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.

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

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.

Stop Wasting Time: Use a Dashboard

No More Drinking from the Fire Hose You don’t have to drench yourself in wasted time and data to get the important insights of the day. As simple and efficient as your kitchen tap, the Mindshare Dashboard creates a controlled informational flow for your organization. With customers providing more and better feedback, with smarter methods for capturing it in place, and with the advanced analytical technology to turn it into actionable insights, the real power lies in the presentation.
• Gather only the most relevant results from Mindshare’s real-time reporting suite • Identify company strengths and weaknesses at a glance—with root causes attached • See your key metrics in a clean, interactive format • Quickly jump from performance overviews to actual customer comments • Take action on identified opportunities without needing additional analysis • Instantly access compelling meeting material and applicable training tips
Not Just Strength: There’s Meaning in Numbers The Mindshare Dashboard provides clear companywide perspective and action-packed local direction through simple charts and meaningful numbers. Working with your team, we identify the numbers that mean the most to your business, so we can build metrics for measuring and lifting your company according to the customer’s lofty standards. Take advantage of the communicative abilities of visual and numeric presentation to act and react immediately to the needs of your business at any level.

Disengaged Employees? It Starts at the Top

Human Interaction Matters Most The most important stage (or stages) of the customer journey almost always take the form of an interaction with a frontline employee. I’ve seen every angle of the feedback spectrum—from extremely positive or neutral to horrifically negative—and the most common thread in each experience is that it came down to an interaction with a staff member. A solid proof point for this is an Empathica Consumer Insights Panel survey, which polled 5,000 consumers about their experience with a brand and the impact of associate and management interaction on their buying behaviors. Trickle-Down Engagement Mindshare works with companies every day to make customer-based operational improvements for gaining brand loyalty and advocacy. Part of our work with clients is helping them to understand exactly where employee engagement challenges lie within their organization. Having worked with hundreds of brands, I’ve seen that fully engaged employees become passionate advocates for their company, creating a positive effect on the customer experience. I’ve also seen the opposite side of the spectrum where disengaged employees become brand liabilities. So what causes employee disengagement? In all my experience, there is at least one thing that is certain: Employee engagement comes from the top down. Last November, Gallup released their State of the Global Workplace Report 2013, which found that 89% of leaders within an organization are disengaged. If leaders are not engaged, we can’t expect employees to be.
Five Tips for Greater Employee Engagement 1. Senior leadership must articulate a clear vision to all employees 2. Encourage employees to communicate openly 3. Hold managers responsible for creating healthy relationships with their direct reports 4. Continuously show appreciation for employee feedback 5. Empower employees by acting on their suggestions
Today, employee engagement and loyalty are more vital than ever before to an organization’s success and competitive advantage. Engage your leadership, and your employees will naturally follow suit. In return, your customers will have positive experiences with your brand, increase their return visits and be more likely to recommend your brand to family, friends, and peers.

In the Driver’s Seat of Your VoC Program

A SHIFT IN THINKING Next time you’re in your car, take a look at the dashboard (it’s hard not to, really). What kind of gauges do you see? What do they tell you? How quickly do they relay information, and how useful is it? How well could you drive without it? Sure, with regular maintenance and extreme caution you might continue to run errands without any major incident. But you’d also be vulnerable to leaving a blinker on, forgetting to turn off your high beams, accumulating speeding tickets, and even overheating your engine. You could very easily end up bleeding money to auto shops and traffic cops (more than you might be already). DRIVING BUSINESS SUCCESS Next time you’re in your company’s Voice of the Customer (VoC) application, take a look at its dashboard reporting—or lack of one possibly. What are you using to measure and improve the customer experience? Are those tools providing you with valuable customer insights? How quickly are you receiving those insights? Are the insights actionable? They should be. Generally speaking, driving and business can be very different worlds. However, the value of a dashboard has similar bearing on your life & the life of your car as it does on your job & the life of your business. Having real-time, visually understandable data makes a huge difference in any arena. A WELL-OILED MACHINE With nearly 65% of the population qualifying as “visual learners,” companies need to adopt dashboards and other visually oriented reporting tools for communicating important customer data. Mindshare’s Management Dashboard automatically tailors information based on organizational hierarchy, so the people best positioned to act on their brand’s customer data receive real-time, easily digestible insights. To keep your business running like a well-oiled machine, you must put your most valuable information front and center—for every employee, at every level.

Red Shoes on Stage

The Red Shoes Experience has caught hold. Companies are calling every week to learn more about it. I’m so grateful to have the humble opportunity to share the message on a regular basis. More and more organizations are understanding the meaning of a Red Shoes Experience—and working to embrace it on a large scale.

At a recent presentation in front of one such company, I met a friend who took some footage and put together a small sample reel for me. It gives a taste of my time on stage, and I’d like to post it here as a reminder—to you and to me—that none of us were ever meant to be mediocre.

Tap into the Voice of the Older Customer (VoOC)

Older shoppers have been fighting an uphill battle with technology since the dawn of the Information Age. Just because they’ve had some tech tiffs doesn’t mean they should be written off as an insignificant demographic, though. According to a recent report by Shoppercentric, older shoppers possess many of the same shopping habits as those of younger generations. NEW CHANNELS FOR OLDER SHOPPERS A common perception of older shoppers is that they aren’t very proficient with the Internet… or smartphones… or tablets… or really any new technology. Turns out this is not the case at all. In fact, 62% of shoppers age 50 or older have access to the Internet at home. Additionally, 39% of shoppers age 60 or older own smartphones, and 21% of 70–79-year-olds & 14% of shoppers age 80 or older own tablets. That means that older shoppers are now using many of the same channels as their younger counterparts. Make sure you aren’t reserving your newest, mobile or social feedback channels for the younger crowd and assuming the older crowd will be happy with their toll-free number. Embrace smarter, more proximate channels for everyone. TAKE DOWN THAT WALL OF TECHNOLOGICAL DISTRUST Although the numbers show that older shoppers are using the Internet and mobile devices, they’re mostly using these tools for browsing and product research. At the moment, these numbers aren’t translating into sales. Many older shoppers still don’t trust technology enough to make many online purchases. Credit card fraud and complex purchasing processes are holding retailers back from tapping into one of the most valuable demographics. You can work to reverse this by bringing a more personal touch to your VoC program. Older shoppers may be more advanced than ever, but they still appreciate—and reward—retailers who bring a human element to the table. Simplified online purchasing and returns processes also go a long way. The opportunity is there. Connect with all of your customers and gain trust even from those who are most hesitant to give it.

How QSRs Can Create Social Advocacy

Robust social advocacy is an important goal for all restaurants, and it’s especially important in the highly competitive Quick Service Restaurant sector, where social advocacy can heavily impact brand loyalty and other variables that directly influence the brand’s bottom line. Our 2013 QSR Benchmark Study showed that, not surprisingly, highly satisfied guests make a return visit much more frequently than their less satisfied counterparts. In fact, the likelihood of a return visit increased from 20% to 81% when customers reported a higher satisfaction rate. Those satisfied guests were also four times more likely to recommend the restaurant to friends, family, or colleagues. As social media becomes a primary outlet for consumers to talk about their experiences with the brands they select, QSRs that proactively engage with their customers, across a range of social media outlets, will convert guests into passionate brand advocates. With the right strategy, social advocacy has the potential to help QSRs enhance the quality of the guest experience and increase loyalty by improving guest satisfaction. Here are some top social advocacy tips to help your QSR create advocates in an environment where consumers are increasingly influenced by social media: Guest reviews are a foundational element of social advocacy. But here’s the catch: the best time to capture a review can be before the guest leaves the restaurant. It’s important to encourage immediate reviews on smartphones using “voice of the guest” and social media advocacy solutions. Guest-generated images have two purposes. By encouraging guests to capture and distribute images of dining events, also known as “foodstagramming,” you can create opportunities for the social sharing of positive brand experiences. In some cases, negative shared images can even become catalysts for improvement in the guest experience. Sneak peeks are a great way to engage consumers and generate new social advocates. For example, when Taco Bell used SnapChat last year to reveal its new Beefy Crunch Burrito, fans were motivated to engage with the brand’s social community and to act as social advocates in their circles of influence. Your QSR brand can use the same tactics to improve satisfaction by motivating guests to participate in social communities around new menu items. Contests and promotions are another area in which QSRs can improve guest satisfaction and increase social advocacy. If it’s done strategically, a contest or promotion can use social networks to create enthusiasm and excitement in online communities—deepening guests’ connection to the brand and distributing positive brand messages to large, online audiences. Technology can also play an important role in improving social advocacy. By implementing a first-rate social media advocacy solution, your brand may be able to streamline the process of identifying social advocates and amplifying their messages across a range of social channels. There is a big opportunity for QSRs to take advantage of their satisfied guests in the social sphere and extend customer delight beyond merely delivering a good product to encompassing the entire guest experience. By embracing consumer trends in mobile and social, brands can take advantage of their most valuable asset: their advocates.

How to Engage & Motivate Staff Using Customer Feedback

Y Generation - how Employee Engagement CEM programs can help improve your labor forceLocation managers have a lot to think about while on the job: inventory, shift scheduling, sales reports, hiring, training, filling in for missing staff responsibilities, and the list goes on. Amidst all of this, they must also find a way to make sure the true reason behind the location’s existence remains the top priority—the customer. At the beginning of each shift, when the manager sets the tone for the coming hours, he or she has just a few moments to ensure that the focus of employees is in the right place. By drawing directly from the customer voice, managers can create a more fulfilling, motivating experience—inspiring employees to be engaged and focused on the customer, not simply on task-based job responsibilities. An article recently published in the Harvard Business Review provides a great framework for thinking about employee motivation and engagement. It identifies “the three M’s of motivation” that are crucial to every employee’s job:
  1. Mastery — Employees like to feel that their skills are constantly being developed and that they are learning in their jobs. An important way to do this in a food service, retail, or services setting is to show how their skills and behaviors translates into positive feedback from their manager and customers.
  2. Membership — People like to feel that they are part of a community in the workplace and that everyone is pulling toward the same objective. An important component of membership is recognition of individual contributions.
  3. Meaning  — Employees need to feel that they are part of a larger purpose. They like to see the impact of the work they do and how it positively contributes to the greater whole. They want to feel that the work they do matters.
What is needed is a highly visible tool that can be used at the location level to keep staff motivated and focused on the needs of customers. Comment Poster™ is the only tool available today that uses local VoC data and an advanced text analytics engine to drive employee engagement on the front lines based on proven motivation techniques. Designed specifically for local, on-site usage, Comment Poster identifies staff mentions and trending topics within customer feedback to create a visible reminder to employees of what matters to customers at their location. Keeping a low-wage, high-turnover workforce engaged, motivated, and focused is not an easy job, but, with the right customer tools in the right places, it can be accomplished better now than ever before.

How to Engage & Motivate Staff Using Customer Feedback

Location managers have a lot to think about while on the job: inventory, shift scheduling, sales reports, hiring, training, filling in for missing staff responsibilities, and the list goes on. Amidst all of this, they must also find a way to make sure the true reason behind the location’s existence remains the top priority—the customer. At the beginning of each shift, when the manager sets the tone for the coming hours, he or she has just a few moments to ensure that the focus of employees is in the right place. By drawing directly from the customer voice, managers can create a more fulfilling, motivating experience—inspiring employees to be engaged and focused on the customer, not simply on task-based job responsibilities. An article recently published in the Harvard Business Review provides a great framework for thinking about employee motivation and engagement. It identifies “the three M’s of motivation” that are crucial to every employee’s job:
1. Mastery Employees like to feel that their skills are constantly being developed and that they are learning in their jobs. An important way to do this in a food service, retail, or services setting is to show how their skills and behaviors translates into positive feedback from their manager and customers. 2. Membership People like to feel that they are part of a community in the workplace and that everyone is pulling toward the same objective. An important component of membership is recognition of individual contributions. 3. Meaning Employees need to feel that they are part of a larger purpose. They like to see the impact of the work they do and how it positively contributes to the greater whole. They want to feel that the work they do matters.
What is needed is a highly visible tool that can be used at the location level to keep staff motivated and focused on the needs of customers. Comment Poster™ is the only tool available today that uses local VoC data and an advanced text analytics engine to drive employee engagement on the front lines based on proven motivation techniques. Designed specifically for local, on-site usage, Comment Poster identifies staff mentions and trending topics within customer feedback to create a visible reminder to employees of what matters to customers at their location. Keeping a low-wage, high-turnover workforce engaged, motivated, and focused is not an easy job, but, with the right customer tools in the right places, it can be accomplished better now than ever before.

4 Ways to Add Some Love to Your Customer Experience this Valentine’s Day

Valentine's dayWhen it comes to Valentine’s Day, couples all over the world take the time to search for a special gift not only for their beloved, but for friends, coworkers, teachers and others that play an important role in their lives. While this day of love and appreciation may not be celebrated in the same way or on the same dates and times around the world, one thing is certain: it’s an opportunity for retailers to shine by delivering an unforgettable customer experience that keeps loyal shoppers and brand advocates in store, regardless of time of year or occasion. There are four simple and fun ways that come to my mind that will help retailers accomplish this as we lead up to this unforgettable day of love:
  1. Deliver a consistent omnichannel experience. 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 experience whether they are in one of your stores, speaking with a contact center representative, or making a purchase online. With today’s consumers taking an omnichannel approach to their shopping habits, you need to ensure that your various customer touchpoints are integrated in order to deliver a seamless multichannel experience.
  2. Use Pinterest to make customers fall in love with you, again. 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” a collection based on their unique preferences, they can create a catalog of items specific to their interest, 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. Which leads me to a stat  I stumbled on in a Vision Critical report indicating that 21% of Pinterest users buy an item in-store after seeing or sharing it, making it an additional tool to combat showrooming.
  3. Offer gift-wrapping services. My wife always presents me with a beautifully wrapped gift on special occasions like Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, I am not so “gifted” in that department. I also tend to be a pretty busy guy, which makes retailers that offer a gift wrapping service a little more enticing for me to shop at.  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 small variety of Valentine’s Day inspired gift bags and wrapping paper options that your customers can select from and ensure that you staff accordingly to provide this value-add service without any major delays.
  4. Launch a Valentine’s Day Contest or Promotion. Valentine’s Day contests and promotions are another area in which your retail brand can improve customer satisfaction. Create a Valentine’s Day boutique in your stores that feature select products merchandised as a collection of holiday-specific offers. Products in that section can include a free gift with purchase or other added benefits that can help increase sales. Contests and 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.
Can you think of any additional ways to get customers to love your retail brand this Valentine’s Day?  I’d love to hear your ideas.

How Multi-Channel Retailers Can Measure the In-Store Experience

Retailers understand that success lies in their ability to deliver an exceptional experience across all customer touchpoints. Adopting a Voice of the Customer (VoC) program and measuring in-store experience is at the heart of that success. SURVEYS: STILL KING & STILL EVOLVING Surveys remain one of the most popular methods for assessing customer experience. They’re also continually evolving. Customers don’t mind taking surveys and leaving feedback, as long as it’s on their terms. As mobile device ownership sweeps the globe, bringing social media connectivity with it, some adjustments need to be made to the way you survey:
1. Start with mobile optimization.

Mobile-optimized surveys complement the devices they’re viewed on, promote customer responsiveness, and result in higher survey completion rates. In a recent study, Mindshare discovered that surveys taken on mobile devices took 30 seconds longer to finish on average, yet their completion rates were 5% higher. This leads us to believe that customers are willing to spend a bit more time to take surveys using a more proximate and immediate channel.

2. Drive the two-way street of social VoC.

Going down the path of social VoC requires retailers to both listen to and collaborate with customers. Invite customers to share their reviews with the world via Facebook and Twitter, and contribute timely responses to your organization’s social pages.

3. Use text analytics for frictionless feedback.

Explore your entire customer experience using shorter, more customer-friendly surveys. Text analytics can produce real-time insights and reduce customer survey fatigue by analyzing open-ended customer responses to only a few questions.

UNDERSTANDING YOUR CUSTOMER JOURNEY Your brand is only as good as its weakest link. Having a firm grasp of your brand’s customer journey is paramount to creating a memorable customer experience. Train your employees to put value in every customer interaction and foster a consistent—and positive—brand experience across all of your locations.

4 Social Customer Service Best Practices Every Contact Center Should Employ

In the short history of social media, marketing departments have most often been the ones to own a company’s online social presence. With more than a billion people on Facebook and almost 250 million people using Twitter, it makes sense. marketing can use these relationships to provide exclusive offers to fans, syndicate news stories, and ask for feedback. However, a shift in social media management has begun. No longer is marketing by default the sole owner of an organization’s social media outlets. Consumers have made social media and open review sites their new channels of choice for voicing opinions about their experiences with an organization—both good and bad. In response to that trend, more and more companies are dividing the responsibility of social media management between Marketing and their customer support contact centers. When empowering your contact center agents to handle social media interactions, there are a few best practices every company should keep in mind:
1. Interactions should be handled in real time (or near real time).

Social media customer care is all about real-time interactions. Providing your customers with a timely social media response within a predefined service level is critical to preserving the opportunity to make a positive impact or favorable outcome and market perception. Equally important is establishing a process for communicating issues on a timely basis throughout your organization.

2. Contact center agents need to be well-trained.

All customer interactions should be handled by well-trained agents who are familiar with your company’s products, services, and policies. These designated individuals should also be effective communicators who can proficiently respond to social media comments in a manner consistent with your company’s social media team. Message uniformity is key across all individuals within your organization to ensure that your brand image remains consistent within the marketplace.

3. All interactions should be logged and tied to an agent.

As with any interaction involving a contact center representative, you should provide a way to route ongoing discussions back to the same agent. Implementing and providing the proper tools and technology to log, track, and tie together all interactions will assist your team in understanding the entire customer journey. By providing your agents with a full 360° view of the journey, they will be able to provide a quicker resolution to the customer issue and, in turn, create a happier, more satisfied customer, which typically leads to advocacy and loyalty for your brand.

4. Quality assurance checks are critical for uniformity.

We have all heard the “this call will be monitored for quality assurance purposes” when calling an organization’s customer service center. Whether a customer is placing a phone call, sending an email, or interacting with you via social media, it is critical to perform quality checks. All feedback and interactions through social media should be analyzed to identify trends and communicated throughout the organization, just as they would from a customer calling or emailing with an issue.

With 3 out of 4 respondents in a recent Empathica Consumer Insights research report indicating that social comments and reviews have influenced their purchasing decisions, this shift toward a 360° view of customer care is both logical and ideal. Customer service and contact centers are in perfect position to be the focal point for satisfaction-related social media interactions, as well as online reviews about your brand. Just remember, when using social profiles for customer service, the community is always watching. Social media is the most transparent communication method available today. Empower your agents with the proper training and tools to ensure a positive and consistent customer experience, all day, every day.

4 Ways to Add Some Love to Your Guest Experience this Valentine’s Day

Valentine's day conceptValentine’s Day falls slightly behind Mother’s Day as one of the busiest days of the year, with the National Restaurant Association (NRA) having estimated in previous years that as many as 70 million people will dine out on this day. This means that restaurateurs need to prepare as couples look to spend a quiet, romantic evening wining and dining each other. While this day of love and appreciation may not be celebrated in the same way or on the same dates and times around the world, one thing is certain: it’s an opportunity for restaurateurs to win the hearts of their guests by delivering an unforgettable experience that keeps them returning all year long. Here are four simple and fun ways that come to my mind that will help restaurateurs accomplish this on Valentine’s Day:
  1. Create a unique and customized menu. When people go out to dine on a special occasion like Valentine’s Day, they want something special. In 2011, the NRA surveyed member restaurants and found special menu items, prix fixe menus, celebratory beverages or desserts had the best responses from guests. Have your chef create a special menu for that evening and include wine pairings to complement the meal. Go the extra mile and present menu items in the shape of a heart. For those who don’t want a five-course tasting, don’t forget to offer your regular menu items as well.
  2. Create the ultimate ambience. The atmosphere of a restaurant makes a major impact on the guest experience. There are many things that will contribute to your restaurant’s ambience on this day of love. To add to the evening’s romance, replace four- and six-top tables with rented two-top tables to get your couples a little bit closer. Also encourage guests to make reservations in advance. The combination of these two things will reduce wait times and the accompanying frustrations. Don’t forget to add in some candlelight, red roses… you get the point.
  3. Offer value-added extras. Just because you’re in the restaurant business, doesn’t mean you have to stick to being a food-only establishment. Take the opportunity to create add-on sales for items like flowers. It eases the stress of the day for your guest by cutting out stops, and it creates an element of surprise for the guest’s partner. When guests call to make a reservation, ask them if they would like your staff to do anything extra for them that evening. Customers may see tremendous value in that and perhaps be willing to pay for it.
  4. Extend your Valentine’s Day promotions & specials. Some love birds prefer to avoid the hectic Valentine’s Day atmosphere and are likely to show up the day preceding or after. Offer your promotions and specials through this extended time period to give them the same great experience. And don’t forget singles. Have smaller portion sizes for those coming in on those days so they can enjoy your special offers too.
Can you think of any additional ways to get customers to love your restaurant this Valentine’s Day?  I’d love to hear your ideas.