Are Retailers Getting the Most Out of Customer Surveys?

Discussion
Apr 18, 2013

A new white paper from the National Grocers Association (NGA) and the Center for Advancing Retail & Technology (CART) identifies a myriad of best practices for how grocery store managers track and respond to customer feedback.

The report was based on interviews of six managers of stores that feature a "feedback mechanism," or a way for shoppers to complete surveys on their shopping experience. To prompt shoppers to complete the surveys, a toll-free phone number and/or survey microsite is printed on register receipts. Checkout clerks also routinely point the information out to customers.

Survey questions included whether they were greeted pleasantly by store employees, as well as ones around product availability and accessibility, the appeal of specific categories and departments, and the checkout experience.

The report identified six unique ways each of the managers capitalized on customer feedback:

Focus on Greetings: The first store manager zeroes in on the store greetings rating score "as a rallying point for staff," seeing success at the entrance extending across service areas.

Guide Staff Performance: A second uses the feedback to enable open and constructive discussions with the team about how well they are performing. With conversations grounded in actual customer comments, employees accept criticism and share in the praise.

Dawn Delegation: The third begins his day early with a review of the survey responses received overnight, then performs a kind of triage, by forwarding most of the comments to the appropriate department managers. This ensures that a response reaches every customer who wants one.

Cultivate Culture: The fourth makes certain that staffers, especially checkers at the front end, are continually aware of feedback being received from customers by posting both praise and complaints in the break room. An open workplace culture and peer comparison helps motivate individuals to perform at their best.

Team Empowerment: The fifth designates a trusted assistant to do a first-pass review of all shopper feedback received in the system. She handles the more routine responses and forwards only the most pressing matters to the manager.

Human Touch: The sixth has a regular a practice of responding personally to every comment he possibly can, even if the topic may seem trivial. He delegates some matters to department managers.

Managers also use the feedback data to measure their stores against sister locations, their entire companies, and national norms.

The study concluded, "It pays off handsomely when the retailer also has a plan in place to listen actively to both praise and complaints, and then take consistent action to let customers know they are both heard and greatly valued."

How should store managers capitalize on customer feedback surveys? How can the overall customer feedback process be improved? Overall, are you a fan of customer feedback surveys?

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15 Comments on "Are Retailers Getting the Most Out of Customer Surveys?"


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Debbie Hauss
Guest
9 years 1 month ago

I think grocers could do a better job motivating consumers to complete feedback surveys. Many shoppers simply discard their receipts without even looking at them. They could take a lesson from OpenTable, which asks users, via email, to fill out a survey immediately following a dining experience. Grocers could target specific groups of loyalty members with this type of approach.

The NGA survey report stated that: “Typical response rates range from between a dozen to several dozen customers per store per week.” Depending upon the total number of store visits each week, I think this number could be increased significantly.

That said, I think the 6 improvement strategies outlined above are great!

Bob Phibbs
Guest
9 years 1 month ago

The challenge to such programs is how the front-line employees take the feedback. That is as much a function of culture and training as anything. I have heard many on the front line who don’t find it nearly as compelling as upper management. For those who have an engaged team, rigorous hiring and firing guidelines, this can be a natural extension of that training.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 1 month ago

Although we have seen feedback be more emotional than fact-based over the decades, store people need to sift through the comments to find trends. Those sentiments can be voiced through written comments in the store, verbal feedback to employees and online comments in any social channel or the retailers website itself.

The tips in this article are great starts. The key is to lead by consistent example. There needs to be a true culture of service in the store. This starts with the manager being visible on the sales floor to the shoppers.

Mark Heckman
Guest
9 years 1 month ago

Overall customer surveys are good thing and can be very instructive, but often quantitative shopper surveys are simplified to facilitate the medium in which they are delivered. Yes/no answers, 5 point rating scales and the like sometimes lead to false impressions and over-reaction by users who are not versed in the peril and limitations of sample size and other research methodologies.

As long as a research professional, whether they be internal to the retailer or a service provider, guides the process, key shopper trends and priorities should emerge.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
9 years 1 month ago

With respect to one and all, six surveys do not a statistically valid sample make.

With more respect to all, listen to the customer and respond? Really? What a concept.

Finally — and still with respect — post negative comments about individuals in the break room..? There’s a formula for success if I’ve ever seen it.

Napoleon once said, you can do anything you like with a bayonet but sit on it. The same is true of customer feedback.

David Zahn
Guest
9 years 1 month ago

I am absolutely with Ryan on this one. Six surveys? And how were these six chosen to participate? There is much to be uncovered through surveys, however, I would not project much of anything from this sample nor from the results reported.

Ian Percy
Guest
9 years 1 month ago
If I remember anything from all those graduate courses in statistics, it’s that simply asking a question and having people check a choice or write a comment does not necessarily give you something to act on. I’m always amazed how the “feedback” from a mere one or two people can cause new policies to be written, training programs scheduled, staff admonished, postings in the lunch room, etc. For all you know, that “feedback” came from a chronically unhappy and angry person and it really had nothing to do with external reality. Surveys are dangerous things. It’s like having your picture taken just as you sneeze. That picture is not the image you want people on the dating website to base their judgement on. So you ask: “Were you greeted at the door?” I reply, “No.” So what? Now ask me how important it is to me that I be greeted at the door. I’d reply, “Not at all important.” No problem there. Ask me if I was impressed by the variety of colors and styles… Read more »
Shep Hyken
Guest
9 years 1 month ago

Data is powerful info, if we can use it. Big Data can spot trends. “Little Data” is based on a specific customer’s situation and can be a great customer service opportunity. “Middle Data” is more about a group, but not the masses. Again, it presents a customer service opportunity. It can spot a trend in a specific store location or demographic or geographical area. Feedback surveys at the store level can be used for all three; spot the trend, notice unique comments and look at a smaller group for further opportunities.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
9 years 1 month ago

Designing good surveys assumes that you know all the consumer issues and potential responses, unless open ended questions are added and analyzed. The prompt on the receipt may create an incentive for responding while the customer is in the store. Not many consumers review their receipts after returning home. Not many consumers remember the prompt by the time they return home.

However, there are a lot of consumers talking about your store or brand in social media. In this instance, the consumers are identifying the topics and types of responses. Analyzing this data is like analyzing the unstructured responses from surveys — difficult and time consuming. What is worth your time?

Nick Samson
Guest
Nick Samson
9 years 1 month ago

Capitalizing on customer feedback begins by sharing the information and results with staff members. You can’t engage your staff in the journey if they don’t know where they are going.

As a provider of VOC or feedback survey programs to many grocery chains, we make it our responsibility to provide store managers with the right tools such as immediate alert systems and actionable reporting that focuses on the key drivers of customer delight and purchase. Knowing, delivering, measuring and reporting the key driver performance is what staff needs to stay focused on the core elements of the business.

VOC or customer feedback for the sake of only measuring satisfaction is not a good budget spend. Unless your program includes key driver identification, customer segmentation and ongoing wallet share analysis, you’re not getting the information you need to drive customer delight and increase revenues.

Doug Garnett
Guest
Doug Garnett
9 years 1 month ago
As a consumer, I refuse to fill out satisfaction surveys. In the zeal to do a good thing (listen to consumers), stores and websites have gone far beyond usefulness and abuse my time as a consumer — asking the consumer to do their work. In particular, probably 3 or 4 times out of 10 a request by the clerk for me to fill out the survey is offered in such pleading tones that it implies their job is on the line. (And some places very directly tell you their job is on the line…that’s NOT the consumer’s problem.) It is critical to figure out ways to listen to consumers. But a culture of battering consumers non-stop with requests for surveys works against the concept of listening. And nearly all data gathered this way should be ignored. I recommend lowering the pressure behind constant surveying and focus your efforts. One far smarter (and far more accurate way) to get consumer feed back would be to use in-person surveys and only do this periodically. The retailer’s goal… Read more »
James Tenser
Guest
9 years 1 month ago

Establishment of sound, customer-facing practices is a worthwhile objective for any retailer. Active listening (the feedback mechanism in this report is one such method) is a strong component of this, as the six anecdotes reveal.

Worth highlighting here is that, while adopting the shopper feedback application is a corporate initiative, these practice initiatives come from grocery store managers, not headquarters. A nice reminder that retail brain power is widely distributed.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
9 years 1 month ago
What is your favorite food? Select one answer only: A) nails, B) books, C) glass, D) popcorn. As we see here, the usefulness of a survey can be predetermined. The fact is, surveys can also be conducted to entice the public to try, accept and/or endorse products and concepts. This is why many of the retailers prefer the use of demographics against velocity reports for expansion planning. Surveying the demographics of a population is also risky in that individuals may have a different opinion of their classifications versus the reality of actual positioning. That said, one needs to take a look at several recent surveyed reports and search for the often not so obvious conclusions before an acceptable risk can be supported for investment purpose. Now that the USA is in the middle of re-urbanization programs across the country and struggling to get out of a poorly performing economy, the life span of any geographic economic indicator can see significant change in as little as three months. These factors make an executive’s job a risky… Read more »
Brian Numainville
Guest
9 years 1 month ago
As a firm with 40 years of experience helping grocery retailers listen to and gain feedback from their customers (and in the interest of full disclosure, the provider of the feedback tool used in this white paper), a couple points of importance: Many stores on these programs receive very large numbers of responses, on an ongoing basis. So this presents a very reliable and systematic base of information upon which to make decisions and ascertain trends. How many responses come in is indeed driven in many cases by how engaged the retailer is with the program at store level, both communicating it and in responding to feedback received. In our experience, we find that shoppers do remember to complete the survey printed on the register receipt — again, as evidenced by the large number of responses received. Plus, any capable platform should be mobile-ready so the shopper doesn’t need to wait; they can complete the survey immediately on their smartphone or tablet. They can also provide feedback on their phone if they would rather complete… Read more »
Kathy Doering
Guest
Kathy Doering
9 years 1 month ago

This is a great system to leverage customer feedback data. Letting your customers know you have heard them and the changes being made are because you are listening to what they have to say will only reinforce this.

The way I feel the overall customer feedback process can be improved is by offering in the moment of experience feedback. I feel that the flaw in the IVR/Web surveys are that the customer must remember to do something after they leave the store. It is better to capture feedback while the customer is still in the experience. Response rates will increase and you will hear from a much stronger segment because they will not have to make a purchase in order to receive a survey invitation.

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