Customer insight that can drive change.

I’m a sucker for surveys, since becoming an insight professional I’ll do anyone’s about anything just to see what’s going on and to see if I can be delighted by some new thinking. Recently, having said yes to a ‘brief telephone survey’, I found myself trying to put a toddler to bed with the phone wedged under my ear talking to a charming lady.

On minute 23, I was asked the question ‘If XXX company was a person, would it be; a) a best friend you chat to every day; b) a good friend you see weekly; c) an acquaintance’ etc… I’m sorry to say I ran out of patience. This business had totally miscalculated how important they were in my life, they are a place I buy stuff from and that’s all.

This is a challenge in customer insight, feedback really matters to me, it’s what I’m called for half my waking week, but it’s a long way down the priority list for most people, a nice to do if you have some time in a busy life.

I entered an online survey recently having made a small purchase at a retailer and there were 45 questions on the route I took through the survey, several were operational, about stock levels, standards and colleagues. As a customer it struck me that these checks should be completed by Operational Managers. I want to express how I felt about my shopping experience, not complete an audit for the retailer.

Of course, as any of my operational colleagues would be quick to point out, it’s not just customers who have busy lives. In the multitude of things on an manager’s ‘to do’ list, reading through a detailed report on question after question will either end up in a ‘pending’ pile, or result in the team trying to improve on every one of the areas reported and failing to significantly improve any.

So… meet their needs – not yours

There is a risk that we use our feedback channels to ask what we want to ask, and leave our customer no space to tell us what they want to say, so we ask only 2 questions;

Would you recommend us to a friend or family member? (on a rating scale)

If yes, then why, and if no then why. We offer the customer a chance to have contact from us, within 48hrs if they would like further discussion, so we can take the actions they want us to as a result of their feedback; either put it right and apologise or recognise and reward a team member who did a great job. In the scheme of a busy day, 2 questions for an insignificant trip to a shop is ok, the commitment to feedback matches the activity, I can even do it via a QR code on a mobile at a time that suits me.

How short is short?

Lots of ‘quick’ ‘brief’ ‘flash’ and ‘short’ surveys seem to have the attributes of a Tardis; if customers are to trust us with their views they need to trust that what we say is what we do.

The ‘other’ customer

Gathering the feedback is great, I have it, lots of it, on all manner of charts and graphs. Landing it in the business in such a way that it makes a difference is the tricky bit. Amongst all the sales, costs, HR, legislative, community and project activities that managers have to do, getting round to the insight actions risks becoming a ‘nice to do’.

Best return for effort

Delivering insight in packets that will drive defined improvements really helps team engagement. We can use our expertise to cut and dice data to deliver focused solutions. There is real power in acknowledging that the other customer has a host of things to do so you have delivered a short, actionable, focused insight that will equate to most customer and business benefit.

Improve on this mission + during this hour = improved sales is an irresistible message to Operational Management and ‘ready to brief’ nugget to deliver to the team that will be required to commit to delivering change.

I don’t mean to downplay the role of customer feedback, it is essential that the customer’s voice is central to our strategy and operations, which is all the more reason to make sure that we give it the best possible chance of being heard.

Why do you ask?An experienced retail professional, Julie Tyler has considerable experience in customer facing roles in the retail industry. Julie is currently the Customer Insight Specialist for Central England Co-operative. Julie delivers both market and customer insight for Central England Co-operative’s family of businesses which can be used to continually improve the customer’s experience.

Prior to this role, Julie has held positions in retail learning and development and HR, and more recently in Retail Operations where she was responsible for a range of food store sizes and formats.

Julie is currently the Customer Experience Professional of the Year 2014, in association with the UK Customer Experience Awards.

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