Customer feedback is vital in any business or industry, and retailers in particular are utilizing it to not only put specific products under a microscope but also to analyze how they’re providing the best experience across all their channels.
Inviting customers to provide feedback on their experience is a great way to keep the channels of communication open. While the contact center is certainly one way to gather it, retailers are also tapping digital channels, email marketing and newsletters.
Using this feedback allows retailers to catch issues before they become detrimental to the business, and shows customers you value their input. Soliciting reviews, one popular form of feedback, allows retailers to identify strengths and weaknesses, helping it evolve.
Olga Vidisheva, founder and CEO of Shoptiques.com, said in an incredibly saturated market it’s vital to offer the best customer service, starting with your team being ready and excited to engage with them.
“It humanizes our team drives positive reinforcement for them,” said Vidisheva. “Once that support is offered it is important to continue to re-engage the customer.”
Addressing the Issues
Angie Stocklin, co-founder of ecommerce eyewear seller One Click Ventures, said the brand receives a ton of information on various issues coming into the contact center. Its 10 agents use a tally sheet system where they pick no more than three issues a month to address.
“We had to come up with a system that works with the team,” said Stocklin. “We use net promoter scores (NPS) and product reviews, so agents see all of that and are able to take action on that as well.”
Stocklin said that no matter how hard you try there will be customers unhappy with your site, product or service. Instead of ignoring the negativity in a review or deleting it, she suggests reaching out to the customer to see if there anything you can do for them.
Taking the time to dig through product reviews and NPS feedback is a big commitment, Stocklin said, but it is a great way to connect with customers and show them you value their feedback. If you find a customer with a complicated issue or an item that needs to be replaced, take it one step further and reach out again after a week or two to ensure your addressed their need or complaint.
JackThreads also uses net promoter score as its biggest feedback driver. David Tull, a former customer engagement manager for the company, said NPS goes deeper in asking customers how likely they are to recommend the brand to a friend, a strong measure of satisfaction. The question, however, is whether the customer is an asset and is promoting the brand.
The scores have helped JackThreads shape decision-making around merchandise, which brands to partner with, lines to offer and merchandise strategy.
“It has gone from being one of our internal measuring sticks in customer service to one of the headline KPIs in the business in 2017,” said Tull.
Debra Ellis, president of Wilson Ellis Consulting, said feedback helps retailers identify pain points and bottlenecks that can help them provide higher quality service and reduce costs.
“Companies using feedback well see reductions in complaint calls, operating costs and negative reviews,” said Ellis. “Customer lifetime value also increases because of the changes implemented to improve the customer experience, encouraging people to order more often with higher average orders.”
Using Feedback to Make a Great Product
Tull said JackThreads tries to focus the feedback on product changes, updates and improvements. What they are most concerned about in 2017 is providing a great product experience.
“We focus on NPS and keep rates by brand and product category,” he said. “What percentage of items are they keeping when customers are trying them at home?” JackThreads allows customer to order and try on items at home before they decide to purchase, returning what they don’t want.
Looking at the brand and category gives a baseline for expectations. For example, Tull said shorts perform a lot better than slacks. “That helps us understand whether a product or whole category is underperforming,” said Tull.
Ellis said retailers will expand their product line based on customer feedback. However, the challenge is that customers as product innovators are working with a limited frame of reference.
“An individual knows what he or she wants or needs, not what is needed or wanted universally,” Ellis said. “It’s the responsibility of the retailer to determine how the addition will serve customers and company.”
Stocklin said One Click’s merchandising and customer happiness teams have shared documents to pass feedback back and forth, allowing the company to get products it’s missing while discontinuing items that aren’t meeting customer expectations in terms of quality.
How Customer Feedback Offers the Best Online Experience
Aside from product improvements, customers also provide feedback about the retailer’s website, allowing them to review it and make necessary changes.
For example, FastenersPlus.com incorporated several of the most-asked-for website features to help boost shopping efficiency and improve the user experience.
Among the most common requests from customers was the ability to access their account information for speedier checkout and to easily view order history. The website’s home page offers a “My Account” link that enables them to save payment methods, edit a billing address, see past purchases, check billing status, print receipts, track shipments and request returns or reorders.
“One of the things we’re really committed to is our level of service,” said FastenersPlus.com General Manager Tammy Karr in an article for Multichannel Merchant. “We listen to what you want and the ‘My Account’ features were a repeated request from customers.”
On the company’s site its online cart will update without requiring a page refresh, while a consolidated checkout page shows the complete order with quantity, pricing and shipping options.
The search box automatically triggers a dropdown menu of suggested queries. Products can also be found by entering a part number, which routes users directly to the page. These site changes help promote the company’s tagline, “Find it fast. Get it fast.”
Another new feature on FastenersPlus.com includes printer-friendly product specification sheets. Tables containing dimensions, load strengths and other details are available to download in a PDF format, allowing for easy reference and sharing.
“Any time we make changes to our website it is to improve our customer experience,” Karr said. “We’re continuing to add new products to meet our customers’ needs, and are also looking for customer feedback for new products to add.”
FastenersPlus.com continues to expand its product line and can track down many items not advertised on its website. Karr encourages customers to call a product specialist for assistance with any needs or questions.
Ellis said receiving feedback from customers about a retailer’s website experience is one of the best ways to test usability. “It helps identify areas where calls to action aren’t always easily understood by end users, navigation issues and overall functionality,” she said.
Ellis added functionality issues like broken links are addressed first. General improvements are made after marketing and operations review the need and overall effect.
How Email and Live Chat Comes into Play
Tull said email is the default feedback channel for JackThreads, where the brand collects the most customer information. JackThreads doesn’t do immediate feedback collection from email, but instead follows up the next day with a customer. It will also email a customer after they have completed the try-on process and have paid for the item.
Ellis said email is a convenient personal form of communication as customers are able to choose when they read and respond to a retailer’s message.
“There is an added bonus of written documentation for future questions and responses,” she said. “Providing email as a feedback channel makes it easier for people to provide the information a company needs to enhance the customer experience.”
Stocklin said that One Click’s customer happiness manager sits on a team that also includes representatives from marketing, technology, merchandising and fulfillment.
The customer happiness manager will aggregate email feedback he collects from all of the channels and he brings it to the customer team. The team will then decide what action the brand needs to take based on the feedback they receive.
Live chat has become another way major way retailers are connecting with customers. It gives customers the ability to ask questions about a product before they make a purchase or help make the checkout process easier and as a result help boost sales. It’s another feedback channel used by JackThreads. Getting instant help from the contact center representative makes the experience a more enjoyable one and has increased buying rates.
Using Social Media in the Contact Center
Ellis said the customer feedback process today typically starts at the contact center via email, the website or telephone. Social media outreach happens after the other options have failed.
“When this occurs, the negativity is very damaging as the customer frustration is very hard to overcome and there are unaffected people providing editorial comments,” said Ellis.
Ellis said the role of social media role is different for retailers appealing to a younger demographic that encourages its use. Their customers often start on social media and hit on several platforms if the issue isn’t resolved. In both cases monitoring and responding to feedback in a timely manner is critical.
Tull said at JackThreads the focus is less on feedback and more on relationships.
“We tend to get the most potent feedback on the private channels,” said Tull. “We measure and report the feel of the brand and determine what our social sentiment is.”