When building an in-store customer feedback program, I’ve learned a valuable lesson: intended use does not always translate into actual use. In-store teams often make their own changes to these centrally designed activities. So you need to build that expectation into your plans.
Here are five elements to focus on to ensure that local team adaptations to customer feedback program implementations support the vision of your organization’s overall listening efforts:
- Element #1: Effective use of invite cards. One of the most powerful methods for capturing in-store feedback is a physical invite card. In the hands of a customer-facing employee, they create a tangible tool to invite customers to leave feedback. However, a lack of preparation around this specific tool could lead to bias in your survey data. For example, if a team member feels a customer interaction has not gone well, they are much less likely to share an invite card. A best practice for avoiding this is to give out the card at the start of the interaction, rather than at the end. Another best practice I’ve used to monitor for potential bias from in-store invite card feedback is to isolate it. Options for doing that include using a bespoke tag in the survey link or simply asking customers how they were invited.
- Element #2: Custom point-of-sale materials that convey the right message. Point-of-sale materials are an important tool in creating awareness of your feedback mechanism. Custom materials created in-store – even with the very best of intentions can influence whether customers leave feedback and how they respond. For example, prompting customers for a particular score can change their behavior. Using wording such as “Please speak to us before scoring less than 9” could actively sway customers towards leaving a more negative review than they intended to in the first place. Simple “do’s and don’ts” style guidance will steer teams in the right direction. The most impactful materials are simple to read, have a clear “we care” message, and have an obvious call to action like a QR code.
- Element #3: Canvass feedback appropriately. When staff is under pressure to gain survey responses it can lead to customer conversations on topics such as CX targets or staff bonuses. These rarely compel a customer to act and also don’t align with sound CX program design. Coach staff in best practices for inviting customers to your survey that increase the chances of customers leaving useful feedback. A baseline invite should be something like “We’d love to hear your thoughts on your experience, would you have a couple of minutes to leave us some feedback?” And, even better, personalize the baseline invite with the customer’s name or their transaction as this can generate a connection and relationship that compels customers to leave feedback.
- Element #4: Ensure surveys don’t become complaint deflectors. When customers complain directly to in-store staff, they expect staff to own the issue and move to resolve it. The reality however is that some staff members will refer customers to a feedback survey to avoid a negative conversation. As a result, it takes longer to resolve the issue and usually adds to the customer’s dissatisfaction. In contrast, one of the best times to invite customers to leave feedback is after an employee has confidently dealt with and resolved customer complaints in-store. After all, you’ve just solved the issue they came in with!
- Element #5: Keep the focus on customer experiences over metrics. It’s no surprise that in-store teams sometimes treat Customer Experience the same way they would other KPIs. That is: they tend to focus on numbers to articulate success, especially if they have a key outcome metric target. I have often been asked questions like “how many more surveys do I need to achieve my target?” or “If I get more responses, what impact will that have on my score?”. I always remind people that the score is a representation of the customer’s experience perception but customers’ verbatim feedback is one path to understanding what worked (or not) and how to improve. Using a systematic process of unpacking customer verbatims is a great exercise to run. Our Translating Verbatims into Action tool will help build empathy for your customers and focus teams on the right actions.
The bottom line: When your customer feedback system lands in-store, never assume it will be used exactly as you intended.
James Scutt, XMP, is an XM Catalyst with the Qualtrics XM Institute.