We are currently dealing with the biggest retail shake-up in a century. Lockdown, isolation and staying local have led to the emergence of new customer experience priorities, whether that’s safe store formats, more compassionate service or the stronger emotional ties forged between brands and consumers during the crisis.
For some businesses, the doors have been closed for almost three months; whereas others have had to rapidly adapt to keep essential stores open for the public. For both, there will be no return to operating ‘as normal’. A good example is online shopping. A recent study by Accenture showed that one in five people started food shopping online for the first time during lockdown. This demand has put increased stress on even the largest supermarkets and their service and capacity had to be quickly adapted. New processes for purchasing, payment, click and collect and delivery have had to be introduced to better serve consumers and respond to their new needs.
Remaining ahead of these changes is imperative for retailers. So it’s important not to overlook the importance and value of customer feedback. If you haven’t already done so, it’s critical to make changes to your questionnaires and adapt the way you listen to customers, to ensure surveys are not just insensitive noise, clogging up inboxes.
The goal: maintaining efficiency, simplicity and emotion
Customer’s experience is generally composed of three dimensions: efficiency, simplicity and emotion. The challenge for retailers post-lockdown is to ensure all three are maintained while adapting to new consumption patterns and preparing for further change ahead. It is more important than ever for retailers to listen to, re-engage and take the real-time pulse of customers, to ensure that the adapted experience they offer is meeting their expectations.
So how do you ensure customer feedback is relevant to the new customer journey? How can you make sure feedback is enabling your business to adapt and ensure customers feel safe and supported as they venture into the new shopping landscape?
Six changes to make now to your customer satisfaction questionnaires1. Measure your customer’s response to safety and hygiene measures put in place in-store. Reinforced hygiene standards are part of government guidelines so ensure your customers understand and appreciate the measures (hand sanitiser, increased cleaning schedules, one way systems and the wearing of masks, amongst others).
2. Adopt a reassuring tone whilst acknowledging the current climate. This is important when soliciting feedback and can be achieved by making simple changes to the language you use, for example: ‘We know these are difficult times, please help us to support you by completing our questionnaire’.
3. Adjust questions to suit customers’ more regimented approach to store visits. Instead of ‘were our staff friendly and knowledgeable?’ use ‘was your visit quick and easy?’. Customers want instant answers about opening times, queues and stock availability before they leave the house, often having already decided on the products they will buy via online research.
4. Add questions that allow your customers to review changes in the way they shop: Did you create any new processes or services during the crisis? Click & Collect? Contactless only? New delivery services? Ask your customers about your new offerings.
5. Remove questions about services you no longer offer, even if these changes are temporary. Whilst COVID-19 is still an everyday issue, you may have removed some services or offerings, for example fitting rooms. Questions about this therefore need to be removed from your questionnaire.
6. Manage customer expectations. Retailers may still have limited staff to deal with enquiries so explain this to customers and give an expected response time. This will prevent having to manage multiple messages and will prompt more understanding if it’s likely to take a bit longer to get back to them.
Long term strategies: the value of looking through the customer lens
The retail sector has seen changes in consumption patterns for several years, but the COVID-19 crisis has created a real break in purchasing habits and is driving long term change to consumption patterns and retail processes. Retailers are adapting and modifying their approach to respond to customers in the best possible way, and to do this they must view their business through the customer lens to truly understand what’s going on. Re-inventing customer satisfaction questionnaires must be part of this process - either adapting what you already have or creating new surveys. To drive the best results here are some tips:
- Make questionnaires local and conversational to drive engagement and to factor in regional variations in the response to the COVID-19 crisis.
- Ensure questionnaires secure quantitative as well as qualitative feedback to help your business adapt to ongoing change.
- Include questions on both traditional and new products and services, taking into account both the physical and digital customer journey.
- Use multiple-choice options and open text fields to discover the causes of friction in the customer experience. There’s nothing more frustrating for a customer than filling out a satisfaction survey to leave a specific piece of feedback and reaching the end without the chance to communicate it. Beyond simply the NPS or customer satisfaction score, this will help businesses to understand the reason why a score is low.