of the sexes is over. All attempts to drive a wedge between the two genders in this study failed miserably. Male or female, QSR preferences and expectations are much the same. There were certainly some faint clues of minor rifts here and there, but nothing so firm as the solidarity showed by the sexes around getting precisely what they ordered, how they ordered it.

    Finally, a common ground for men and women! Order accuracy.

5.5. Secret Sauce of the Tip-Top QSR Brand
When ranking brands from top to bottom, the difference between each spot usually came down to a percentage point or less. This largely the case for rankings by individual driver, as well—except for one notable (glaring, really) exception. This one exception looks a lot like an explanation of how the top brand was able to outperform the competition in other key areas.

To read more about the “secret sauce” and other QSR findings, download our consumer report, Positive Identification of Top QSR Characteristics.

3 Ways Voice of the Customer Programs Address Challenges with Location-Level Employee Engagement

Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs help organizations at every level to not only know how customers feel about their brand experience but why they feel the way they do. Technology advances in today’s tools, such as local VoC data and text analytics, help brands glean important insights found inside customer stories. In return, the information is filtered to the right people within the organization charged with taking action to drive important experience improvements.

Locations managers particularly benefit from these tools. These leaders are charged with driving frontline employee engagement so they can deliver the experience customers expect—at every visit. In leading customer-centric organizations, location managers have become reliant on VoC tools to address three common challenges:


  1. Focus
    The biggest key to staff motivation is making sure employees are focused on the right things. Smart VoC analytics help location managers to identify key themes within customer comments and focus on simple steps (based on real customer comments) to make a big difference on the customer experience.
  2. Communication
    One issue with staff communication is making sure it’s grounded in the customer experience. Using VoC as a basis for rewarding and retraining employees allows managers to have fact-based conversations with staff members using real customer feedback to drive the conversation.
  3. Visibility
    Not only should your location’s customer-centered engagement program curate relevant customer comments
 through text analytics, it needs to organize them in a visual format that is immediately understandable. Having customers’ words displayed where staff congregate keeps the customer experience front and center in employees’ minds.


In your vital efforts to keep employees engaged through a meaningful social connection to their work, don’t underestimate the power of the customer voice. Give location managers the right tools to leverage customers’ words as a clarifying, motivating, and empowering force for staff members. Companies that follow this model can expect an improvement to their customer experience and look forward to beating out the competition.


This excerpt was adapted from our eBook, Grounded in the Experience: Putting the Customer at the Center of Employee Engagement. Download it here.

Guest Centricity: The Key to the Heart… and Everything Else

As guest experience experts and consumers of food, we can say with a comfortable level of certainty that food is indeed one way to the heart. What we can say with even more certainty, however, is that guest centricity is the way to the heart and everything else related to business success.

In a recent webinar, Taco John’s vice president of operations, Shawn Eby, talked about how he and his team cultivated a guest-centric culture by using real-time reporting and actionable insights to create memorable guest experiences. Here are some of the ways Taco John’s created a Voice of the Customer (VoC) program built around the guest.

Become a Guest-Centric Culture
Taco John’s knew their first step was to become an organization that was truly guest-centric. This meant having the right program, people, and technology in place to truly understand and respond to the needs of guests, such as utilizing feedback provided about the restaurants to make immediate and positive changes that enhanced experience consistency across all locations.

A Single Program
The foundation of guest centricity encompasses a VoC program and buy-in from every level of the organization—from executive staff right down to front line employees. Without this support, no technology or program in the world will be effective. However, it takes the right technology to empower employees to continuously strive to better the guest experience.

Use Feedback to Motivate and Train Employees
VoC programs exist to help organizations deliver a consistent, positive guest experience with every brand interaction. One of the most important ways they accomplish this is by providing location managers with tools, like Comment Poster, that identify staff mentions in survey comments and connect employee names with actionable insights and key performance indicators. In return, location managers get an instructive snapshot of outstanding service experience enabling them to recognize positive employee behavior, as well as leverage as a motivational tool for employee improvement.

Real-Time Alerts
Understanding the guest experience in real-time is critical to being able to respond to both positive and negative experiences with the urgency they deserve. Taco John’s accomplishes this by using two essential real-time alerting tools: “Wow” and “Rescue” alerts.

Real-time “Wow” alerts notify managers when employees are mentioned by name for providing an outstanding service experience, allowing them to recognize and reinforce positive behaviors. On the flip side, the brand also leverages “Rescue” alerts to quickly surface unhappy guest experiences to address and resolve issues that need special and immediate attention. In the end, managers are able to coach and guide employees on the right and wrong experience behaviors ensuring on the positive are repeated.

To hear more, check out the full webinar and how Taco John’s is creating a guest-centric culture that continues to deliver outstanding guest experiences.

Customer Experience Disconnects: 5 Steps to Creating the Right Customer Experience

This entry was originally published
on Loyalty360 on May 1, 2015

Customer Experience is maturing. I rarely hear the phrase “customer service” anymore, and most business leaders know what acronyms like CX and VoC mean—without even Googling them.

However, maturing is a verb that indicates a process; it doesn’t mean we’ve completely grown up. In fact, we’re probably somewhere in our teenage years, which, just like that stage of human development, can be awkward and painful. Over the last year, I’ve seen an increasing number of news stories, blogs, and social posts recounting customer experience initiatives gone awry—from awkwardly executed campaigns to the imposition of “friendlier” lingo. Customers are rolling their eyes, posting comments of incredulity, and poking fun in live broadcasts.

Does the Shoe Fit Your Brand Experience?
While I won’t name names, this is happening to customer experience newbies and more seasoned brands alike. Why are these good intentions being questioned, begrudged, and even mocked?

Simple: Because in our rush to deliver great customer experiences, companies are designing experiences that simply don’t fit their brands. Normally, disconnects between expectation and execution present themselves in the form of a “bad” experience. But inappropriate experiences can come across as contrived, insincere, or just plain silly—and they can hurt a brand as much as those unpleasant ones.

When it comes to customer experience, it’s important that you don’t just try to be “the best,” but that you create and execute experiences that align with your customers’ best expectations. Following are a few important steps every company and CX professional should take to get, and stay, on the right path:

  1. Know Who You Are
    A brand isn’t just an image, a “look and feel,” or a catchy name. Your brand should capture the essence of who you are and the unique value you offer customers. Most importantly, your brand is a continual negotiation, a dance between your company and your customers. Scott Cook, the founder of Intuit, said, “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is; it is what consumers tell each other it is.” This doesn’t mean you can abdicate the responsibility of doing the hard work of distilling that unique value and communicating it out. But it does mean that you must know, without a doubt, whether your brand promise resonates with customers.
  2. Know What Your Customers Expect
    Customers expect different things from different brands. For some, it’s “fast and accurate.” For others, “friendly and helpful” is more appropriate. And for some, “luxury and exclusivity” are baseline expectations. Deviating from these core promises gets brands into trouble. For example, “friendly and helpful” can actually get in the way of “fast and accurate.” Stay focused on delivering what your customers value most.
  3. Be Authentic
    There is no single formula for CX success because each organization and its relationship with customers are different. Simply imposing another successful customer experience blueprint on your own organization won’t work. There’s nothing wrong with learning from the best, but, if you neglect the important step of adapting rules to the specific needs of your brand and your customers, you’re likely to stumble.
  4. Be Deliberate
    Great customer experience doesn’t just happen. Identify the “moments of truth” along your customers’ journey that are most critical to their experience, so you can draw them closer at each interaction. And pay special attention to the language you use. Even subtle-sounding misfires, like using the word “guest” instead of “customer” can indicate you don’t understand what customers value from their relationship with your brand. This is not simply a matter of being politically correct. Words matter, so choose wisely.
  5. Listen
    Listening to customers cannot be something that happens once a year, once a quarter, or even once a month. Set up listening posts at every important touchpoint, provide open forums for customers to share when and how they prefer, and be proactive by listening on social media and other online forums. It’s just as important that you have the right technology in place to make sense of the mountains of customer data—and the organizational commitment to act quickly.

In a blog post late last year, Gartner declared customer experience “the new competitive battleground.” As you embark upon the fight for market share, be wise in the strategies and tactics you deploy. While you should learn from the past, the only sure way to win and keep the hearts, minds and dollars of your customers is to take time to create an authentic environment: one made up of individual experiences that are true to the relationship you want with your customers. And then, push yourself elegantly beyond that goal.

You’ll Never Guess What They Said…

This entry was originally published
on Retail Dive on March 24, 2015

What does the word “value” mean to you? In the world of buying and selling, it used to simply communicate a fair exchange. A retailer provided a product. A customer paid a reasonable price. The product worked as promised. Everybody won. But it’s not quite that simple anymore.

With the rise of instantaneous global communication and commerce, most products have made the transition to commodities. The world is a shopper’s market, with cheaper goods and more convenient access always just a click away.

Bigger Context. Bigger Meaning.
Brands have identified “customer experience” as the new differentiator, the next “competitive battleground,” according to Gartner. And as retailers run to better understand how to deliver the kind of experience that will bond buyers to them and encourage larger basket size, value has come to mean something different. Something bigger.

In working with some of the world’s best retail brands, I hear “value” used in a new context. I’m told, and know first-hand, that today’s customers want to feel valued. Not just as a sale or a transaction, but as an individual. Omnichannel strategies and technologies are striving to know and engage with customers in more personal and relevant ways. But that alone won’t solve the “value” puzzle.

A Simple Question
In the course of doing business, my company recently asked a group of brands and consumers what they think is most important when it comes to customer experience. We initially set out on this quest to identify both the common ground and the disconnects between the two groups. And we did. However, in the process, these consumers told us something that we didn’t even think to ask.

As a customer story junkie, I can’t get enough of the messages found in comment boxes at the end of surveys. Inside of those four walls, customers tell the best stories; it’s what’s most important to them. In this case they, unprompted, talked about the importance of feeling valued. One in three consumers explicitly included words and phrases like “valued,” “acknowledged,” “heard,” “appreciated,” and “respected” in describing how they want to be treated.

Dive Deeper to a Different Relationship
Makes sense. But then they went deeper. Consumers don’t just want to be on the receiving end of value. They also want to give value in return. In comments mentioning the word “value,” nearly half of respondents used the word to express their desire to provide value back to the company. And when asked why they give feedback, four in five said it was because they enjoy “making a difference.”

Why is this important? Because it means that your customers want a fundamentally different kind of relationship with you. Yes, they’re empowered. But what they’re doing with that power is asking for something more authentic. They want a relationship that looks more like other human relationships. And while this can sound frightening—and difficult—it also opens up a myriad of new opportunities.

Opportunity with Expiration Dates
The question for you is this: Will you take your customers seriously? Will you trust what they are offering? Or will you sit in a bunker, surrounded by sandbags full of reasons they’re wrong and reasons you just can’t change?

I’ve seen a few brands that are jumping into this brave new world. I see others who are waiting on the shore to see how the courageous ones fare. And then there are the ones who just keep tightening their blindfolds.

Most brands are spending time and resources asking questions. Customers are responding. Are you seeing and seizing the opportunities in their stories, or are you letting them expire with the loyalty of the customers who shared them?

Involved & Enthralled: 5 Ways to Improve Your Engagement Strategy

Gathering feedback is only part of the customer experience (CX) equation. Before your brand can even begin to collect feedback, it needs to engage both its customers and employees. That task is easier said than done, though.

Based on a recent InMoment-commissioned report by CGA Peach, we’ve highlighted five methods for increasing engagement at every level of your organisation. Read, reflect, and evaluate how your brand’s engagement strategy stacks up.

5 Ways to Engage Your Customers & Employees

  1. Improve Board-Level Buy-In
    Overall, 60% of leaders believe having active and visible board-level involvement will help deliver the frontline outcomes that should flow from their customer programmes.

  2. “Businesses that are customer-centric have the message clearly reinforced from the board down. They intertwine everything they do with this perspective. It is not something you do, but who you are.” —Gary Topiol, International Managing Director, InMoment

  3. Increase Interdepartmental Communication
    If customers are king, more transparency may be needed to ensure all departments focus on the “main thing.” Better understanding of the customer can improve the efficiency of all departments of a business—not just operations.

  4. Recognise and Reward Employees
    Given the interrelationship and interdependence between customer and frontline staff, companies that can bridge this gap and bring together the two sources of feedback could build themselves a clear operational advantage.

  5. Introduce Real-Time Feedback to Frontline Managers & Team
    Operators have a vast array of tools at their fingertips now, and that means they potentially have a mass of data to handle too. Nine in ten respondents of CGA Peach’s survey said they have seen an increase in the volume of data coming into their business over the last two years, with 30% seeing a significant rise.

  6. Understand Drivers of Engagement
    From an emotional perspective, nearly nine in ten executives think “feeling valued” is a key driver for customers—far more so than feeling excited, confident, or validated. Three in five leaders (62%) also rate “feeling listened to” as a key driver, which may be an underestimation in this age of social media.

Consumers to Brands: We Want to Be a Part of Your Success

On top of our Voice of Customer (VoC) technology, InMoment supports a consumer insights panel and a team of data scientists who conduct regular research on a range of customer experience topics.

We recently completed a study asking 644 North American consumers to rank six emerging elements of customer experience in order of importance. We also asked 131 customer experience professionals the same questions. In their responses, not only did we see where alignment and disconnects exist between brands and their buyers, we also found several surprising insights into what tips the scales on customer engagement and loyalty.

The Elements We Explored
  1. Mobile first: Ensuring 24/7 mobile support for customers
  2. More reliable online reviews
  3. Personalized experience: Brands using customer information to personalize messages and promotions
  4. Shorter surveys, more listening: Fewer set questions, more options for customers to share experiences in their own words
  5. Feeling trumps function: Relationships and customer experience will reign over function, price, and selection
  6. Transparency: Keeping customers informed on how their feedback is being used.

Biggest Disconnects
Consumers ranked “Reliable Online Reviews” #2 in importance, while brands relegated this element to last place at #6. But not all brands were on board. While one in four did rank it last, one in five executives actually placed this in the #1 position.

At first glance, we thought the split would have come between businesses that serve consumers and business-to-business companies. Upon further examination of the data, however, we found that this was not the case. This means that even in industries where online reviews have a big impact on choice and loyalty, some brands don’t consider them an important part of their customers’ experiences.

Our Take: Regardless of the business you’re in, consider and care for your online audiences. They are more connected, more vocal, and generally more engaged with your brand and their peers than other customer segments.

On the Same Page
Consumers and brands ranked “Shorter Surveys, More Listening,” #1 and #2 respectively. What we found particularly interesting is that consumers did not express a lack of interest in giving feedback. What they don’t like are long-form surveys that focus on what the company wants to know versus what they want to share. We saw phrases like: “fast and easy to complete, with relevant questions that relate,” and “ability to leave as short or as long a review as I want.”

Our Take: It’s worth the time it takes to design more considered, customer-centric questions. Keep the scoring to a minimum, and take advantage of online forums and open-ended comments to give customers their own sharing spaces.

The Value of Value
The most powerful findings came, not surprisingly, by looking at the rankings alongside the consumers’ verbatim comments. The short story: customers want to feel valued by the brands they support. One in three consumers explicitly included words and phrases like “feeling valued,” “acknowledged,” “heard,” “appreciated,” and “respected” in describing how they want to be treated.

While this might seem obvious, the comments helped us see an even more nuanced and powerful story. Consumers don’t just want to be on the receiving end of value. They also want to give value in return. In comments mentioning the word “value,” nearly half of the respondents (48.4%) used it to express their desire to provide value back to the company. And when asked why they give feedback, four in five consumers selected “I enjoy offering my feedback and making a difference.”

And consumers told us exactly how companies can do this:

  1. Tell them why: “I’d like to know that the information in the survey is useful. Maybe if there was an upfront comment statement like ‘We are interested in your opinion because…’
  2. Show you are listening: “It would be nice to not only be acknowledged, but to receive some feedback regarding the suggestion or comment.”
  3. Take action: “It would be nice if companies let us know what changes they’ve made in response to customer comments.”

» View our infographic: Make Them Feel Valued. Make Them Feel Heard.

Super-Empowered and Well-Intentioned
In a time when consumers have nearly infinite options and a global communication platform at their fingertips—and customer experience has become the place to compete—it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. And while customers do wield unprecedented power, they don’t seem to want to use it for evil. Instead, they are asking to become partners in brands’ success. The question is, Will companies take them seriously? Will they value customers’ advice as strategic business intelligence? Will they treat customers as individuals and not just transactions?

Our Take: The stars are aligned. Customers are clamoring to give exactly what companies need. If brands listen well and listen often, their customers will provide real-time guidance on how to deliver the best experiences and improve nearly every part of the business. Talk about a win-win.

» View the full report: Value Them and They Will Value You

3 Tips for Building a VoC Business Case

The customer experience is a team effort, so it takes an enterprise-wide investment to improve it. You’ll need the support of your peers, partners, and uppers. (You already have ours.) Successfully pitching and pushing any business initiative to your mates—even something so enlightened as the customer experience—requires a strong business case.

That shouldn’t scare you, though, because the evidence is now out there to be had. One resource to lean on is Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business, authored by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine. Aside from sharing multiple examples of successful use cases, the authors offer great advice on creating a case for yourself.

Credit to Peter O’Neill, Bradford J. Holmes, Paul Hagen, and Michael Shrum for curating and summarizing these three tips from its pages.1

  1. Start with Cost Avoidance
    Installing listening systems to collect customer feedback will almost always enable your company to reduce support costs. A positive fallout effect is collecting good research about the customer experience.
  2. Assign a Value to Customer Loyalty
    Forrester’s research clearly shows a correlation between customer experience and loyalty.2 Loyalty is an increasingly important factor in B2B as business customers become service consumers and switching costs ceases to be a barrier. All annuity businesses thrive or die on loyalty.
  3. Model the Effect of Customer Experience Benefits
    While initial customer experience investments will focus on identifying and repairing problems, three other types of revenue benefits have been tied to improving customer experience:

  • incremental purchases from current customers
  • retained revenue as a result of lower churn
  • new sales driven by customer advocacy

1. The Case for B2B Customer Experience Programs Is Revenue Generation and Renewal, Forrester Research, Inc., January 25, 2013

2. Forrester’s Customer Experience Index identifies customer experience leaders and laggards. This information was used to look at how customer experience correlates to loyalty. Across all industries, there’s a high correlation between customer experience and customers’ willingness to buy another product and their likelihood to recommend a company. See the March 26, 2010, “Customer Experience Leaders Garner More Loyalty” report.

Are You Interrogating Your Customers?

We’re well-intentioned. Really, we are. We Customer Experience professionals are passionate about customers and want to do everything within our power to improve their experiences. But in our rush to connect with our customers, we may actually be driving them away.

Understanding the customer experience your organization is delivering requires a lot of asking. We have a massive array of tools to delve into the state of our customer experience—from third-party perspectives like market research and mystery shop programs to transactional data that tells us how our customers behave.

The Ballooning Survey
One of the most powerful sources of customer intelligence is their direct feedback. And so we monitor social media, conduct exit interviews, and we survey. We love our surveys! So many lovely numbers that we can crunch, slice, dice, quantify, and measure. And as more groups within our companies discover the treasure trove of information within customer feedback, they want in on the fun. So the surveys get longer, and longer.

Our poor customers have become the victims of our exuberance. Slogging through question after question after question after question, most of which they couldn’t care less about. We have crossed the line—from earnest asker to unapologetic interrogator.

Feedback, a Positive Experience?
How do we balance our need to understand with our need to keep the feedback experience a positive one? Following are a few tips that will help you get even better data, while not just “doing no harm,” but actually improving your customers’ experience:

On Their Own Terms: The phrase “Customer Experience Management” is headed the way of the laserdisc. As a customer myself, I have absolutely no interest in having my experience “managed.” Today’s customers want more authentic relationships with brands, and they want to share their stories—but on their own terms.

Social Listening automates the process of finding and gathering feedback on brand- and location-level social sites, and in online review forums. You can view social feedback on its own or alongside other types of customer stories for a more holistic view. Links to social comments allow you to respond directly to customers.

Comment boxes are another incredibly valuable tool. Inside those four walls, customers tend to share details that give you specifics on exactly why they feel the way they do about their experience, and how you can either fix a problem or reinforce what’s working. In verbatim comments, customers also prioritize what’s most important to them, giving you the insights you need to focus on the areas with the most impact.

Actively Listen: While comment boxes are great, sometimes customers need a little nudge to get going—and keep talking. Active Listening tools can transform a comment into a conversation, where you’re subtly letting your customers know that you’re listening. A familiar strength meter lets them know that you’d like to hear a little bit more. Follow-up questions based on their personal stories keep the Q&A focused and relevant to what they want to tell you.

Let them Know: Customers want to know three things when they take the time to give feedback:

  1. That you heard them
  2. That you are going to act on what they said
  3. That the insights they shared will make a difference.

While few brands take these final steps, they are critical in building a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship between you and your customers. Today’s customers aren’t simply more demanding, they want to know that the time they spend makes a difference. Letting them know that you’ve heard them, and allowing them to peek behind the curtain at how you’re using their feedback to make positive changes, shows that you value them as human beings and as partners in an ongoing relationship.

End the Interrogation
It’s not okay to assault your customers during the feedback experience—even when you really, really, really want to know. It’s not nice, and it’s not necessary. With the right philosophy and tools, you can harness the important moment in your relationships with your customers to bring them closer—and get great data to crunch as well.

Understanding Empathy and Your Brand

While many companies operate under the model of “If we build it, they will come,” the most successful companies know it’s essential to understand and actively engage with a targeted customer base.

At InMoment, we believe that no one owns the customer, but instead that everyone owns the experience. Both the customers and the company equally share in the brand experience, and both carry equal importance in decision making.

To develop strong customer relationships, brands must fully understand how and why their customers choose to interact with their company. In other words, they must learn to empathize.

Understanding Empathy
To begin, let’s explore what empathy actually is. Empathy is frequently confused with sympathy, when in reality, they can have greatly different outcomes when applied.

Both sympathy and empathy involve relating to and having concern for the feelings of other individuals. Sounds good, right? In most circumstances, either sympathy or empathy are appropriate responses. However, when developing a relationship with customers and clients, empathy always wins.

Sympathy is feeling compassion for another person. Sympathizing requires little emotional investment or intellectual effort and can often be misconstrued as pity. Empathy, in contrast, is the act of projecting one’s self into another person’s thoughts, feelings, personality, and circumstance to gain greater understanding—walking a mile in their shoes.

The Benefits of Empathy
So what does empathy have to do with your customer relationships? People want to build loyalty and relationships with brands. By knowing your ideal customer and understanding how to attract them—in other words, empathizing with their experience—you open the door to developing a great relationship.

With this relationship comes success. When you understand your target customer, you can fine-tune your brand experience to better meet their specific needs and wants. In turn, companies experience the following benefits:

  • Understanding what drives loyalty towards their brand
  • Learning how to turn negative feedback into an opportunity
  • Increasing customer referrals and brand advocacy
  • Maximizing the efficacy of InMoment’s customer feedback products

Actively listening and engaging with your customers’ perspectives—whether through one-on-one interviews, in-person observations, or through InMoment’s customer experience software—provides the highest ROI on your market research.

Creating an Empathy Map
What does this look like in practice? How do you actually get to know your customer? Copyblogger recently produced a comprehensive guide to understanding your customers’ worldview. Inspired by the user experience world, Copyblogger outlined the process of creating empathy maps for your ideal customers. These maps address four key areas in which customers interact with brands: thinking, seeing, feeling, and doing.

Copyblogger suggests gathering several key players to map out your brand experience, including stakeholders, customer support leads, vendors, product developers, and marketers. In this exercise, you’ll sit down together to discuss both experience and specific questions (What do our customers say or feel when they use your product? What are customers hearing from other people who use the product?), along with more personal, worldview questions (How do our customers think about their hopes and fears? How do our customers interact with family and loved ones?).

Some of these questions may seem fairly abstract in comparison to typical market research practices. This is what makes the approach such a success. By striving to understand your customers’ thoughts and feelings beyond the confines of your brand experience, you better understand your customer as a person, not just a source of revenue.

Dr. Frank Luntz describes the necessity of this abstraction in his book Words that Work. “The key to successful communication is to take the imaginative leap of stuffing yourself right into your listener’s shoes to know what they are thinking and feeling in the deepest recesses of their mind and heart.” This “imaginative leap” will lead you to uncover the answers to questions that can truly revolutionize your business.

    A Few Questions from the Imaginative Leap:
  • What drives my customer to spend their money at my business?
  • What pain points does my customer experience in their average day?
  • Can I resolve any of these pain points?
  • What pain points do customers experience with my brand?
  • In what unique way can I improve my customers’ lives?

InMoment’s software is the perfect complement to these empathy exercises. We develop all of our products to capture the voices, feelings, and stories of your customers and understand them in our Experience Hub.

Take the data we provide to the next level by engaging in this empathy map exercise. To get you started, we’ve provided a printable PDF with the kinds of questions you may want to ask about your company and product. Let us know about your experience with this exercise. We want to hear about your successes and insights.

Click here to download the empathy map exercise.

Black Friday Lessons for the Whole Year

Holiday Spending Surprises
So far, the holiday shoppers have been happy to open their wallets this season. And while the overall spend is up, retailers have experienced some unhappy surprises in just how and when consumers are buying. The Thanksgiving/Black Friday weekend used to be the pinnacle of the purchasing frenzy. This year it was an unqualified bust.

Most estimates say sales for the day dropped about 11 percent over last year—which wasn’t a great Black Friday year itself, with those sales declining for the first time since 2009. The trend seems clear: Consumers simply aren’t as interested in participating in what had become a mass shopping event.

What’s Holding Black Back?
Many in the retail industry have theories about why shoppers aren’t jumping into what used to be the most beloved of all shopping experiences. Some say the economic recovery is partially to blame; now that shoppers have a little more money in their pockets, they feel they don’t have to fight the crowds to get that discount. Others say shopping fatigue has set in, with online deals, one-day only sales and all other manner of discounts happening throughout all of November and December. Or maybe Black Friday is being pushed aside for the shiny new Super Saturday, the last Saturday before Christmas, expected to be filled with all sorts of last-minute deals for procrastinating shoppers.

In sum, consumers are still happily spending. Overall retail sales for November were up about 5.5 percent from last year. People aren’t shopping less and spending less money, they just aren’t doing it en masse like they used to.

What the Shoppers Are Saying
As a Customer Experience company that serves some of the best retail brands in the world, we wanted to understand the “why” behind the numbers, so we conducted a survey to see how consumers actually feel about shopping over the Thanksgiving/Black Friday weekend. Here is a sample of what we found:

  • A whopping 62 percent of shoppers think that Thanksgiving/Black Friday shopping is harming family traditions.
  • Even more than that, 65 percent said they won’t shop on Thanksgiving Day, no matter what the deals may be.
  • As is probably expected, the No. 1 motivator against shopping on Black Friday was the crowds.
  • On the flipside, for those who do shop on Black Friday, the deals were, unsurprisingly, the biggest motivation. However a fun experience and family/social traditions were close behind.
  • And here’s where it gets really interesting: Nearly 90 percent of shoppers said that their customer experience over the weekend was the same or worse than any other time of year. It just stands to reason that a consumer is less likely to shop somewhere if they know they are going to have a bad experience doing it.

Help Them Shop the Holidays Their Way
There may not be an easy solution to getting consumers to return to “shopping holidays,” and, with overall holiday sales rising, maybe the bigger question is whether this strategy is as critical to retailers as we once thought. Considering the response, maybe opening your store’s doors on Thanksgiving to get a head start on Black Friday is actually not the way to go. Both this year’s sales figures and this survey seem to say that approach may actually hurt your brand.

What we learn from this can be applied to shopping not just around the holidays but throughout the entire year. If you want to drive sales, you have to give your customers what they want, when and where they want it. This could be an online promotion for those who want to avoid the crowds or a more pleasant in-store experience for those who value the tradition of shopping events. But how do you know what your customers want if you aren’t already engaged with them?

That’s why always keeping the customer experience in mind is so important. It’s not something you can just trot out during the holidays either. Meaningful engagement with customers should be happening year round, so when it comes time to make plans for Holiday Shopping 2015, you already know what your customers want and can give them the most positive experience possible.

Posted in All

The Text Analytics “Duck Test”

If it looks like text analytics, behaves like text analytics, and is called text analytics, it’s probably text analytics, right? Not necessarily.

A text analytics solution may identify key words and phrases, but that does not ensure any level of comprehension or insight. Text analytics should help tell the customer story and empower your brand to make operational adjustments in an instant.

All technology is not created equal. Take a long hard look at your current text analytics solution and decide for yourself if it’s the real deal.

Industry-Tuned Models
A generic text analytics solution can be a powerful addition to your Voice of the Customer (VoC) program. A text analytics solution fine-tuned to the nuances of your industry, on the other hand, is invaluable. Many text analytics programs use the same classification model—regardless of industry. As a result, accuracy suffers and customer insights are potentially overlooked. Take our custom-built Monitor™ analytics for example, where we’re able to categorize incoming customer comments in real time, providing your brand with relevant and actionable insights the minute the data comes in.

Real-Time Analysis
Customer “moments of truth” are formed instantaneously. Your text analytics solution should be able to keep up with critical functions, which operate in real time, and allow for instant notifications on key issues, questionnaire branching changes, and management reporting. As management sees spikes or changes in customer issues, they can drill down with the touch of a button and view the individual comments fueling a customer experience trend.

Speech-to-Text
Speech-to-text technology allows customers to leave voice comments and have their words transcribed and analyzed in real time. This capability enables management to listen to the emotion conveyed by the customer and opens up additional—and less time-consuming—channels for customers to share their experiences.

Insight Accuracy
The average recall score—the percentage of relevant words or phrases retrieved by a text analytics model—of your standard solution is around 50%. That’s essentially the same odds as flipping a coin. Your chosen text analytics solution should have a recall score that clocks in around 90%. Those are good odds.

Comprehension over Computation
Many text analytics solutions employ a statistical model, which counts words. What they tend to be missing is the use of a linguistic model using a natural language processing (NLP) engine. InMoment’s NLP is powered by IBM’s Watson technology and enables our computers to read customer comments and uncover the customer story. Both solutions have their merits, but a linguistic model excels at uncovering experiential customer data.

The Experience Hub™
Wondering what the Experience Hub is? It’s the platform in which we gather loads of experiential customer information. Some of the most valuable data we collect comes in the form of unstructured customer comments. Because your brand should be able to mine insights from any feedback channel, we’ve embedded our text analytics inside of all our products and services.

Introducing the InMoment Experience Hub™

Back in June when Mindshare and Empathica packed the best they had to offer into a shiny, new package called InMoment, something beautiful happened: Our Experience Hub was born.

Why a Hub?
In uniting and rebranding, we found that one-plus-one didn’t just equal two. InMoment was more than the sum of our former parts. Think of bread. You put some yeast, warm water, flour, maybe a little salt and oil together. And in a few hours, those separate ingredients are transformed. The result of our transformation was a new name, but more importantly, a new way of looking at the Customer Experience landscape, and the opportunity to offer our clients even more than we had imagined.

Enter The Experience Hub. We wanted a new vocabulary that reflected our new vision. The Hub started as an idea in the mind of our CEO John Sperry, born out of a dissatisfaction with linear expressions of the way customers tell their stories, the way we capture and mine them for meaning, and the many ways we then tell these stories back to our clients so they can take immediate action.

The Hub is both aspirational and a reflection of what we can deliver today. It was created to evolve as we continue to push ourselves to innovate, to do more, and to help our clients do more for their customers. Here are a few of its essential elements:

Data, Data, Everywhere
We have a lot of expertise in gathering what we call “experience data,” the rich, experiential information that tells you WHY your customers feel the way they do about your brand. Over the years, we’ve collected hundreds of millions of these “whys.” And while getting this information is critical, it’s not really the point. Experience Data, as well as other types of data—CRM, POS, etc.—are just a means to the end.

We gather to understand, so we can help companies act in ways that improve their customers’ experiences—and help their own bottom lines. And so the Hub is data agnostic. As long as it’s quality information, we don’t care where it originates. We will gather some. We’ll partner and build APIs to bring in the rest. We embrace it all.

The Secret Decoder Ring, aka, Highly Tuned Text Analytics
Gartner estimates that by 2017, enterprise data will grow by 800 percent, and 80 percent of it will be unstructured. The good news: This kind of data contains really, really, really valuable information (think contact center recordings and the comment fields in surveys). The bad news: It’s very hard to work with. And so, we’ve spent years and a lot of resources to build what we feel is the best Voice of Customer text analytics tech out there.

Here’s why and how: We built it on a solid foundation, the same Natural Language Processing engine used by IBM’s Watson (remember Jeopardy?). Next, we spent years developing additional layers of proprietary technologies to fine-tune our text analytics capabilities to understand both VoC and specific industry vocabularies. We also take the additional step of calibrating it to individual client needs. Text analytics is a form of artificial intelligence; you have to take time to train it to understand the specific language you want it to read and understand, or it’s just not that effective.

The impact of the time and resource investments we’ve made is huge. Our text analytics are super smart about customer experience, your industry, and your company. Plus, we’ve embedded it inside of our products and services. Smart AND seamless.

Simple and Elegant
This concept is so important to InMoment that it’s one of our brand attributes. What we mean by Simple and Elegant is that, regardless of how complex the collection process or technology might be, because the information needs to be understandable to anyone—a store manager with a high school education or the CEO—the end products and services must be infinitely simple, while at the same time dripping with insights. Simple and Elegant isn’t easy, but it’s mission critical for us.

In the future, we’ll introduce new products and capabilities that add even more functionality and value to the Experience Hub. Stay tuned.

Text Analytics: Separating Hype from Reality

Has anyone not heard of text analytics? How about big data? They are big. They are important. But, they have also become business buzzwords in the customer experience industry, which rival some all-time greats such as: “Web 2.0,” “The Cloud,” “iWhatever,” and “Social Media Marketing.” The problem is that all of the talk makes it extremely difficult for organizations to separate hype from reality. This often means that everyone’s expectations get skewed, and folks are upset when they don’t get the results they thought they would.

Just How Big Is Big Data?
Most of us think of data in terms of gigabytes (1,000 megabytes) or maybe terabytes (1,000 gigabytes). It is estimated that a gigabyte can hold the contents of a bookshelf about 30 feet long and 10 terabytes can hold the entire Library of Congress. Companies that are serious about Big Data usually have several terabytes of data at a minimum and usually much more. From there, we move into petabytes (1,000 terabytes), exabytes (1,000 petabytes), zettabytes (1,000 exabytes) and so on. Estimates put the amount of data for everything that moves across the Internet in a year at about 250 exabytes.

If we were to think of big data as a mathematical formula (channel Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory for a moment), it would look something like this:

BD = Vo + Ve + Va

In this equation, BD is big data, Vo equals the sheer volume of data or records being processed, Ve is the speed at which the data is processed, and Va equals the variety of structured and unstructured data sources.

Big Data, Little Data, and Text Analytics
Gartner defines big data as “high-volume, high-velocity, and high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision making”. So, big data really means big data. Yet, few of the companies serious about it really play in the Big Data league, at least at the scale that defines big data. From what we have seen at many companies, they have a big data problem when they don’t have the right tools to process and mine insights from the data they have. The problem doesn’t reside in the sheer volume of the data but rather in the ability to leverage it effectively across the organization.

Enter the realm of text analytics, which is the process of gleaning information from unstructured text sources. Text analytics holds the promise to help organizations tame the beast that is big data by helping to find key content across a sea of information, identify trends in business operations and processes, classify information based on key pieces of content, and offer insights into the nature of commentary on topics and what is driving the discussion.

Now you’re probably asking yourself, “What can I do with the data I have today?” Don’t fret. Start by thinking in terms of “little data.” Little data is the process of using collected information about individuals or groups of individuals to customize or improve the individual or group of individuals experience with an organization. For example, rental car companies know a customer’s vehicle preference based on past rental experiences.

Focus on the following when planning out an approach to text analytics and little data:

  1. Harness the “little data” you have. Know which data available to you is going to be the most impactful—to your customers, as well as your organization. Data quality matters. Keep in mind the old software adage “Garbage In… Garbage Out.” Get the data right before you try to analyze it.
  2. Use “little data” to drive actions. Stay focused on your organization’s priorities and what key opportunities are in your data. Let text analytics provide actionable insights that can be acted upon quickly rather than searching for the proverbial “needle in a haystack.”
  3. Let “little data” become a real-time process. Don’t wait for weeks or months for data from text analytics to make changes to operational processes. Build the right capabilities, so insights from structured and unstructured data can be acted upon quickly across the enterprise—bottom to top.
  4. “Little data” drives the future. Look for a text analytics solution that can dive deeper into the data, revealing emotion and sentiment as well as frequency counts. Keep in mind that new capabilities are coming from text analytics engines, which can mine customer data for better and deeper insights.

How to Overcome the Outpatient
Feedback Challenge

While most NHS trusts have successfully achieved their inpatient response targets since the Friends and Family Test (FFT) was launched in April 2013, many have found it more difficult to collect responses from patients using their Emergency Departments and community maternity services. This not only hinders them from gaining valuable insight to drive improvements but also has a financial impact as trusts earn funding by achieving their response rate targets.

This challenge is set to get bigger for trusts as the Friends and Family Test extends to cover all outpatient departments. The FFT is set to become a firm fixture for all users of health services in England as the planned roll-out across primary care services will encompass GPs, pharmacies, and opticians, as well as all NHS Trusts.

Overcome the Challenge of Collecting Feedback
To date, some NHS trusts have achieved a good response rate from inpatients by ensuring they collect feedback before patients leave the hospital, although this does require investment of time from the ward staff. However, in busy outpatient clinics with people constantly coming and going it can be hard to get patients to stay long enough to provide feedback—of course, many will be dashing to retrieve a car, do a school run, catch a bus, or get back to work!

Yet, the challenge of collecting feedback from busy people going about their daily lives has long been overcome by many commercial organisations. Over the last ten years, more and more commercial companies have collected feedback from users of their services—usually by handing them a small card or something similar, which invites the customer to call or go online to give feedback once they reach home or get back to work. Millions of customers annually give feedback in this way across a whole range of customer experiences including grabbing a coffee, the weekly shop, or a host of social occasions in pubs, restaurants, and even the cinema.

Translate Commercial Experience to NHS
There are a number of best practices gleaned from the commercial sector that translate well to the NHS. Many of these have already been taken up by healthcare providers who work with InMoment to collect actionable feedback from their patients, including Boots pharmacies and opticians, The Transform Group, and Surrey & Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust.

Understanding people’s motivations for providing feedback can help organisations identify the important factors in achieving a strong response rate. When InMoment asked respondents to their customer surveys why they took the time to give feedback, the survey showed that the most frequently mentioned reasons for customers giving feedback were, firstly, that the customer had an experience that was important to them that they wanted to share and, secondly, they wanted to help the organisation to improve and continue to provide a valued service for the local community. Both these reasons are equally valid for outpatient NHS services as they are for commercially driven services.

Commercial experience also demonstrates the value of employees being engaged and enthusiastic about hearing from customers and driving improvements. Response rates vary significantly and retailers can drive a ten-fold increase when their staff members get involved in letting customers know they value their feedback and want to hear about their experience.

Commercial experience demonstrates that a well-designed programme that is easy for patients and valued by enthusiastic staff can successfully deliver feedback from robust patient numbers year after year. As one enlightened Patient Experience Manager told me, the people attending outpatient clinics and using community services are exactly the same people who are completing InMoment surveys after visiting Starbucks, Boots, Tesco, and Waitrose!

They’ll Never Forget…

Originally published at

I’m a lucky man. As part of my job, I’m able to meet with leadership at some of the largest and best brands in the world. These executives are already evangelists for creating stellar customer experiences. They’ve invested in the best technology, changed their processes, the executive teams and boards have bought in; they’ve infused customer-centricity into their cultures. And they’re seeing results in the form of higher CSAT and NPS scores, lower churn and better retention, not to mention more engaged employees.

But these men and women don’t invite me into their offices to boast about their accomplishments. They come to me hungry, wanting to know how they can do more. Having already raised their bars, they ask what else they should be doing to take their companies even higher.

Where Metrics Give Way to Stories
With all the traditional CX boxes checked, the conversations always turn inward to the promises they’ve made to their employees and customers, and how well they feel they’re keeping those promises. At that point, metrics fall away and they share stories. Stories about how they want to make their customers feel about doing business with their companies. And how they and their employees feel when they get it right.

It’s a fascinating process, especially since these are the same executives who continually beat the drums of “measurable results” and “ROI.” And they should. Because as crass as it sounds, the success or failure of companies and careers is defined by how many widgets we sell.

This conflict between the very human and the down-to-business sides of what we do in the realm of customer experience is real. And because our ability to measure and prove will always be central to how we define success, it’s more difficult to articulate and value the “softer” side.

Thankfully, we’ve got a few things going for us. First, we’re all customers, and as such, we get the importance of feeling valued at a gut level. We don’t need ROI numbers to know how big a role emotion plays in the brands to which we commit ourselves in our personal lives.

Loyalty Is a Feeling
There’s also a growing body of both qualitative and quantitative research that confirms how critical the emotional component of customers’ experiences are to our success. I recently attended Forrester Research’s Forum for Customer Experience Professionals. VP & Principal Analyst Megan Burns discussed the results of research titled “Introducing Forrester’s Next-Generation Customer Experience Index,” which the firm recently conducted across a variety of industries.

They found that how customers feel about their experience has more impact on loyalty than any other factor for 11 out of the 17 industries that they test—more than how well a product works, how much it costs, or how convenient it is to get or use. And for the other six industries, how customers feel is at least as important as other factors.

When people in our business use the word “loyalty,” it means something. Loyal customers spend more money with our brands, purchase more often, and refer friends and family. They’ll pass up lower prices, closer competitors, and other temptations to engage with us. Loyal customers are our Holy Grail.

So how do we focus on making our customers feel more valued, and at the same time keep our eye on the bottom-line prize? How do we make sure our motivations and efforts stay authentic and don’t stray into the smarmy and manipulative? We’ve already seen some organizations bring in top-level executives charged with sitting in for the customer at the decision-making table. Other companies are changing how and who they hire—focusing on frontline team members with higher EQs (emotional intelligence quotients).

And these are great places to start. But what about the C-suite team? Are your CTO and CFO customer-centric? How about your KPIs? Are you incenting and empowering employees at every level of your organization—from procurement to programming—to think about how each action impacts the people at the end of the chain?

Balancing the Practical and the Aspirational
We can all do more. We can stop asking what we want to know, and start listening to what our customers want to tell us: their stories, in their own words. We can stop abdicating our responsibility to bureaucracy, technology, vendors, or partners and just do what needs to be done to make it right.

In her remarks, Burns cited a quote from the late poet Maya Angelou that we should all adopt as a mantra:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

If we can achieve that sublime balance between the practical and the aspirational with our customers and continually seek to do more, they will respond. When we stay true to our brands, which are the souls of our organizations, and keep the promises we’ve made, we won’t have to worry so much about that bottom line. It will take care of itself.

How Technology Has Changed the Customer Experience

The customer experience is not the same today as it was years ago. Technology has played a pivotal role in that evolution.

Today, customers have the ability to leave feedback in any form they like (in-store, online, by phone, etc.). And if these channels aren’t available, customers can take to social media to share their brand experiences. No matter the circumstances, if a customer has an interaction with your brand, chances are they’re going to talk about it.

Customer expectations are higher than they used to be, and the way customers experience brands has changed. Technology enables companies to learn, adapt, and exceed customer expectations.

Feedback without Friction

By offering a convenient channel for every customer to leave constructive feedback, your organization can begin to understand the root causes behind changes in performance—at any level.

For many customers, social media is the most convenient channel to leave feedback. Until recently, companies had no way to tap into the unstructured customer data being shared on popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Now, customers can share their feedback on their social media channel of choice immediately after a brand interaction. Tools like GoRecommend™ and OpenTell™ allow customers to publicly share their experience without the friction normally associated with traditional surveys.

Text analytics has also played a crucial role in the evolution of the customer experience. Brands are able to analyze open-ended, natural language comments (unstructured) as well as customer feedback collected from standard surveys (structured) and identify root causes and suggest clear plans of action to resolve and prevent customer issues.

Perfecting the Customer Experience

VoC feedback solutions provide vital insights explaining the cause and effect of customer perceptions. The right customer experience platform will automatically aggregate and analyze all customer voices to reveal opportunities for improvement in full detail—advising for issues at specific times of day, geographical locations, demographics, languages, and other defining parameters.

In this way, companies can balance the wants and needs of their customers with the financial and strategic priorities of the organization to create a mutually beneficial relationship with their customers.

Social Media for Customer Support & Brand Advocacy

Business itself—not just marketing—is now happening outside of the old business district. Out “there” where marketing has already wandered, there is now actual shopping, purchasing, couponing, and… customer support.

That’s right. Customer support.

Customer support, by nature, has traditionally been a “we’ll be here if you need us” type of operation. And not long ago that was enough. It was very generous of a company to dedicate a sector of their business for customers to visit or call. How convenient, right? Not anymore. Customers will decreasingly come to find you, especially as other businesses make the effort to find them first.

In an article published by The Wharton School, we learn that, “When companies today try to meet their customers where they live, they increasingly find that it is on social media. Now that such sites are an integral part of the culture, using them for customer care is moving from cutting-edge concept to business necessity.”

So, how do you proactively support customers over social media? Here are just a few words of advice:

Connect “Support” and “Advocacy” in Your Agents’ Minds

Redefine support. Even a goal to “resolve customer concerns” leaves a lot of ambiguity. Clearly communicate to your agents how customers are to be treated. Drill that into their minds even more than your policies and company lines. Once the standard of service has been set where it needs to be, there are ways to help ensure it’s met. Use the voice of your customers to learn where your agents need the most training and motivate the right behaviors by sharing positive customer reactions to the support they were given.

Encourage social advocacy. I’m with Nicole Fallon of Business News Daily, who says, “Instead of figuring out how to manage and respond to those negative comments, businesses should focus on providing such excellent service that they create a strong, loyal customer base that will advocate on their behalf if someone has something bad to say.”

Having customer advocates means you’ll have voices defending your brand on forums where someone may have posted a negative comment. When using social media for your support, you also have the advantage that the support channel and the advocacy channel are one and the same—so someone receiving timely customer support responses through Twitter or Facebook is perfectly positioned to turn around and share their positive experience with friends, family, and followers. You can and should even create a strategy for encouraging them to do just that.

Stay True to the Sample Size of One™

Reply to Everyone. The technology is out there to alert your team whenever your brand is mentioned on social sites, including blogs and forums. With the right strategy, not only can you reply to every customer comment, you can do it within 16 minutes (the recommended time). In the words of one Sofie De Beule, “Customers show no mercy for unanswered messages.”

Take the Right Tone. In the rush to respond to everyone, it’s important to make sure responses are not canned or impersonal. In the article “The Ignored Side of Social Media: Customer Service,” Bianca Buckridee, vice president of social media operations for JPMorgan Chase, said, “Using the right tone with customers is not a ‘set it and forget it’ model. You have to do almost continuous daily coaching and training. . . . You have to keep monitoring.” She also described how her team might look at a customer’s Facebook page, timeline, or Pinterest pinboard before crafting a response. “We strive to make it look real-time, but we’re really doing a ton of research in the back.”

Conclusion: Social media has already seen more than enough adoption to deserve a solid strategy in your business and contact center. As social media continues to evolve and diversify, it’s important to stay on top of it through proactive strategy and the real-time customer experience optimization tools for understanding how to create KPI improvements through social media.

Turning Up the Heat on Summer Sales

We are set for a scorcher of a summer, apparently, with the Met Office predicting above average temperatures for June, July, and August. This no doubt will mean a shopping frenzy around BBQs, burgers, buns, and beer—and that’s before we look at salads, sauces, and suntan cream!

We Brits love a barbecue. Indeed, according to TNS BMRB, 18.5 million adults in the UK have a barbecue at home. After a couple of sunny spring bank holidays have whetted our appetites, consumers should have a huge appetite for some outdoor eating and be happy to spend money on impulse purchases as well as the essentials. Even with our unpredictable climate, the garden leisure market is sizeable. ResearchandMarkets.com estimate that it was worth over £571 million in 2011; and with the UK climate becoming warmer, we’re seeing the barbecue season expand while demand for garden leisure products increase.

Finding Sweet Spots to Optimise Sales
From a commercial perspective, barbecues have a very broad appeal, which means retailers need to use as much customer intelligence as possible to optimise sales. Some consumer groups will want value burgers and buns and deals on mainstream drinks, while others will be looking for a much more exotic product range. The volume potential on the basics will be significant but the much bigger margins will of course be on premium food, drink, accessories, and hardware. There will also be opportunity around vegetarian options, and other special dietary requirements. Key considerations across the board being adequate stock supplies and staff knowledge.

Depending on how long the hot spell lasts, retailers will want to maintain the momentum accordingly. And this is where insight can help. The InMoment platform will help you capture customer experience data and provide the right intelligence for managers, even at a very local level, to understand the sweet spots around this very specific market environment. The reality is that a rush of traffic is the perfect opportunity to win new fans and also to build loyalty in your existing customer base. New shoppers may well be tempted by strong merchandising and great customer service, especially if their regular store is falling short. And existing customers should spend more if you delight them with great service and a range of products to meet their needs.

Local Insights for Consistent Experiences
Today’s customer experience programs are focused on helping local managers to uncover what elements are most important to a great experience, and also help drive the right frontline actions to ensure those key elements are consistently delivered. These programmes help to provide accountability to local managers, ensure consistency across every location, and coach local managers on what to fix and how to execute, eliminating wasted time spent reading and interpreting reports.

Having the tools in place to ensure a consistently great customer experience becomes especially critical at opportunistic sales peaks, like a random heat wave, because getting it right could result in recruiting new customers who may be converted for the long term—way after the sun has set and the rain returns!

Translation Is Just the Tip of the International Customer Experience Iceberg

Nan Russell, head of our Global Centre of Excellence, offers her expert advice to set your international customer experience management (CEM) programme on the right path and ensure your brand doesn’t get ‘lost in translation’.

The potential of going global with a brand is often an attractive prospect. Establishing an international customer base, favourable overseas economic conditions, and competitive cost of goods mean many companies seek to expand into new international markets. Their success depends on how well their brand offering is received by customers in each market, and a robust customer feedback programme is an essential foundational element to shape a brand’s development. But international consumer engagement is beset with pitfalls for the ill-prepared, as several well-publicised cases have highlighted.

We’ve all heard of some infamous international brand faux pas. Vauxhall had to relaunch its Nova model as the Corsa in Spain upon discovering the literal translation of ‘Nova’ in Spanish is ‘it won’t go’. Similarly, when fast food giant Kentucky Fried Chicken opened its first restaurant in Beijing, its famous slogan ‘Finger-lickin’ good’ was translated to ‘We’ll eat your fingers off’! In fact, numerous world-famous companies have stumbled when expanding into new markets, risking damage to their brand reputation and sales.

These days, social media quickly amplifies such mistakes around the globe, meaning those responsible for brand reputation have to work even harder to avoid the ‘bad translation’ (and resulting schadenfreude) at every stage of the customer journey. While it is essential for brands to engage customers in the language of the location, achieving this across borders and during every customer interaction poses a number of major challenges.

Don’t just translate the right words; use the right tone
It’s certainly not as easy as simply translating an invitation or survey from one language to another. Brands seeking to communicate their own brand values overseas must also consider local cultural values, rules of conduct, tone, and linguistic nuances such as humour and slang. Does the formal use of honorifics such as ‘sir’ or ‘madam’ set the right tone for your brand in Japan, where their use is often mandatory? Or is your brand casual and breezy, and would your customers be more comfortable with a less formal approach?

Measure on the right scales
The cultural impact on market research scoring patterns is one of subtle complexity. On a 5-point scale—with 5 being the best score—does a 4 mean the same thing in Germany and Japan and Mexico? German schools use a rating system in which 1 is the best score and 5 would be near failing. Knowing the correct scoring scales to use in each market is crucial.

Use the right interpretation
Market and cultural differences in relative ‘hard’ or ‘easy’ grading complicates use of American-designed indices, such as the Net Promoter Score. Customers in some markets would be shocked that their scores of an 8 (on a 10-point scale) are not considered Promoters. There is wide variance in how customers in different markets rate great service; it is important not to assign meanings that they did not intend.

Set the right targets
Once you’re using the right scales, how do you drive improvement? Many businesses want to set a single, global target. For example, every market is expected to achieve 70% on Overall Satisfaction. But the reality is that goal may be simply out of reach for markets that are ‘hard raters’; an Overall Satisfaction score of 65% may be much harder to attain in Germany than a 75% is in Italy.

The meaningful comparison typically is not the score but the improvement ratio. By targeting a level of improvement (for example, all markets are expected to improve six percentage points in the next fiscal year), each market can identify ways to drive their improvement within the relevant context.

Provide the right support
As part of that drive for consistent improvement, it is not enough to report scores; it is essential to support in-market teams with action planning tools. Location managers are often fluent in languages other than those spoken by the corporate executives. Reporting and action planning must be delivered in the language of the people driving the business on the ground.

For further expert advice, read our white paper
Top 10 Tips for a Successful Global Customer Experience Programme

One Size Doesn’t Fit All When It Comes to Designing Great International Customer Experiences

International ShoppingWith more than 25 years of experience in global research design and implementing multinational, multichannel customer insight programs, Nan Russell, head of our new Global Centre of Excellence, offers her expert advice to help you to prepare a successful multi-cultural customer experience management (CEM) programme to set you on the road to international business success.

The Chancellor’s latest budget announcement to double the UK Export Finance lending scheme and cut lending rates by a third, was welcomed by many brands looking to expand and export overseas. Well-established brands seeking growth increasingly look to expand into international markets as domestic markets become saturated. Key questions start to emerge around how best to put the customer at the heart of the business across widely different markets and ensure global consistency while addressing local customer needs.

Consistently delivering great experiences is a huge competitive advantage in emerging markets and a key differentiator in mature markets. However, achieving this across borders, markets and cultures poses a number of major challenges which can make or break a growing business.

To manage a business globally, being able to compare performance across locations and countries is crucial. But some businesses make a mistake in trying to make all things the same. A ‘one size fits all’ approach is certainly not the way forward and recognizing that you’re not working on a level playing field in different markets is a vital first step. In global CEM, there are multiple layers of challenges – from differences in technological capabilities and readiness to adopt customer experience strategies to cultural restrictions.

Cultural challenges In some countries the concept of ‘customer service’ is a new idea, and being asked to give your opinion even newer. In markets where people have not previously had the freedom or the cultural impetus to express their preferences, it can be a challenge to drive responses.

Ten years ago, when implementing the first CEM programmes in Asia, clients repeatedly said ‘no one will respond – they’ve never been asked to provide their opinion and are too reserved to make their opinions known.’ In reality, CEM programmes have thrived in Asian markets when they have provided a culturally appropriate opportunity for continued engagement with the brand. It is a mark of respect to appreciate your customers and ask for their insight.

Technology challenges Countries are at different points in their CEM journey. Some still use mystery shopping and/ or paper-based surveys; some have leaped to full scale CEM, whilst others have yet to begin to focus on the customer experience at all. Some markets have taken advantage of the newest technologies, seeking customer feedback via tablet and Near Field Communication and QR codes, while others have only ever received feedback via pen and paper. However, don’t simply go for the lowest common denominator – just because some of your target markets may not be ready for a web-based survey methodology does not mean that all markets need to wait implement it.

Service challenges For markets that will be using CEM for the first time, it can be scary to hear directly from their customers. They may not like what they will hear. In such markets where the business focus on customer experience is new, coaching managers to deliver a consistent level of experience is difficult; helping front line staff see the value of consistently engaging their customers is even more daunting.

At Empathica, we assess market readiness carefully in designing a bespoke global programme for each individual brand. We work with you to build the optimal programme under the opportunities and challenges of each of your target markets. What is crucial to the programme design is to understand what drives successful adoption within each particular brand’s business and build on the type of introduction that works in that business.

For further expert advice, read our white paper – Top 10 Tips For a Successful Global Customer Experience Programme

Seven Ways Tablets Are Changing Restaurant Customer Experience

Tablet at RestaurantThe inexorable rise of mobile technology continues to shape the way we shop, dine out and use our leisure time. According to the latest figures from e-tail industry body IMRG and advisory firm Capgemini, while total online sales rose 18% year-on-year in December to £11.1bn, sales via mobile devices doubled to £3bn. Indeed, mobiles and tablet computers are now used for nearly 6% of all retail sales as Brits embrace shopping anytime, anywhere. This trend presents both a challenge and an opportunity for brands in the eating and drinking out sector. With consumers increasingly carrying the technology around in their pockets, brands also have the opportunity to communicate with customers more frequently, and savvy brands are using technology to improve their guests’ experience. Tablets are a driving force behind innovations in the front-end restaurant customer experience, whether in a quick service or a fast casual establishment. As more and more restaurants embrace tablet technology, there are several ways that they are revolutionizing the restaurant experience for brands and consumers.
  1. Seamless Dining Experiences – Inspired by the ease of exceptional online buying events, guests value restaurants that provide seamless, hassle-free experiences from the moment they are seated through to the moment they pay. In many cases, restaurants are using tablets to offer table-side payment or other activities that streamline and improve the guest’s dining experience.
  2. Cut the Queues – Fast food restaurants are using tablets to speed up the food ordering process and cut down on waiting time for customers. Orders can be taken from queuing customers on a wireless tablet to be ready for quick collection and payment at the counter, thus creating a positive brand experience.
  3. Enhanced Interaction – Opportunities for enhanced interaction are prime targets for restaurants interested in improving customer experiences with tablet technology. Restaurants on the leading edge of tablet deployments have installed tablets at tables, allowing guests to interact with menus, place orders, pay bills and perform a range of other self-serve functions. Similarly, restaurants are exploring the use of promotional content or pay-as-you-go games that provide entertainment or customer engagement opportunities while guests wait for their food to arrive. These kinds of activities drive bottom-line improvements by leveraging customer experiences to increase loyalty.
  4. “On the Fly” Data Insights – Tablets offer a non-threatening and engaging resource that restaurants can use to capture customer insights. While many guests are hesitant to provide personal information when they pay their bills or at the request of their servers, they are less resistant to providing data on their own terms, especially if the submission of data is tied to a discount or contest. Multi-site restaurants can leverage tablets to capture data insights at the local level, helping them tailor the customer experience to the desires and preferences of local consumers.
  5. Guest Reviews – A great time to capture guest reviews is before they leave the restaurant, while details of the experience are top of mind. Willingness to provide feedback is also much greater with this immediacy, since even the most satisfied guests often don’t feel compelled to rate their experience later. In the restaurant industry, reviews are a key element in customer acquisition, and table-side tablets offer a ready-made resource for encouraging guests to share feedback about service, cuisine or other aspects of their experience. Reviews captured via tablets can then be used to build brand reputation and modify the customer experience based on guests’ suggestions.
  6. Multichannel Feedback – Consumers use many different touch points to connect with the restaurant brands that are important to them. Surveys and other tools delivered on tablet devices create feedback that can be shared across all available channels, increasing the impact of brand advocacy and positive mentions. In particular, restaurants need to prioritize the use of tablets to capture feedback that can be distributed via social channels.
  7. Enhanced Employee Engagement – One of the largest challenges with customer feedback is how to use the results when they arrive. Tablets can help to reshape this challenge by bringing results to life in a meaningful way to customer facing staff. Data visualization capabilities on tablets are extensive, but again the challenge is more than simply presenting guest feedback in a “pretty” way; it’s presenting it in a meaningful way that motivates staff and will drive guest experience improvement.
The real innovation in the use of tablet technology is that it enables restaurant brands to forge meaningful, direct connections among guests, restaurant managers and their staff. The deployment of table-side tablets gives guests more immediate options, inviting them to participate in activities that strengthen their relationship with the brand. Just as importantly, tablets can significantly improve a restaurant’s ability to capture feedback and provide local guest insights—important factors in the brand’s ability to create and deliver enhanced customer experiences.

Customer Surveys in the Social Media Age

We’ve come a long way since lengthy paper surveys were first introduced to gather customer feedback. Technological developments over the decades have transformed the way brands interact with, and learn from, consumers into the sophisticated tools we see today. We have also seen explosive growth in customer reviews over the past few years. Now, the ongoing saga and court case over fake reviews on Yelp have shone a spotlight on the growing importance (and hazards) of online reviews for brand reputation. The power of such customer reviews is undeniable. A recent study from the Nielsen Company found that 84% of people trust online recommendations from friends and 68% trust consumer opinions posted online, which rank #1 and #3 respectively in terms of trusted advertising sources. And not only do people trust these recommendations, they are also using them to make purchasing decisions: Three quarters of people say they use Facebook to make decisions about where to eat or shop, and half have tried a new restaurant based on a recommendation they saw on social media.

So, are we witnessing the latest feedback evolution? Are social media reviews the new customer surveys?

For brands, the emergence of review sites is a double-edged sword. Amateur critics tend to write about either great or terrible experiences, and leave reviews full of glowing praise or angry complaints. And it is the recognised power of these online comments to either make or break a business’ reputation that lies at the heart of the Yelp court case. The 4 Main Challenges with Review Sites Quality of Reviews As the Yelp case highlights, because reviews may or may not be from real customers, their quality is questionable at best. Indeed, Yelp admits that one in five reviews on the site are ‘suspicious’; it just can’t be sure which ones are fake. Quantity of Reviews With typically only a handful of customers posting an online review, there just aren’t enough reviews for a consumer to make a well-informed decision. Recency of Reviews Reviews are often old and not a fair representation of what is actually happening NOW at the location. Focus of Reviews Because consumers are commenting on whatever they choose (rather than being directed to answer questions about the service elements most important to brand loyalty), there is no way to know whether the comments will actually help brands to improve. A reviewer saying the ‘food was poor’, for example, gives the location manager nothing to go on to know which element of the food was poor—was it the taste, temperature, portion size, or all of the above? Embracing Newer, Diversified Data While we can acknowledge that reviews are definitely a new type of survey, they’re unlikely to displace all other types. Reviews do provide a good indication of overall performance and how a location measures up against a few basic key drivers. But brands also need to delve deeper by asking specific questions to enable managers to understand which elements are most important to a great brand experience, and also help drive the right frontline actions to ensure those key elements are consistently delivered. So, how can brands uncover the needles of actionable insights in the ever-growing, ever-diversifying haystack of customer feedback? In particular, how do they best leverage the growing phenomenon of online reviews? The good news is that, since those days of paper surveys, we’ve gained decades of experience figuring out what data has to say and how to make use of it. Through today’s enhanced text analytic tools, businesses can now gather any unstructured text feedback, such as online reviews, and view it alongside structured survey feedback to give enhanced customer insight to drive operational improvements. Transparency Is the Trump Card In today’s ‘Yelp-gate’ age, transparency has become of paramount importance for brands wanting consumers’ trust and custom. Products such as OpenTell™ have been developed to overcome the current challenges brands face with review sites, collecting authentic reviews in high volume and only allowing verified customers to publish reviews to avoid fraudulent activity from skewing customer ratings and influencing public perception. If social media has taught us one thing, it’s this: power is now in the hands of individuals, and every customer counts. Brands must learn to leverage their feedback to gain insight and harness the power of online reviews. In this data-driven age, using the right tools will help brands to stay ahead of the competition by empowering them to turn insight into the right operational actions that drive business improvement.

The 4 Keys to VoC Success: Key #4 – Continuous Evolution through Research & Analysis

Welcome to the final part of my four-part blog series. So far, I have discussed getting full executive sponsorship, going beyond surveys to build an ongoing customer connection, and making feedback data actionable at the location level. If you’ve been following along, you’ve seen how closely intertwined these elements are. The trend continues below with Key #4 to VoC Success.

Key to Success #4: Use Research & Analysis to Adapt to Evolving Program Needs

Know Your Results

Like any major initiative and investment, the impact your VoC program has on your brand must be understood in clear terms for it to be successful. Gaining this type of understanding first requires effective measurement and management of program results.

With so many sources of disparate data to sift through at a brand and location level, this is no small task. Frankly, the best option for handling it is to… have someone else do it. Really. Make sure the VoC vendor you are working with is delivering an accurate representation of your customers’ perceptions. And make sure they’re making your life easier by delivering it in a simple, understandable format.

Adapt Your Program

Once you begin to understand the results coming in, you can identify meaningful customer trends and opportunities for improvement. On top of that, though, you’ll likely begin seeing areas where more or different information would be helpful. Again, your VoC vendor should be able to help. This is where you need to make sure regular adjustments are being made to your program, through research & analysis.

The figure to the right outlines a simple four-step process for helping you stay focused on the most impactful elements within your customer experience—by ensuring you get the most detailed and useful information you can. Survey design & build, loyalty modeling, multivariate statistical analyses, and regular strategic reviews are all key to continuous program evolution.

Deliver on Your Brand Promise

By incorporating the 4 Keys to VoC Success (as discussed in this four-part series) any brand can understand and deliver the experience their customers want. When delivering on your brand promise, they will happily make return visits and become active brand advocates. In return, you will be rewarded with increased revenue, accompanied by positive reviews and recommendations.

Red Shoes Pillar #3: Stories

This article first appeared in the opinion section of Aftermarket News
on April 11, 2014.

It was originally written as a guest commentary by Lonnie Mayne.

Photo taken by Flickr user Garry Knight

Everyone Has a Story

Every last person out there has their signature features—visible clues that tease out their story. It could be a glaring flaw or a glowing trait: a tendency to talk too fast, a flair for the dramatic, a hard time getting out of bed, an appreciation for birds, an addiction to texting, a love for baseball, even a broken finger that never healed right.

It doesn’t really matter whether it’s negative, positive, or neutral—what matters is that it’s there and it outwardly marks their experience.

These unique clues are powerful elements in the customer experience, because they are personal—just like good business is today. Commerce has taken on a very integral role in our daily lives, and I’m not saying this as a lament that “Corporate America” and “the Material World” are taking over our lives; I’m saying that technology and community have (thankfully) allowed personal life to reassert itself within the workplace and marketplace.

We can’t afford to forget what Christopher Locke so perfectly states in his book, The Cluetrain Manifesto:

“Corporations are legal fictions, willing suspensions of disbelief. Pry the roof off any company and what do you find? The Cracker Jack prize is ourselves, just ordinary people.”

Journey to the Center

I hearken back to childhood often, and I invite anyone who will listen to do the same. The reason I do this is that it gives me perspective. There’s something amazing about looking back on a person so innocent and so different from us—yet who IS us.

Viewing our personal leap from then to now is both awe-inspiring and instructive. By retracing the knotted thread that ties us back to our childhood selves, I believe we get closer to our true self. We get closer to finding an answer to North’s question in Rise of the Guardians, “What is your center?”

That thread, that magical twine that perfectly explains your lifelong metamorphosis, is your story. I encourage you to retrace it whenever you get the chance.

The Things You Keep

We all began this life without much more to our name than an appetite—for food, for knowledge, for love.

Our interests and possessions increase quickly, and fairly suddenly, but we outgrow most of them in a matter of months. We advance through our early development so rapidly that what’s useful one day is outgrown the next. I can name so many things from my childhood that I no longer have use for: my onesies, my liquids-only diet, my diapers, my 11-hour nights, my bib, my night light, my tricycle, my wagon, and the list goes on.

We do so much outgrowing of childhood things that we can be excused for feeling like everything from the past is meant to be outgrown and left behind. But the reality is that the most important things from our childhood—the relationships, the bonds, the purity of motive—are meant to grow with us.

When you retrace your story, pay attention to the things that have grown with you. Those are the things that define your story the most.

See Your Customer’s Story

Customers can connect in a more meaningful, committed, and loyal way to the human side of your company than they can to the material or operational side. That’s not to say loyalty isn’t contingent upon fulfilling transactional expectations, but the hard, historical truth is that people are wired to connect best with each other. It’s through other people that we find validation, positive emotion, and meaning.

When we, as customers, interact with company employees who are guided first and foremost by human empathy, our instinct is to welcome that employee, and the brand they represent, into our lives. Yes, companies should train employees to make sure they are also guided by brand attributes and company policies, but they can’t afford to bury employees’ personalities under scripted procedures.

The key to fitting your company into a customer’s story is to help them validate their own story through yours. That takes human understanding. If we as leaders can cultivate a culture of human appreciation that reaches frontline employees and empowers them to see, appreciate, and validate the stories of individual customers—then we will have won.

Who Knows Yours?

Looking and listening for clues into your customers’ stories should take priority over publicizing or promoting your own—but that doesn’t mean you can take without giving. As individuals and as brands we must be willing to openly share our real, imperfect selves with others if we expect to gain their trust and loyalty.

I’ll speak more about this in Pillar #5, “Putting Yourself Out There,” but it’s worth asking right now if you have retraced your own thread recently to get a sense of your story, self, and center? Have you done anything recently to show that true identity to others? Who knows your story?

If you have a moment, which I know many of you don’t, I encourage you to check out BYUtv’s Story Trek. This wonderful program follows reporter Todd Hansen as he knocks on doors and finds amazing stories behind every single one.

You can do the same.

Entrepreneur Article: Evolve or Die in the Age of the Customer

Entrepreneur was recently kind enough to lend me their Webspace for sharing some thoughts on business and customer experience in today’s market.

I’ve been around long enough to see a pretty significant and cool change take root in the way business is done. And while I cherish the learning I did long ago in an environment rather dissimilar to today’s, I love reimaging those formative scenarios in the advanced confines of the modern market.

That’s the approach I’ve taken for examining the “Age of the Customer,” Big Data, and the importance of evolution in my article “Evolve or Die in the Age of the Customer.” Check it out by clicking the link(s).

The 4 Keys to Voice of the Customer Success: Key #3 – Action at the Location Level

We are now on Part Three in this four-part series on VoC success. Check out the first two keys now if you missed them earlier: 1. Get full executive sponsorship and 2. Go beyond surveys to build an ongoing customer connection. These two keys will drive your third key to VoC success.

Key to Success #3: Make Customer Feedback Data Actionable at the Location Level

Every location manager brings a unique skill set and level of maturity to their job. This creates slight variations in the leadership approach at each location and even each shift. These variations in leadership aren’t a problem in and of themselves—but when regular communication of key deliverables is lacking, it can lead to significant straying from the brand promise.

With clear communication of location-level deliverables, however, a wide variety of management styles can be equally successful in engaging employees and creating a great customer experience. The real problem, then, is that most traditional enterprise feedback management (EFM) reporting does not communicate the right things well, if at all.

Some reports may address only generic companywide talking points that don’t specifically apply to a single location. Others get down to local data but never make the figures understandable to those of us without a PhD in statistical analysis. Location managers simply don’t have the time or training to wade through piles of data tables and reports to get the answers they need.

Simplicity Is Quick, and Quick Is Empowering

The key is to empower location managers with tools that will help them to quickly identify local, branded needs, so they can take the necessary actions (in their own management style) to implement positive changes in the customer experience.

Take our Coach Local Dashboard for example. It was designed specifically for location managers to take the complexity out of customer feedback data, helping them to deliver consistent and memorable customer experiences. Through interactive visual cues, the dashboard eliminates the need to search through complex reports in search of customer experience improvement insights and leverages prescriptive reporting technology to set focus areas.

As a result, location managers can create, edit and execute action plans that address these challenges, as well as monitor and track progress against their goals toward encouraging return visits and increasing your brand strength.

The dashboard also facilitates social sharing of community-sourced content, giving location managers insight into a living best practices library of what’s working for the top-performing locations and how it could be applied in their team.


Just one more key to go in this series on VoC success! Stay tuned for the final installment, where I will discuss the fourth and final key to VoC success: Use research and analysis to adapt to evolving program needs.

Don’t Bank on the Weather, but Great Customer Experience Will Always Pay Off

While meteorologists argue over forecasts for May, recent glimmers of warmer weather have increased our hopes for a sunny spring and a repeat of last summer’s heat wave. With two bank holidays to look forward to, this could be very welcome news for operators in the leisure and retail industries.

What’s Worth Paying For?

A recent report reveals many Brits consider eating out at a high-end restaurant an experience worth paying for and are as likely to save up for fine dining as for a holiday. This is good news for brands offering eating & drinking destinations and days out, who could well enjoy some positive outcome here.

Despite continued caution in consumer spending, families are still spending an average of £40.50 per household per week on eating out at restaurants and hotel breaks, and £19.80 per week on other recreational activities such as days out and visits to cinemas. Apart from the potential immediate sales boost from two long weekends that embrace Mondays, there is also a fantastic opportunity here to engage with new customers and build loyalty that results in long-term commercial benefits.

The key is to implement a Customer Experience Management (CEM) programme that delivers real insights into what your customer really feels about their experience with your brand. By asking the right questions, you will be able to understand what elements of your offer are most important to a great experience, helping to drive the right actions for ensuring those key elements are consistently delivered.

The Right Feel for Guests & Families

You need to gain a deep understanding of how a great experience looks and, more importantly, how it feels for your customers. You need to connect with your customers at an emotional level to understand what really makes them tick. There’s a world of difference between asking whether a restaurant appeared clean and whether the customer felt it to be welcoming and inviting. The right questions should always be personal to both your brand and your customers.

Bank holidays are big family occasions. So, what are the key issues for parents eating out with small children: speed of being seated, speed of ordering, speed of delivery? Do people want child-size portions of adult dishes or the perennial children’s favourites? Are customers looking for innovative ways of getting their “five a day” or are they looking for a break from the routine of healthy meals? Is the provision of play areas or simple tabletop activities more important for a great customer experience? It’s only by asking the right questions that you can gain valuable insight into what real customers think and feel about your brand, giving you the knowledge you need to help your brand succeed. Only then can the right actions be determined, as you know the right issues are being addressed.

The best CEM programmes help brands to stay ahead of the competition by empowering them to turn research into great experiences.

Don’t Bank On The Weather – But Great Customer Experience Will Always Pay Off!

Family at restaurantA recent report reveals many Brits consider eating out at a high-end restaurant an experience worth paying for and are as likely to save up for fine dining as for a holiday.  This is good news for brands offering eating and drinking destinations and days out, who could well enjoy some positive outcome here. And, despite continued caution in consumer spending, families are still spending an average of £40.50 per household per week on eating out at restaurants and hotel breaks, and £19.80 per week on other recreational activities such as days out and visits to cinemas. Apart from the potential immediate sales boost from two long weekends that embrace Mondays, there is also a fantastic opportunity here to engage with new customers and build loyalty that results in long term commercial benefits. The key is to implement a Customer Experience Management (CEM) programme that delivers real insights into what your customer really feels about their experience with your brand. By asking the right questions, you will be able to understand what elements of your offer are most important to a great experience, and also help drive the right actions to ensure those key elements are consistently delivered. You need to gain a deep understanding of what a great experience looks and more importantly feels like for your customers. You need to connect with your customers at an emotional level to understand what really makes them tick. There’s a world of difference between asking whether a restaurant appeared clean and whether the customer felt it to be welcoming and inviting. The right questions should always be personal to both your brand and your customers. Bank holidays are big family occasions. So, for example, what are the key issues for parents eating out with small children – speed of being seated, speed of ordering, speed of delivery? Do people want child-size portions of adult dishes or the perennial children’s favourites? Are customers looking for innovative ways of presenting their five a day, or a break from the routine of healthy meals? Is the provision of play areas or table top activities more important for a great customer experience? It’s only by asking the right questions that you can gain valuable insight into what real customers think and feel about your brand, giving you the knowledge you need to help your brand succeed. Only then can the right actions be determined as you know the right issues are being addressed. The best CEM programmes help brands to stay ahead of the competition by empowering them to turn research into great experiences.

Don’t Hide Behind the Rules

RedShoesOnPotomac
John Jordan’s red shoes on the Potomac River, with the Kennedy Center in the background.

I just received a wonderful message from a man who appreciates the power of putting yourself out there. And what’s more “out there” than risking a slap on the hand (or worse) to help out a customer?

Read below for a couple great examples of Red Shoes service as experienced by John Jordan, SVP Customer Experience & Chief Customer Officer at Total Wine & More:

I recently learned about the “Red Shoes” experience, and it resonated with me for many reasons, but mostly due to its irreverence and desire to recognize great service. Great service is often the result of a small gesture—one that shows that kindness and humanity can override process, which sometimes causes “the rules” to be broken to satisfy a customer’s needs.

Now, I’m not suggesting that rules which violate laws should be part of a great service plan—serving customers well involves staying within clear boundaries of certain unbreakable rules, but practicing discretion and using good judgment to do what is right is key. There are many great quotes by great people on how it is not only o.k. to break rules, but rule breaking is to be expected.

One of my favorite quotations is from General Douglas MacArthur, who is attributed with: “Rules are mostly made to be broken, and are too often for the lazy to hide behind.”

Last Saturday, on the first real day of spring here in the greater Washington, D.C. area, I had two great service experiences where the rules were broken to take care of the customer.

The first was a rushed trip to the local bank to deposit a check and get cash back for a flea-market shopping trip in Georgetown that afternoon. To complicate matters, my ATM card is lost! I realized halfway to the bank that I’d left the house without my driver’s license, but that turning back would cause me to get to the bank just in time for closing. So, I pressed on hoping I’d recognize someone at the bank who could help. Long story short, I recognized no one, but with some appropriate questioning by the teller, I was able to deposit the check and get my much-needed cash back for weekend shopping. These days, getting anything done at a bank without proper identification can be impossible, but the manager and teller practiced common-sense, and I’m a more loyal customer as a result.

Then later that day with my 16 year-old daughter in tow, I wanted to watch the defending Louisville Cardinals in a NCAA game, and I was dismissed by establishment #1 due to “house rules.” So, in dismay, went to the next bar/restaurant. The bartender there said simply, “It is not busy; we’re happy to have you & your daughter sit at the bar, but please know that at night we normally can’t allow underage patrons at the bar.” Not only was great service rendered, but expectations were set so that I’d not expect that rule-break at all times of day.

Both of these service providers deserved red shoes, as they put the customer ahead of rules, and caused me to tell others about the experience.

At Total Wine & More, there are rules we must enforce. Indeed, “Rule #1” for the whole company is to NEVER serve anyone who is under the age of 21. That rule is law, and compliance is 100%. But, rule #2 is to do whatever it takes to make all customers very satisfied. That is where doing what is right for the customer (Age 21 or older) can and does cause some rule bending.

So, hats off to the Red Shoe experience. Thanks for giving me a new way to recognize the many great people who I encounter in daily life, and for the great staff we have at over 100 Total Wine & More stores across the country!

There really are rules, some explicitly stated and some simply implied, that shouldn’t be heeded when they stand in the way of doing something good. I believe this. Red Shoes Pillar #5 is “Putting Yourself Out There,” and it’s all about making a decision and taking an action that is difficult, uncomfortable, taboo, or frowned upon, because circumstances have made it the right thing to do.

Thanks, John, for sharing!

The 4 Keys to Voice of the Customer Success: Key #2 – Go Beyond Surveys

In part one of this four-part blog series, I discussed the first key to VoC success:
Get full executive sponsorship. Today, I will focus on the second key.

Key to Success #2: Go beyond surveys to build an ongoing customer connection

Great VoC programs begin with your customers. The conversations you build with them help you better understand their experience with your brand. Because an experience is something that happens internally, conversation is currently the only way to gain insight into customer expectations—and how well you’re doing at meeting those expectations.

Listening to customers regularly and conversationally helps to identify the systemic trends and issues needing to be addressed to keep customers coming back. It can also help drive referrals and advocacy within customers’ circle of friends and followers.

The most common approach today for starting this customer conversation is sending out customer surveys through the devices and technology customers use, and in a language customers understand. This is a critical element to any successful VoC program; however, there is a rapidly growing source of untapped feedback circulating amongst consumers today that brands have yet to fully leverage:

Social media and online review sites

These channels are quickly becoming the preferred method for customers to voice opinions about their brand experiences. As a result, brands are presented with the challenge of continuously improving and delivering positive consumer experiences.

As a brand, you can only drive exceptional customer experiences through a deep understanding of the overall experience customers encounter at your locations. This means listening to customer feedback from any source available, and using it to drive improvements. Companies are using VoC solutions to gain the power and insight into their customer experiences through a combined “multichannel” feedback approach. This not only paints a more comprehensive picture of the customer experience; it can save time by eliminating the need to jumping from, and dig through, multiple reports.

With these solutions, all sources of customer comments—customer surveys, social media, online review sites, and other applicable feedback channels—are all aggregated into a single view giving brands the right information, at the right time, to drive the right changes to enhance the customer experience.

This previously untapped combination of actionable insights can identify the steps needed to deliver the experiences customers have come to expect in today’s world, resulting in increased return visits, improved brand loyalty, and active advocacy.

Stay tuned for the third part of this blog series—Make customer feedback data actionable at the location level—to learn how location managers can take the complexity out of customer feedback data to deliver consistent and memorable customer experiences at their restaurants, retail locations, grocery stores, and banks.

Eyewitness Account of a Lifesaver Named Shayne

Earlier this year, my close associate Ken Myres, president of Romacorp, shared a customer comment with me that came out of the Palm Desert, California location of Tony Roma’s.

It had “Red Shoes” written all over it.

I want to take some time to share it along with the powerful follow-up from Ken’s team, because, at every interaction, I see a prime example of how simple and infectious a Red Shoes Experience is.

The Comment

Tony Roma’s Restaurant, (Palm Desert, CA) 11/22/2013

I’m writing you regarding our visit to your restaurant the evening before last. We visit your restaurant quite frequently and always request our favorite server, Shayne. She is an absolute joy and always knows how to put a smile on our faces. She is friendly, genuine and professional. She anticipates our every need, sometimes before we realize we even need it.

Shayne has a way of making you feel as though you are dining in her home. We eat out nearly every meal and dine at many, many restaurants. There are a lot of very nice, professional servers that do a great job, but there is a difference with Shayne. She TRULY CARES! I’m sure I’m not the first guest to say just how wonderful she is.

Anyway, I could go on and on about her forever, but the reason for this letter is regarding our visit last evening 11/22/2013. Again she surprised us! As we were dining, a gentleman near us was choking on his meal. The wife and another gentleman were trying to perform the Heimlich maneuver for some time with no success. Shayne quickly and calmly walked up and did the Heimlich with NO PROBLEM. It was as though she did this every day. It was a side of her we have never known and, as always, we were very impressed.

Unlike many employees and others standing around, Shayne took charge and knew exactly how to handle the situation with grace and respect for the guest. I truly hope you and your staff realize and acknowledge what a true RARE GEM you have. You hit the JACKPOT when you hired her. See you soon.

The Recognition

Shayne-Cornish-Photo_Tony-Romas-Hero_Red-Shoes_040414

Being the CX champion he is, once Ken heard about this act of heroism committed by a Tony Roma’s employee, he started arranging proper recognition for her. While he was ready to line up a city proclamation and a visit with the mayor and police chief, Shayne insisted she was just doing her job and that a nice lunch would be plenty of recognition.

On January 13, Ken joined Tony Roma’s team members Chris Castellana, Mike Malik, and Synthia & Bobbie Brinkerhoff at a special lunch with guest of honor Shayne Cornish.

Ken and Chris also visited Shayne at the Palm Desert Tony Roma’s to present her with a much deserved pair of red shoes in front of her management team, coworkers, and lunch guests.

The “Thank You” Note

This might be my favorite part. It sounds funny to say, since her service and actions were obviously profoundly important, but seeing her own words of gratitude in her own handwriting really shows me how much she she lives up to her reputation.

Shane-Cornish-Letter_Tony-Romas-Hero_Red-Shoes_040414

New Strategies for Measuring and Increasing Staff Advocacy Are Key to Improving the NHS Patient Experience

Findings from the Friends and Family Test which was introduced last year, and recommendations from the Francis report that staff views could provide an important test of quality of care, has lead to a growing interest in the views of NHS staff on their organisation as a place to work and be treated. As a result, from April 2014, a new Staff Friends and Family Test (FFT) will be introduced across all NHS trusts providing acute, community, ambulance and mental health services in England. It is hoped that the Staff FFT will help to promote a big cultural shift in the NHS, providing regular data on staff views and offering a useful tool not only for service and quality improvement, but as a way of actively engaging employees in the goals of the organisation. Research studies have shown the positive impact of staff engagement on patient satisfaction. They also demonstrate a close association between high levels of staff advocacy (willingness to recommend their Trust as an employer) and positive patient experience. High staff engagement leads to long term beneficial impacts on patient mortality, infection rates, and staff absenteeism and turnover. In short, the more engaged workforce members are, the better the workplace environment and patient outcomes become. The concept of staff advocacy has come from outside the NHS. Many organisations in the retail and commercial sectors seek to assess if their staff are willing to “promote” their organisation, either as a place to work, or in terms of the service they deliver to their customers. Commercial organisations have long been aware that engaged teams correlate to stronger customer satisfaction metrics and increased revenues. With an ever increasing focus on improving services within the health sector, the NHS is embracing staff engagement strategies as an essential ingredient in combination with patient involvement activities. The 2013 NHS Staff Survey shows that although overall levels of staff engagement have improved, there are still many challenges. One possible reason behind a lack of engagement is the way in which workers’ achievements and efforts are acknowledged. The survey found that only 41% of respondents were satisfied with the extent to which they felt the organisation values their work and 43 per cent felt that they didn’t receive clear feedback about their performance. Patient experience programmes can be instrumental in changing employee behaviour at all levels to develop a culture in which everyone takes responsibility for improving patient experience. Empathica’s patient experience programmes aim to motivate and empower staff, by allowing patients to identify where they have received exceptional care. Using Empathica’s “WOW” system, patient feedback is flagged up to the relevant manager, allowing them to commend specific employees for their commitment to outstanding patient care. This ‘real’ feedback is highly motivating and has been extremely influential in ensuring everyone supports the programme and actively encourages patients to participate. Celebrating good practice and encouraging staff to view their achievements positively, making them feel valued and appreciated, goes a long way towards engaging and more importantly empowering staff. Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust have learnt the power of real positive comments from retailers like Waitrose, Boots and Iceland. In the last 18 months over 2,400 patients have highlighted a team or individual for the great care they provided. This stream of positive feedback has increased staff involvement in encouraging patients to leave feedback on their hospital experience and increased colleague engagement in making the changes that will lead to improved patient experience. Click here to find out more about how Empathica’s patient experience management programmes are engaging NHS staff and improving patient experiences.

NHS Friends & Family Test One Year On – A Happy Birthday?

The calls to improve the experiences of NHS patients have shown no sign of quieting down since the Friends and Family Test (FFT) was launched a year ago, and it seems unlikely that anyone will be rolling out the cake and balloons for its first birthday. But the key question is, now that we are 12 months in, has the FFT had the intended positive effect of creating a patient-centred culture within the NHS and boosting patient satisfaction with the standard of care received? Well, it’s still early days and we must recognise that it’s a big step in itself that every hospital is now even asking their patients about their experiences. It’s also good news that the test is being extended to cover all NHS services by 2015. Moreover, expanding the FFT to cover NHS staff from 1st April 2014 acknowledges the key role played by healthcare workers in delivering great patient experiences along with the vital need to ensure their job satisfaction and engagement in the process. A year on and there are still some key issues that need to be addressed. The focus to date in many Trusts has been on hitting a response rate target rather than on making improvements based on feedback from patients. This has led to NHS Trusts adopting widely divergent survey methodologies, ranging from a single question giving a top-line measure of how patients feel about their experience, through to asking a series of questions designed to obtain useful, actionable insights. There are Trusts that collect their Friends and Family Test data by inviting patients to drop a token in a rating box, in the same way that supermarkets ask customers to vote for a local charity to support. The inconsistent methodologies employed so far make comparison across Trusts impossible. It’s fair to say varying levels of Trust buy-in to hearing patient feedback have emerged over the past 12 months; some are more concerned with meeting the government’s minimum response requirements, others are actively working to improve the patient experience. Fortunately there’s a growing number of Trusts that want to really understand the key drivers of patient experience for their local community, such as Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (SASH). As a result of obtaining robust data and actionable patient insight, SASH has already made a number of changes to improve the experiences of its patients, including altering staffing rotas and taking action to reduce noise levels on wards at night. In addition, SASH has received commendations for its staff from over 2,500 patients. This stream of positive feedback helps reinforce the culture change required to become truly patient-centred. As such, the future seems bright for SASH as it seeks to drive even more value from patient feedback. The Trust is extending its patient surveys to cover community and outpatient services. It also plans to adapt the survey to collect Patient Related Outcome Measures (PROMS) data, for example by asking about mobility and pain before and after a hip replacement operation. To give even greater insight, there will be increased analysis of the free text comments left by patients online and feedback given via its automated free phone call system. Looking ahead to the wider UK healthcare service, what does the future hold for the FFT? Recognising that a patient journey may span different services within an individual Trust or indeed across different Trusts, NHS England is already starting to test FFT phase two. Gathering integrated feedback on this scale requires sophisticated technology to effectively collect, collate and report data in a meaningful way across services. It will be impossible for Trusts relying on postcards completed in hospital or the plastic token brigade to operate in the way they have been doing. The NHS is certainly setting itself a major challenge. So, an end of year report? Well, FFT implementation is a huge step in the right direction, but there’s still a long way to go. The grade would have to be a C minus at this point – there have been some bright spots but could be better overall.

New Strategies For Measuring And Increasing Staff Advocacy Are Key To Improving The NHS Patient Experience

Medical teamFindings from the Friends and Family Test which was introduced last year, and recommendations from the Francis report that staff views could provide an important test of quality of care, has lead to a growing interest in the views of NHS staff on their organisation as a place to work and be treated. As a result, from April 2014, a new Staff Friends and Family Test (FFT) will be introduced across all NHS trusts providing acute, community, ambulance and mental health services in England.  It is hoped that the Staff FFT will help to promote a big cultural shift in the NHS, providing regular data on staff views and offering a useful tool not only for service and quality improvement, but as a way of actively engaging employees in the goals of the organisation. Research studies have shown the positive impact of staff engagement on patient satisfaction.  They also demonstrate a close association between high levels of staff advocacy (willingness to recommend their Trust as an employer) and positive patient experience. High staff engagement leads to long term beneficial impacts on patient mortality, infection rates, and staff absenteeism and turnover. In short, the more engaged workforce members are, the better the workplace environment and patient outcomes become. The concept of staff advocacy has come from outside the NHS. Many organisations in the retail and commercial sectors seek to assess if their staff are willing to “promote” their organisation, either as a place to work, or in terms of the service they deliver to their customers.  Commercial organisations have long been aware that engaged teams correlate to stronger customer satisfaction metrics and increased revenues. With an ever increasing focus on improving services within the health sector, the NHS is embracing staff engagement strategies as an essential ingredient in combination with patient involvement activities. The 2013 NHS Staff Survey shows that although overall levels of staff engagement have improved, there are still many challenges. One possible reason behind a lack of engagement is the way in which workers’ achievements and efforts are acknowledged.  The survey found that only 41% of respondents were satisfied with the extent to which they felt the organisation values their work and 43 per cent felt that they didn’t receive clear feedback about their performance. Patient experience programmes can be instrumental in changing employee behaviour at all levels to develop a culture in which everyone takes responsibility for improving patient experience.  Empathica’s patient experience programmes aim to motivate and empower staff, by allowing patients to identify where they have received exceptional care.  Using Empathica’s “WOW” system, patient feedback is flagged up to the relevant manager, allowing them to commend specific employees for their commitment to outstanding patient care. This ‘real’ feedback is highly motivating and has been extremely influential in ensuring everyone supports the programme and actively encourages patients to participate. Celebrating good practice and encouraging staff to view their achievements positively, making them feel valued and appreciated, goes a long way towards engaging and more importantly empowering staff. Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust have learnt the power of real positive comments from retailers like Waitrose, Boots and Iceland. In the last 18 months over 2,400 patients have highlighted a team or individual for the great care they provided. This stream of positive feedback has increased staff involvement in encouraging patients to leave feedback on their hospital experience and increased colleague engagement in making the changes that will lead to improved patient experience. Click here to find out more about how Empathica’s patient experience management programmes are engaging NHS staff and improving patient experiences.

NHS Friends And Family Test One Year On – A Happy Birthday?

Happy 1st Birthday The calls to improve the experiences of NHS patients have shown no sign of quieting down since the Friends and Family Test (FFT) was launched a year ago, and it seems unlikely that anyone will be rolling out the cake and balloons for its first birthday. But the key question is, now that we are 12 months in, has the FFT had the intended positive effect of creating a patient-centred culture within the NHS and boosting patient satisfaction with the standard of care received? Well, it’s still early days and we must recognise that it’s a big step in itself that every hospital is now even asking their patients about their experiences. It’s also good news that the test is being extended to cover all NHS services by 2015. Moreover, expanding the FFT to cover NHS staff from 1st April 2014 acknowledges the key role played by healthcare workers in delivering great patient experiences along with the vital need to ensure their job satisfaction and engagement in the process. A year on and there are still some key issues that need to be addressed. The focus to date in many Trusts has been on hitting a response rate target rather than on making improvements based on feedback from patients. This has led to NHS Trusts adopting widely divergent survey methodologies, ranging from a single question giving a top-line measure of how patients feel about their experience, through to asking a series of questions designed to obtain useful, actionable insights. There are Trusts that collect their Friends and Family Test data by inviting patients to drop a token in a rating box, in the same way that supermarkets ask customers to vote for a local charity to support. The inconsistent methodologies employed so far make comparison across Trusts impossible. It’s fair to say varying levels of Trust buy-in to hearing patient feedback have emerged over the past 12 months; some are more concerned with meeting the government’s minimum response requirements, others are actively working to improve the patient experience. Fortunately there’s a growing number of Trusts that want to really understand the key drivers of patient experience for their local community, such as Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (SASH). As a result of obtaining robust data and actionable patient insight, SASH has already made a number of changes to improve the experiences of its patients, including altering staffing rotas and taking action to reduce noise levels on wards at night. In addition, SASH has received commendations for its staff from over 2,500 patients. This stream of positive feedback helps reinforce the culture change required to become truly patient-centred. As such, the future seems bright for SASH as it seeks to drive even more value from patient feedback. The Trust is extending its patient surveys to cover community and outpatient services. It also plans to adapt the survey to collect Patient Related Outcome Measures (PROMS) data, for example by asking about mobility and pain before and after a hip replacement operation. To give even greater insight, there will be increased analysis of the free text comments left by patients online and feedback given via its automated free phone call system. Looking ahead to the wider UK healthcare service, what does the future hold for the FFT? Recognising that a patient journey may span different services within an individual Trust or indeed across different Trusts, NHS England is already starting to test FFT phase two. Gathering integrated feedback on this scale requires sophisticated technology to effectively collect, collate and report data in a meaningful way across services. It will be impossible for Trusts relying on postcards completed in hospital or the plastic token brigade to operate in the way they have been doing. The NHS is certainly setting itself a major challenge. So, an end of year report? Well, FFT implementation is a huge step in the right direction, but there’s still a long way to go. The grade would have to be a C minus at this point – there have been some bright spots but could be better overall.

Death, Taxes, and Negative Customer Feedback

You’ve probably heard some version of Benjamin Franklin’s famous words, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” I propose an addendum to this list: negative customer feedback. As much as we’d like to please every customer all of the time, it’s just not a realistic expectation. Negative feedback is inevitable. And that’s a good thing. Every time a customer leaves negative feedback, they’re providing your brand with an opportunity to improve the customer experience and potentially earn their business for life. Brands that adopt this positive outlook on customer feedback will find success. Brands that do not will likely find themselves in a costly uphill battle with customer loyalty. Cultivating lasting relationships with your customers can be a daunting proposition, but it’s a practice that your brand would be remiss not to do. Here are four tips for converting brand detractors into brand advocates:
1. Listen & Respond Publicly
Take time to listen to and understand negative customer reviews. Once you have a grasp of the issue at hand, respond publicly so the customer—and other customers—know that you are taking the issue seriously and making an effort to right the wrong. Customers value transparency.
2. Address Negative Comments Quickly
Time really is money when it comes to customer retention. Don’t let a customer issue fester. Resolve the problem as quickly as possible, “wow” the customer, and create a potential brand advocate for life.
3. Rectify the Situation (Even if It’s Not Your Fault)
Identify the type of customer you’re dealing with and interact with them accordingly. The customer is not always right, but by offering a sincere apology and reaching an amicable solution to the problem, your brand can win back at-risk customers.
4. Follow Up
See the resolution of the customer’s negative experience all the way to completion. Thank the customer for their feedback and ensure that they leave—and return—completely satisfied with your brand. As much as it can feel like negative feedback is all your customers leave, the situation is not that bleak. In reality, customers are mostly positive in their brand sentiment. One study found that customers share positive brand experiences eight times more often than they do negative experiences. Negative feedback can be a valuable resource for brands working toward delivering a greater customer experience. It’s less fatal than death, and it’s generally cheaper than taxes.

The Red Shoes Experience Condensed into a Single Napkin Doodle

After speaking at Mattress Firm’s 2014 BEDTalks in D.C. last month, they had William Warren of The Sketch Effect put together a killer little summary of my time on stage. I love it—and not just because he gave my face a bit of the “handsome news anchor” treatment. Of course I had to share it with you all.

Red-Shoes-Experience_Sketchnotes_022214

I’ll be posting more soon from this amazing event, including a little more on the man, the myth, and the Red Shoes Award–winner: Johnny “SameDay” (sketched above).

The 4 Keys to Voice of the Customer Success: Key #1 – Executive Sponsorship

Developing and launching a Voice of the Customer (VoC) program is no small feat. In fact, it’s a massive undertaking requiring a lot of thought. To do it, you and your team will have to figure out how to help your entire organization adopt and execute fundamental changes to improve the customer experience at every touchpoint, increase return visits, and create active brand advocates. This means investing serious time, money, and people in the right places.

Launching a program doesn’t guarantee much. To ensure you and your program see success, I recommend following the four key elements below:

1. Get full executive sponsorship
2. Go beyond surveys to build an ongoing customer connection
3. Make customer feedback data actionable at the location level
4. Use research and analysis to adapt to evolving program needs

I’ll cover the first key in this article, and the next three will follow in upcoming blog posts. So stay tuned.

Key to Success #1: Get Full Executive Sponsorship

With any organization-wide VoC program rollout, the most important aspect to its success is having committed executive sponsorship behind it. The rollout typically happens at the employee level, and ground-level employee engagement is much more likely when staff can see the excitement and benefit reinforced at the top of the organization.

What Executives Must Do to Effectively Sponsor and Support Your VoC Program

Create the VoC Program Vision
VoC programs have a lot of moving parts, and as the pace of the project speeds up, it’s easy for things to go astray. To keep people and departments synchronized in their efforts, the executive sponsor must clearly and regularly articulate (1) the reasons your organization is implementing the program, (2) what the end state will look like, and (3) the ways success will be defined.

If everyone has the same answers to these three questions, you will be able to more easily resolve inter-team conflicts, enable project activities prioritization, and ensure that everyone is working toward the same objective. If the executive sponsor doesn’t create a shared vision, each person will create their own—leading to program inconsistency and potential for failure.

Be a Vocal and Visible Champion
An executive VoC program sponsor who isn’t regularly seen or heard from is not really a sponsor at all. Sending the occasional email from the office or on the road is simply not enough; your program’s executive sponsor needs to be present for all levels of the organization and be seen as the number one supporter of the initiative.

On top of explaining benefits of the program to employees, your key executive must continuously reminding fellow executives why it is important to dedicate budget and people to the VoC program’s rollout and continued maintenance.

Remove Roadblocks
No matter how well-planned the project or how dedicated the team members, roadblocks will arise. It’s the sponsor’s job to spot and remove the roadblocks the team can’t remove for themselves. This can include freeing up time from an essential subject matter expert, working to resolve issues with a vendor, or helping to ensure the project team has the resources it needs. By removing roadblocks, the sponsor allows the project team to stay focused on their day-to-day project activities and deliver a successful VoC program.

Empower Decision Making
When launching and maintaining your VoC program, every team member should be empowered to make the decisions they regularly face. Enabling frontline decisions to be made at the appropriate employee level frees up time for ascending levels of the organization to focus on their strategic activities. Filtering every decision through the executive sponsor will quickly consume his or her day, cause distraction from supporting the project’s success, and will ultimately create a backlog and slow down the program rollout.

In the end, if your VoC program is supported from the top down and employees can see it, they will embrace it, which is the best insurance against program failure.

Watch for Part 2 in this four-part blog series where I discuss the second key to success: Go beyond surveys to build an ongoing customer connection.

Going Beyond Omnichannel in the “Shoppertainment” Era

Family Shopping in a MaillOmnichannel has become more than just a buzzword—it’s a reality for aggressive retailers interested in creating brand differentiation through a seamless shopping experience across all channels and touchpoints. As retailers all over the world sort through the organizational, operational, and technological challenges associated with the omnichannel experience, consumers add their own layer of complexity to the mix à la brand engagement and loyalty. Today’s shopper wants the full “shoppertainment” experience: an in-store experience that provides them not only with the products they are searching for, but also an environment that is visually stimulating with a first-class customer service experience. Here are four ways retailers are creating the exciting and engaging in-store experience consumers are looking for:
  1. Creating an Entertainment Destination. Retailers are starting to make space in their stores for new experiences that entertain and draw customers in. Many are creating relevant digital content that drives sales, presenting it on large screens and interactive in-store displays. A good example of this is Burberry’s London store, which transforms into an entertainment destination every season, presenting their latest collection through catwalks showcased on big screens and enabling customers to order products using an iPad.
  2. Learning & Community Events. Increasingly, retailers are leveraging their stores to conduct educational and community-style events that allow customers to engage with the brand as well as other customers. A good example of this is Home Depot, which holds in-store workshops that teach weekend do-it-yourselfers how to complete home renovation projects on their own.
  3. Offering New Services. Lifestyle cafes, spas, and salons are just some of the in-store services now used by retailers to drive increased foot traffic and keep customers in their stores longer. Leading grocery retailer, Tesco, has become the number one grocery brand in Korea by offering a virtual store in the subway system that allows commuters to order their groceries from a wall while waiting for their train.
  4. Creating a Personalized Experience. Fashion retailers have a great opportunity to elevate the in-store shopping experience by implementing kiosks that allow customers to get recommendations on clothing suitable to their particular figure, and magic mirrors that allow shoppers to try on one garment and see how it would look on them in other styles and colors. In some cases, retailers are enabling customers to share the outfits they’re trying on via their social networks for instant feedback from friends and family. General Pants Co. in Australia introduced this late last fall in their stores, along with a program that allows customers to select the music they hear during their shopping experience and the ability to see trends featuring the brand’s latest clothing and accessories.
Through imaginative uses of current technology, there are endless ways you can create unique in-store customer experiences that engage and entertain. What is your retail brand doing to go beyond the omnichannel experience?

Going Beyond Omnichannel in the “Shoppertainment” Era

Omnichannel has become more than just a buzzword—it’s a reality for aggressive retailers interested in creating brand differentiation through a seamless shopping experience across all channels and touchpoints. As retailers all over the world sort through the organizational, operational, and technological challenges associated with the omnichannel experience, consumers add their own layer of complexity to the mix à la brand engagement and loyalty. Today’s shopper wants the full “shoppertainment” experience: an in-store experience that provides them not only with the products they are searching for, but also an environment that is visually stimulating with a first-class customer service experience. Here are four ways retailers are creating the exciting and engaging in-store experience consumers are looking for:
1. Creating an Entertainment Destination
Retailers are starting to make space in their stores for new experiences that entertain and draw customers in. Many are creating relevant digital content that drives sales, presenting it on large screens and interactive in-store displays. A good example of this is Burberry’s London store, which transforms into an entertainment destination every season, presenting their latest collection through catwalks showcased on big screens and enabling customers to order products using an iPad.
2. Learning & Community Events
Increasingly, retailers are leveraging their stores to conduct educational and community-style events that allow customers to engage with the brand as well as other customers. A good example of this is Home Depot, which holds in-store workshops that teach weekend do-it-yourselfers how to complete home renovation projects on their own.
3. Offering New Services
Lifestyle cafes, spas, and salons are just some of the in-store services now used by retailers to drive increased foot traffic and keep customers in their stores longer. Leading grocery retailer, Tesco, has become the number one grocery brand in Korea by offering a virtual store in the subway system that allows commuters to order their groceries from a wall while waiting for their train.
4. Creating a Personalized Experience
Fashion retailers have a great opportunity to elevate the in-store shopping experience by implementing kiosks that allow customers to get recommendations on clothing suitable to their particular figure, and magic mirrors that allow shoppers to try on one garment and see how it would look on them in other styles and colors. In some cases, retailers are enabling customers to share the outfits they’re trying on via their social networks for instant feedback from friends and family. General Pants Co. in Australia introduced this late last fall in their stores, along with a program that allows customers to select the music they hear during their shopping experience and the ability to see trends featuring the brand’s latest clothing and accessories. Through imaginative uses of current technology, there are endless ways you can create unique in-store customer experiences that engage and entertain. What is your retail brand doing to go beyond the omnichannel experience?

Six Ways Tablets Are Changing Restaurant Customer Experience

Tablet at RestaurantIn an effort to get out of the cold and snow I’ve been experiencing this winter, I decided to pack up my family and take them on a sun-and-sand-filled Caribbean vacation a short time ago. As with any enjoyable vacation, it ended too quickly and we found ourselves awaiting our flight home. While at the airport, we decided to visit the food court for a quick bite to eat. To my surprise, some of our well-known quick serve chains were there—and with long waiting lines to boot. After selecting our restaurant of choice, we lined up, dreading the wait. As we made our way through the line-up, I was pleasantly surprised to see an employee of the fast food restaurant half way through taking orders on a wireless tablet. The goal was to take the orders in advance so when we reached the front of the line, all we had to do was pay and pick up our order. I was curious to see how well this would work with timing and order accuracy. It worked for us. As we paid, our order was handed to us hot, fresh, and ready to be eaten. The long line suddenly didn’t seem so long anymore. Needless to say, my experience immediately improved at that moment, leaving me with positive feelings about the brand. Tablets are a driving force behind innovations in the front-end restaurant customer experience, whether in a quick service or fast casual establishment. As more and more restaurants embrace tablet technology, there are several ways beyond my vacation experience that they are revolutionizing the restaurant experience for brands and consumers.
  1. Seamless Dining Experiences. Inspired by the ease of exceptional online buying events, guests value restaurants that provide seamless, hassle-free experiences from the moment they are seated through to the moment they pay their checks. In many cases, restaurants are using tablets to offer table-side check payment or other activities that streamline and improve the guest’s dining experience.
  2. Enhanced Interaction. Opportunities for enhanced interaction are prime targets for restaurants interested in improving customer experiences with table technology. Restaurants on the front line of tablet deployments have installed tablets at tables, allowing guests to interact with menus, place orders, pay bills and perform a range of other self-serve functions. Similarly, restaurants are exploring the use of promotional content or pay-as-you-go games that provide entertainment or customer engagement opportunities while guests wait for their food to arrive. These kinds of activities drive bottom-line improvements by leveraging customer experiences to increase loyalty.
  3. On the Fly” Data Insights. Tablets offer a non-threatening resource that restaurants can use to capture customer insights. While many guests are hesitant to provide personal information when they pay their checks or at the request of their servers, they are less resistant to providing data on their own terms, especially if the submission of data is tied to a discount or contest. Multi-site restaurants can leverage tablets to capture data insights at the local level, helping them tailor the customer experience to the desires and preferences of local consumers.
  4. Guest Reviews. A great time to capture guest reviews is before they leave the restaurant, while details on the experience are top of mind. Willingness to provide feedback is also much greater with this immediacy, since even the most satisfied guests often don’t feel compelled to rate their experience later. In the restaurant industry, reviews are a key element in customer acquisition, and table-side tablets offer a ready-made resource for encouraging guests to share feedback about service, cuisine or other aspects of their experience. Reviews captured via tablets can then be used to build brand reputation and modify the customer experience based on guests’ suggestions.
  5. Multichannel Feedback. Consumers use many different touchpoints to connect with the restaurant brands that are important to them. Surveys and other tools delivered on tablet devices create feedback that can be shared across all available channels, increasing the impact of brand advocacy and positive mentions. In particular, restaurants need to prioritize the use of tablets to capture feedback that can be distributed via social channels.
  6. Enhanced Employee Engagement. One of the largest challenges with customer feedback is how to use the results when they arrive. Tablets can help to reshape this challenge by bringing results to life in a meaningful way to the frontline. Data visualization capabilities on tablets are extensive, but again the challenge is more than to presenting guest feedback in a “pretty” way; it’s presenting it in a meaningful way that motivates frontline staff.
The real innovation in the use of tablet technology is that it enables restaurant brands to forge meaningful, direct connections among guests, restaurant managers and their frontline staff. The deployment of table-side tablets gives guests more immediate options, inviting them to participate in activities that strengthen their relationship with the brand. Just as importantly, tablets can significantly improve a restaurant’s ability to capture feedback and provide local guest insights—determining factors in the brand’s ability to create and deliver enhanced customer experiences.

6 Ways Tablets Are Changing Restaurant Customer Experience

In an effort to get out of the cold and snow I’ve been experiencing this winter, I decided to pack up my family and take them on a sun-and-sand-filled Caribbean vacation a short time ago. As with any enjoyable vacation, it ended too quickly and we found ourselves awaiting our flight home. While at the airport, we decided to visit the food court for a quick bite to eat. To my surprise, some of our well-known quick serve chains were there—and with long waiting lines to boot. After selecting our restaurant of choice, we lined up, dreading the wait. As we made our way through the line-up, I was pleasantly surprised to see an employee of the fast food restaurant half way through taking orders on a wireless tablet. The goal was to take the orders in advance so when we reached the front of the line, all we had to do was pay and pick up our order. I was curious to see how well this would work with timing and order accuracy. It worked for us. As we paid, our order was handed to us hot, fresh, and ready to be eaten. The long line suddenly didn’t seem so long anymore. Needless to say, my experience immediately improved at that moment, leaving me with positive feelings about the brand. Tablets are a driving force behind innovations in the front-end restaurant customer experience, whether in a quick service or fast casual establishment. As more and more restaurants embrace tablet technology, there are several ways beyond my vacation experience that they are revolutionizing the restaurant experience for brands and consumers.
1. Seamless Dining Experiences
Inspired by the ease of exceptional online buying events, guests value restaurants that provide seamless, hassle-free experiences from the moment they are seated through to the moment they pay their checks. In many cases, restaurants are using tablets to offer table-side check payment or other activities that streamline and improve the guest’s dining experience.
2. Enhanced Interaction
Opportunities for enhanced interaction are prime targets for restaurants interested in improving customer experiences with table technology. Restaurants on the frontline of tablet deployments have installed tablets at tables, allowing guests to interact with menus, place orders, pay bills and perform a range of other self-serve functions. Similarly, restaurants are exploring the use of promotional content or pay-as-you-go games that provide entertainment or customer engagement opportunities while guests wait for their food to arrive. These kinds of activities drive bottom-line improvements by leveraging customer experiences to increase loyalty.
3. “On the Fly” Data Insights
Tablets offer a non-threatening resource that restaurants can use to capture customer insights. While many guests are hesitant to provide personal information when they pay their checks or at the request of their servers, they are less resistant to providing data on their own terms, especially if the submission of data is tied to a discount or contest. Multi-site restaurants can leverage tablets to capture data insights at the local level, helping them tailor the customer experience to the desires and preferences of local consumers.
4. Guest Reviews
A great time to capture guest reviews is before they leave the restaurant, while details on the experience are top of mind. Willingness to provide feedback is also much greater with this immediacy, since even the most satisfied guests often don’t feel compelled to rate their experience later. In the restaurant industry, reviews are a key element in customer acquisition, and table-side tablets offer a ready-made resource for encouraging guests to share feedback about service, cuisine or other aspects of their experience. Reviews captured via tablets can then be used to build brand reputation and modify the customer experience based on guests’ suggestions.
5. Multichannel Feedback
Consumers use many different touchpoints to connect with the restaurant brands that are important to them. Surveys and other tools delivered on tablet devices create feedback that can be shared across all available channels, increasing the impact of brand advocacy and positive mentions. In particular, restaurants need to prioritize the use of tablets to capture feedback that can be distributed via social channels.
6. Enhanced Employee Engagement
One of the largest challenges with customer feedback is how to use the results when they arrive. Tablets can help to reshape this challenge by bringing results to life in a meaningful way to the frontline. Data visualization capabilities on tablets are extensive, but again the challenge is more than to presenting guest feedback in a “pretty” way; it’s presenting it in a meaningful way that motivates frontline staff. The real innovation in the use of tablet technology is that it enables restaurant brands to forge meaningful, direct connections among guests, restaurant managers and their frontline staff. The deployment of table-side tablets gives guests more immediate options, inviting them to participate in activities that strengthen their relationship with the brand. Just as importantly, tablets can significantly improve a restaurant’s ability to capture feedback and provide local guest insights—determining factors in the brand’s ability to create and deliver enhanced customer experiences.

Mum’s The Word: Tips to Create a Special Customer Experience This Mother’s Day

Happy Mother's DayWhen it comes to Mother’s Day, people all over the world take the time to search for a special gift for the person who has played such an important role in their lives. While this day of love and appreciation may not be celebrated in exactly the same way or on the same dates around the world, one thing is certain: it is an opportunity for retailers to shine by delivering an unforgettable customer experience that keeps shoppers loyal and develops brand advocates, regardless of time of year or occasion. In fact, for many customers, their first introduction to your brand may be on Mother’s Day so it is critically important to deliver a good experience to drive repeat visits. There are four simple ways that come to my mind that will help retailers accomplish this as we lead up to this special day:
  1. Ensure that they have a great experience with your brand – whatever channel they choose. Regardless of the channel in which customers are interacting with your retail brand, it is important to keep in mind that they are expecting the same great experience whether they are in one of your stores, speaking with a call centre representative, or making a purchase online. With today’s consumers increasingly taking an omnichannel approach to their shopping habits, you need to ensure that your various customer touchpoints are well integrated in order to deliver a seamless experience.
  2. Use Pinterest to inspire customers. Uploading images of the items consumers can buy or projects they can make is just one way that Pinterest helps retailers deepen their relationship with customers. Because consumers can “pin” their own unique collections based on their preferences, they can create a catalogue of items specific to their own or their mum’s interests, making the experience very personal. In return, retailers glean valuable insights into which products customers like and share most often. The most popular items can be on display at the front of the store, making them readily available when consumers come in to buy them.
  3. Offer gift-wrapping services. A beautifully wrapped gift presented on special occasions like Mother’s Day makes the recipient feel really special. Unfortunately, most of us are not very “gifted” in that department. Many shoppers are pretty busy, which makes retailers that offer a gift wrapping service a little more enticing. Whether it is a free or paid service, offering this option to customers will go a long way, keeping your store top of mind for the next shopping trip. Simply stock your stores with a variety of Mother’s Day inspired gift bags and wrapping paper options that your customers can select from and ensure that staff are trained to provide this value-added service in a quick and friendly manner.
  4. Launch a Mother’s Day Competition or Promotion. Mother’s Day contests and promotions are another area in which your retail brand can improve customer satisfaction. Create a Mother’s Day boutique in your stores that feature select products merchandised as a collection of occasion-specific offers. Products in that section can include a free gift with purchase or other added benefits that can help increase sales. Such promotions can also increase social advocacy. If done correctly, you can use social networks to create enthusiasm and excitement in online communities, deepening customers’ connection to your brand and distributing positive brand messages to large, online audiences.

Mum’s the Word: Tips to Create a Special Customer Experience This Mother’s Day

When it comes to Mother’s Day, people all over the world take the time to search for a special gift for the person who has played such an important role in their lives. While this day of love and appreciation may not be celebrated in exactly the same way or on the same dates around the world, one thing is certain: it is an opportunity for retailers to shine by delivering an unforgettable customer experience that keeps shoppers loyal and develops brand advocates, regardless of time of year or occasion. In fact, for many customers, their first introduction to your brand may be on Mother’s Day, so it is critically important to deliver a good experience to drive repeat visits. There are four simple ways that come to my mind that will help retailers accomplish this as we lead up to this special day: 1. Ensure that they have a great experience with your brand – whatever channel they choose. Regardless of the channel in which customers are interacting with your retail brand, it is important to keep in mind that they are expecting the same great experience whether they are in one of your stores, speaking with a call centre representative, or making a purchase online. With today’s consumers increasingly taking an omnichannel approach to their shopping habits, you need to ensure that your various customer touchpoints are well integrated in order to deliver a seamless experience. 2. Use Pinterest to inspire customers. Uploading images of the items consumers can buy or projects they can make is just one way that Pinterest helps retailers deepen their relationship with customers. Because consumers can “pin” their own unique collections based on their preferences, they can create a catalogue of items specific to their own or their mum’s interests, making the experience very personal. In return, retailers glean valuable insights into which products customers like and share most often. The most popular items can be on display at the front of the store, making them readily available when consumers come in to buy them. 3. Offer gift-wrapping services. A beautifully wrapped gift presented on special occasions like Mother’s Day makes the recipient feel really special. Unfortunately, most of us are not very “gifted” in that department. Many shoppers are pretty busy, which makes retailers that offer a gift wrapping service a little more enticing. Whether it is a free or paid service, offering this option to customers will go a long way, keeping your store top of mind for the next shopping trip. Simply stock your stores with a variety of Mother’s Day inspired gift bags and wrapping paper options that your customers can select from and ensure that staff are trained to provide this value-added service in a quick and friendly manner. 4. Launch a Mother’s Day Competition or Promotion. Mother’s Day contests and promotions are another area in which your retail brand can improve customer satisfaction. Create a Mother’s Day boutique in your stores that feature select products merchandised as a collection of occasion-specific offers. Products in that section can include a free gift with purchase or other added benefits that can help increase sales. Such promotions can also increase social advocacy. If done correctly, you can use social networks to create enthusiasm and excitement in online communities, deepening customers’ connection to your brand and distributing positive brand messages to large, online audiences.

Top Four Ways Brick-and-Mortar Stores Can Beat Online Retailers

Now that customers have the ability to shop when and where they want online, the need to ever enter a store is rapidly declining. Brick-and-mortar retailers are all working to figure out their strategies for the fairly new phenomenon of “showrooming,” where consumers browse in-store and buy their products online, often from a competitor. This new shopping landscape gives consumers access to more merchandise choices than ever before and presents brick-and-mortar retailers with a series of new challenges. In the Age of the Connected Consumer, people are now being provided with an end-to-end shopping experience that includes the traditional brick-and-mortar store as well as an immersive online or digital experience. Even in this new landscape, the physical store can continue to be a strong asset for retailers, delivering valuable things e-commerce services can’t:
1. Immediate Gratification
Our society enjoys and desires instant gratification. We want what we want and we typically want it now. The beauty of a brick-and-mortar store is that we purchase the items we want—from the latest in fashion to the newest gadget—and have the luxury of taking them home at that moment in time for immediate enjoyment.
2. The Sensory Experience
Unlike online retailers, brick-and-mortar stores have the ability to engage all of the customer’s five senses. They can fully express how the brand looks, sounds, smells, feels, and even tastes. The online world only appeals to the visual, and sometimes auditory, senses. As evidence continues to reflect that a multi-sensory experience leads to increased in-store spending, more and more retailers are beginning to embrace a sensory engagement process that triggers a “shopper’s high” and creates an emotional and memorable interaction. In turn, customers stay in the store longer, have positive emotions about their time spent in the store, and walk away with increased brand value perceptions.
3. The Human Connection
Another advantage brick-and-mortar retailers have over those that operate online is the ability to forge the in-person (or human) connection. Despite the average person’s desire to email, text and shop online, we are still very human and enjoy contact with others. Being able to discuss product differences with knowledgeable sales staff or receive guidance to find merchandise is no longer an expected service of retailers but a valuable differentiator and touchpoint in the customer experience. Just remember that you can only capitalize on and promote the value of the human connection if you have the appropriate staff levels and have provided them with the necessary training for success.
4. Personal Service
With the Internet, smartphones, and tablets in tow, consumers are more empowered than ever to do research on the products they are looking to buy, pre-empting what a salesperson can tell them. This rise in consumer self-sufficiency, as well as in-store self-service, has sparked a lot of discussion around the value that in-store sales associates offer. Some retailers have taken this trend as an opportunity to downsize their staffing requirements, while others have innovated with the introduction of personal service to create a new, heightened, and differentiated brand experience. One example is Wegman’s, who has introduced produce experts in their stores who chop fresh vegetables and fruits in the aisle so shoppers can take home customized mixes for salads and stir-fry dishes. Brick-and-mortar retailers need not dismay. Focusing on these four natural advantages over online retailers is the path to maintaining in-store traffic.

Understanding the Customer Experience of Menu Innovation

Brands today are continuously seeking new and innovative ways to remain top-of-mind for customers and beat out the competition. Quick service restaurants (QSRs) are no exception to this rule, with many rapidly recognizing that they need new and creative ways to accomplish this feat. One way QSRs are staying fresh in consumer minds is through partnerships with other food brands to create new and inspiring menu items. Some recent co-branded partnerships that come to my mind are Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Tacos and Popeyes’ Zatarain’s Butterfly Shrimp, which created unique opportunities for these QSRs to take their product development to a whole new level by leveraging established consumer brands. Measuring the Success & Viability of a New Menu Item Creating a new menu item is no small feat. Making it a co-branded offering adds an additional level of complexity. There are a lot of steps involved in taking the product from idea to reality and making it a hit with customers. So how do QSRs know if a new menu item is a success? The first thing that comes to mind would be to look at product sales. However, initial sales will make it difficult to truly measure an item’s long-term viability, since loyal customers usually give new menu additions at least one try. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good indicator of the excitement generated amongst consumers, but it isn’t the most effective way to measure. I would also recommend that you ask your customers for their feedback and monitor what they have to say. Going this route is the best way to get an honest look at the efforts you’re putting forth, whether it’s a new menu item, staff friendliness, location cleanliness or overall customer experience. 360° View of Customer Sentiment When it comes to asking for feedback and understanding what your customers are saying, you must combine and monitor data from structured surveys, as well as from unsolicited sources, such as social and online review sites like OpenTell, Yelp! And TripAdvisor. Both feedback types are equally important when it comes to getting a complete, holistic view into customer sentiment with new menu items and your brand. By using listening and monitoring technologies to bring these two disparate sources of feedback together, you can enhance your ability to hear what your customers have to say and leverage what they are telling you—for existing and future menu offerings and overall customer experience improvements. For example, if some of your locations aren’t making a new menu item in accordance with corporate specifications, or it is always cold when it reaches the customer, having both types of feedback monitoring in place will allow you to understand where operational improvements can be made and provide the necessary coaching to ensure that changes are implemented in order to deliver the menu item the way the customer expects it. Doing so will show customers that you are actively making changes based on their feedback. In turn, you will promote their repeat business, encourage them to continue to try new menu items, maintain their loyalty, and create the desire to advocate for your brand.

Take a Detour for Gratitude

It’s a good day today. If you don’t believe me, check out the story I saw this morning on the local news. It definitely convinced me:

Runners detour mid-race to thank 95-year-old WWII vet

Take your own detour for gratitude today.

Thank Joe Bell and Erik Wittreich for putting on their red shoes by following their examples and changing the course of your day to thank someone who deserves it. The gesture may not go viral, but I can tell you it will matter to at least one audience.

That’s Pillar #2, baby

So, You’ve Collected Customer Feedback. Now What?

Target your customers.Today’s consumers are looking for more than an average customer experience. They are actively seeking out opportunities to build relationships with the brands that matter to them. In return, the best companies appreciate the importance of meeting customers’ service expectations. They also continuously look for new and innovative ways to better understand the experience they deliver. The prevailing practice for understanding the customer experience is, of course, collecting customer feedback. We see it on our purchase receipts from stores, on comment cards in restaurants, with phone surveys at the end of calls to customer support, and so on. But collecting customer feedback is just the first step to ensuring a successful customer experience. It’s what you do with the feedback that truly matters. In order to make operational improvements that will create customer loyalty and advocacy, there are four things your contact center should do with its customer feedback:
  1. Analyze the Data. When customers make the effort to leave feedback to help you meet their expectations, it’s important that you take action with it. This may not be easy if you are receiving hundreds of completed surveys. Sophisticated reporting tools deliver information to every level of the organization for helping you understand how your brand is performing and see the progress of your customer experience initiatives.While the feedback data being presented can often be complex, understanding it shouldn’t be. Top analysis tools make it easy. For example, busy center managers and supervisors need to know what to fix and how to execute quickly. Giving them a simple-to-understand, 30-second view into how their agents are doing, what specific actions their staff should be taking, and feedback from customers on how they are progressing or improving is an important element to ensuring that your customer experience strategy is effective.
  2. Uncover Best Practices. Like every brand, you likely have high-performing centers and some that are lagging behind. Successful brands today are providing the proper tools and support to shift managers for delivering a consistent and improved customer experience across all of their contact centers. This includes providing the ability to access a library of best practices that enable them to share what has and has not worked in their centers and allows them to leverage what actions have been successful in other centers with similar issues.
  3. Leverage Root Cause Analysis. When receiving customer feedback, it’s important to use it as a starting point for further investigation into what is causing certain comments and reactions to occur. For instance, is the customer making use of the product’s full features and benefits? Did a sales rep sell the customer the wrong product for their needs? Asking these types of questions helps your organization focus on solutions that will be more likely to influence customers’ subsequent behavior and attitudes and benefit your bottom line.
  4. Implement Agent Improvement Initiatives.  Along with providing insights into how to improve your brand’s customer experience, customer feedback can also help track employee performance. Pinpoint areas your employees are doing well—and areas where there’s room for improvement. Your brand is only as good as its weakest employee. Decrease employee performance variation and deliver a consistent—and positive—customer experience across the board.
Follow these simple tips and you’ll be well on your way to doing more with your customer feedback.