Once a month or so my family and I like to make a mass pizza order, I know it’s not great for our diet but every now and then won’t do too much damage, or so I tell myself. Every month we order fairly consistently, my youngest likes a ‘create your own’ special that has more toppings than I can ever hope to remember. The challenge is that I have to remember it. The local store doesn’t have the capacity to remember historic orders and so I need to spend close to 30 minutes on my laptop repetitively entering the same complex order time and again. What I’d like is a single click option from my mobile whilst relaxing on the sofa. Last week I’d had enough and was tempted by a well-timed offer from a competing brand. It goes without saying that if our original, and favoured, pizza chain had focused on managing relationships rather than selling products, they’d still be getting our sizeable monthly order.

To compound matters our local pizza store has also been lacklustre of late. Missing items from orders, late deliveries and cold pizza. This got me thinking about how hard it must be to ensure a consistent customer experience across a large store network. Contrast this with the internet-based channels and those of us in customer experience have a comparatively simple task on our hands. Websites, apps and other digital channels offer a plethora of data related to dwell times, conversion and direct customer feedback. Data, metrics, A/B testing, online reviews – we have tools and techniques at our disposal to understand the customer’s experience and to take corrective action iteratively. Although personalisation is taking shape, it’s still true that for the majority of customers the online experience is fairly standardised today.

But what about the physical world? How can a retailer understand the experience their customers are receiving in one store compared to another? Traditionally, the use of ‘mystery shoppers’ has been the preferred tactic to appreciate levels of service at the granular level – McDonald’s famous ‘Gap Buster’ system sees three mystery shoppers evaluate each store monthly.

These mystery shopping experiences are taken extremely seriously by store and regional managers with a scoring system that includes broad areas including cleanliness, service quality, food quality and value. In essence, they’re detailed reviews of the experience delivered at each branch. It’s a great system but it has limits. Three visits monthly doesn’t offer a vast amount of data and I’d hypothesise it might be possible for the branch to spot orders that look like a mystery shop, potentially stepping up service levels to game the system.

More Data, More Feedback, More Granular Insights

I think McDonald’s approach is to be admired and the company’s commitment to its customers is unquestionable. However, like so many areas of business, technology offers new approaches today. Why not collect direct, honest and real world customer feedback about each branch? That’s a line of development we’ve been pursuing at Trustpilot for some time now. It’s possible for consumers to leave a review on our platform and for it to be tagged back to the store or branch where that service experience took place. In some industries, such as estate agency, a handful of our pioneering customers have gone a stage further constructing integrations that map reviews back to the individual estate agent serving that customer.

One of the best examples I’ve seen so far is actually a Danish firm called ‘Golf Experten’, a specialist golf retailer with 25 stores and a team of circa 40 sales people at each. The company used pre-tagging of its reviews to automatically attach data such as customer data, marketing data, customer journey/flow data from its CRM and other systems to its customer reviews. The result was a business insights system able to map back direct customer service metrics to each store and each sales agent within that store.

This approach means Golf Experten’s head office now has the ability to measure its customer experience and has established a process for feedback to individual stores when negative reviews do surface. They can recover the customer, focus on staff training or look at operational issues such as stocking. They celebrate the great customer reviews too by the way. Customer feedback isn’t a stick with which to beat the team – its valuable business insight that can lead to competitive advantage and customer-first culture. The approach is working and there’s now a store league table published monthly which has helped to contribute to an overall company Trustpilot TrustScore as high as 9.4 / 10.

One of our UK customers, Weldrick’s Pharmacy, which runs a chain of 60 pharmacies in South Yorkshire has embraced this philosophy too. It actually displays its reviews at its sites and offices in the same way you’d expect to see an award or qualification mounted on the wall. A good review has become a reward for staff that go above and beyond to serve customers.

Where Next for Customer-Led Review Insight?

Whilst granular feedback is extremely powerful, broader business analytics also empowers companies to take better business decisions. Why not analyse key customer review metrics overtime to track how the company is meeting its customer experience goals? Today, it’s possible to see how a Trust Score changes over time as well as metrics like the number of reviews collected. I’m not proposing such metrics will necessarily replace Net Promoter Scores but I do see this developing to incorporate much more sophisticated analytics that would throw up common issues identified across reviews.

I advise our customers to consider making such metrics a point of discussion at board or senior leadership meetings, whichever is most appropriate at their organisation. After all, if we expect our business leaders to invest in driving greater customer-focus we have to show them we can measure it and ultimately how it maps back to business performance.

At a more operational level, being empowered with such data-led insights means we’d be entering an era of rapid testing and learning, where changes in the business’ products, service processes or policies could be viewed through the lens of direct customer feedback. The potential to experiment and refine iteratively gets me very excited.

Re-visiting the pizza delivery experience, wherever you go, a brand should be able to reflect back the known information it has about you into the next experience. We all have our idiosyncrasies and quirks; and when we have those managed well in relationships with service providers we enjoy that they’ve ‘got us, and got it right’. When we change something simple though like ordering from a different outlet, or going to a different location of the same pizza chain or hotel group, we simply expect that those expectations are delivered on.

I like to refer to this as the move from Customer Relationship Management to Customer Managed Relationships. This shift needs to be running in parallel with a store by store view of service performance.

So, next time you visit a branch store check if they recognise you and if you feel you’ve little way to feedback to the company’s HQ, consider leaving a review either positive or negative – both are valuable!

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