Using Social Media to Listen to Customers

May 21st, 2015 by Flora Delaney

iconsFor a small business or retail store, “listening to customers” happens everyday. But as explored in the post “2 Reasons Why Store Managers Don’t Hear Their Customers” it may not be accurate. Truth is, there is real value in giving your customers multiple channels to engage in a dialog with you. With the advent of social media and the instant feedback loop of facebook, twitter, yelp and others it is possible to become aware of an issue and address it quickly in a way that can earn your store or business more respect than ever.

Some basic rules for engaging with a customer who provides feedback online are:

  • Always respond quickly. Negative and positive feedback should get the same urgent response. When a customer shares something positive, make sure to add a fun and humble response.
  • Thank customers for taking the time to make you aware of something. They didn’t have to and it means they still care if they are willing to try to engage with your brand online.
  • Don’t auto-respond: be brief, honest and respectful. Above all, be professional. Your responses will be online for months if not years into the future. Make sure you can turn off your emotions before responding.
  • Take disputes offline. If your customer is TRULY wrong, contact them privately to work out a compromise.

In the course of your business day, you may believe you are close enough to your customer to accurately anticipate what they want and need. A business person who believes that they completely understand their customer should ask themselves: if I don’t completely understand my spouse (or child, partner, parent, co-worker), how on earth could I believe that I completely understand all of my customers? Makes you think, right?

    How Small Businesses Can Listen to Customers

    May 18th, 2015 by Flora Delaney

    listeningThere is a wonderful quote that “the plural of anecdote is not data.” Too often retailer and other small business owners get snared into believing that a story or two that rises from the hundreds of customer encounters every day is a full and accurate reflection of customer feedback about their stores or business.

    Net Promoter Scores (see our earlier post: Net Promoter – the Most Common Retail Listening Tool) prevent that but they are just the beginning to really understand the Voice of the Customer. To objectively understand how you are perceived in the marketplace, find out:

    • What do your best customers love about you?
    • What most frustrates your unsatisfied (past) customers?
    • How do your customers think about you differently than your competition?

    For most managers, the only way to uncover these emotionally charged questions is to hire an objective third party to uncover the answers. Focus groups and intercept surveys are the most robust methods – but also expensive. At Delaney Consulting, we administer online surveys and other methods for uncovering honest customer feedback. Because it is human nature to overreact to negatives and under-react to positives, an outside firm like ours can help a management staff accurately gauge the appropriate responses that are required to elicit the kind of customer support everyone wants. Use caution when relying on internal communication to accurately judge customer feedback. Rarely is accurate data unearthed solely through employee feedback of “what customers are saying.”

    Next Post: Using Social Media to Listen to Customers

      Net Promoter – the Most Common Small Business Feedback Tool

      May 14th, 2015 by Flora Delaney

      CHCKLSTOne of the most common retail tools for collecting customer feedback is a “net promoter score.” The concept of net promoter is simple. Customers are asked whether they would recommend the store (or service) to friends and family on a scale of 0-10 . A score of 9-10 is a promoter. A score of 7-8 is neutral. A 6 score or below is a detractor. Subtract the detractor percentage from the promoter percentage and you have a “net” number: the Net Promoter Score.

      Promoters are customers who are enthusiastic about your store or brand and will keep buying from you. These are loyal customers who drive growth over time through their positive “word of mouth” marketing to their network. Neutral customers are currently satisfied but constantly at risk to switch stores or brands. Detractors are unhappy customers who can damage sales and give your store or brand a bad reputation throughout their network.

      A net promoter score is useful for doing more than capturing your customer’s feedback at one point in time. It is especially useful when comparing scores over time or across locations. Savvy retailers look at their net promoter scores during peak hours and non-peak hours to understand the possible degradation in customer service during busy hours. They compare net promoter scores by floor manager to understand which ones direct and lead staff in providing excellent customer service and which do not. Most large retailers, restaurant chains and service providers use net promoter scores.

      Customers are incented to provide a net promoter score by either going to a website or a toll-free phone number for a “less than one minute” survey. In return for participating in the scoring, customers can usually win a gift card or a discount on a future purchase. Customers are typically notified of the survey through register receipt messaging or from store associates directly. There are dozens of Net Promoter providers that can be found online – many integrate seamlessly with the most popular POS platforms.

        2 Reasons Why Store Managers Don’t Hear Their Customers

        May 11th, 2015 by Flora Delaney

        listeningFor the store associate or manager who interacts with customers all day long, the idea of having to listen to their customers seems redundant. After all, listening to customers is what they do for their entire shift. But actively engaging with customers and distilling all of the voices into major themes is difficult. Honestly, most store associates “cannot see the forest for the trees” when it comes to listening to customers.

        There are two reasons that store employees are too biased to be good listeners to their customers:

        Recency: As humans, we are programmed to remember only the most recent things while the past becomes hazy. It is called the recency effect and it means that people tend to recall the most recent information about something above all else. When asked what customers think, we are most likely to only remember the customers of the past week and not remember past interactions well.

        Reinforcement: Another human trait is to remember facts well that reinforce our own beliefs and discount facts that contradict our beliefs. Called the confirmation bias, it causes us to listen and recall information that supports our pre-existing attitudes and beliefs while selectively forgetting the uncomfortable information that challenges us. For example, if a store associate believes that the reason sales are down is because the prices in the store are too high, they are likely to retain all of the comments from customers complaining about the prices and not recall comments about trouble finding parking.

        For those reasons, store managers need to put tools into place that can actively inquire about customer experiences and objectively report the findings.

        Next Post: Net Promoter – the Most Common Retail Listening Tool

          The Benefits of a Simple Yearly Promotional Calendar

          May 7th, 2015 by Flora Delaney

          CalendarIt is a surprising fact that most retailers and small businesses do not have an annual promotional calendar. There’s a vague sense that they may have a number of promotional offers available to customers through a previous email campaign or a bounce back coupon printed on a receipt, but very few take the time to create a twelve-month promotional plan. A well thought out and executed promotional plan has many benefits:

          • It creates a limited time offer for customers to give them a call to action. (That’s marketing speak for make a purchase.)
          • It can be the foundation of arrangements with vendors to secure better deals or terms.
          • It creates excitement in your store.
          • It provides fuel to your social media and advertising.
          • It can drive specific customer behavior that leads to larger transactions and more loyalty.

          A twelve-month promotional plan is as simple as a spreadsheet with months across the top and your marketing and sales actions along the left. If this is your first foray into creating limited-time promotions, consider creating six promotions that are two months each. For each month, create a promotion that is meant to drive a specific outcome. Typical goals would include acquiring new B2B customers, acquiring new B2C customers, (See our post “The Most Basic 2-Tiered Marketing Plan for Businesses”) increasing the number of transactions, rewarding high-value customers with preferred deals, building a stronger community network or donating to charity. Some promotions may accomplish more than one goal, but typically a promotion is meant to drive one primary customer behavior.

          We regularly work with businesses who begin believing that a promotional plan will be inflexible and difficult to maintain. Truth is, it provides enormous benefits to every part of the organization and can save marketing money over the year. Contact us today and let us show you how.

          Consider including some promotional “safeguards” in your annual plan. These can be last-minute optional offers that you can use if needed to reach your sales goals. Examples include one day flash sale offers that you can activate the last week of the month if sales are slow. Email blasts and social media “fan only” offers can be activated in one day. Other ideas include secondary and tertiary offers targeted at a very specific segment.

          An annual calendar can be a foundation to begin negotiations with key vendors. Find out what they would be willing to do to support a specific promotion. Find market niches that your vendors want to penetrate and ask for price rebates or other offers to help you target the same niche. If a vendor has a goal of increasing sales of a new product line or brand and find out what they would be willing to do (underwrite a direct mail brochure, pay for an in-store display, split the cost of a newspaper ad) to help you create a promotion featuring those cartridges.

          A promotion calendar can help you strategically think about your business and how to achieve your goals. Setting up a calendar makes it easier to involve other people to help you achieve your goals. A calendar can help you track and learn what are effective and ineffective marketing investments. A calendar can help you stay focused and give your daily activity purpose.

          Remember: There’s activity and there’s productivity. Don’t confuse the two.

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