Posts Tagged ‘Communication’

Using Social Media to Listen to Customers

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

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

Monday, May 18th, 2015

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

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

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

Monday, May 11th, 2015

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

6 Things to do to Coach a Store Team

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 4.44.20 PMA coach watches the store and gives feedback to employees at least once a shift – if not more often.   A coach in a store will recognize when an employee is struggling and make adjustments.  A coach analyzes interactions with customers to see if employees need more product knowledge or a more (or less) aggressive sales technique.  A coach provides feedback, encouragement and advice to the team to improve job performance. A coach sees his (or her) role as improving the team that delivers a great customer experience – not delivering the customer experience himself.

To transition from manager to coach, there are some fundamentals to practice.

1)   Be in a position to notice – and take the time to coach.  Make time in your schedule to watch the team as they complete their work and interact with customers. Accept that part of your role is to observe, analyze and thoughtfully advise your team.  Do not jump in and do it for them – that’s what a Team Captain does.

2)   Provide timely feedback. Give feedback the same day an observation occurs.  It should never come later unless there is real research you need to do. Feedback is most effective when it is occurs immediately after the event.

3)   Be specific. People cannot make the necessary adjustments with generalities.  For example, an employee who hears “make more effective suggestions for customers” will struggle to improve while one who hears “when making a suggestion for a product, take it from the shelf and place it in the customer’s hands” will know what to do differently next time.

4)   Be consistent. First make sure your standards are uniform and predictable. Then make sure every manager is in alignment so that employees understand the standards.

5)   Be Fair. There is a difference between “treat everyone the same” and “treat everyone fairly.”  It is the definition of an inspiring leader.  Leaders draw the best out of individual players by challenging each one to reach their personal best.  That cannot be done by treating everyone the same.

6)   Follow up. Consistently evaluate the team and recognize when they are creating new habits or slipping into old ones. It is a good way to set a tone of accountability.

How to Delegate

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-03-10 at 6.00.40 PMLet employees know the outcome you expect and why it is important.  There is nothing more demoralizing than being given a task with no sense for why it matters.  Many managers spoon-feed projects instead of giving employees the perspective of the work they are doing.  For example: “We are going to repaint the interior columns to match the new corporate sign package and we need to clear off all the old signs and tape residue so they are prepped for the painters tonight.” sounds a great deal more reasonable than “Clear off those columns and scrape all the tape residue off them.”  Give employees context and a sense for why their tasks (however small) are important.  Without a frame of reference, delegated tasks can seem pointless.

Take time to inspect what you expect.  Delegating is not abdicating.  Your role is to hold people accountable for outcomes and then providing helpful feedback on how to deliver the outcomes more quickly, more consistently or more accurately.  Acknowledge good efforts and give people some level of safety to know they are able to improve through practice.  Conversely, be pointed and direct if work is not up to standards and repeat the training triangle with consequences, if necessary.

For managers who need to expand how much they can accomplish, the only reliable strategy is to delegate.  While delegating can feel like a loss of control, it is actually a better work balance that allows you to focus on what is critical and allows other capable people to contribute their talents more fully.

To leave behind a legacy of leadership – and not be a mere manager – delegating is essential.  With practice, you will become more comfortable delegating and your staff will recognize that you share responsibility and rewards.  It can become a way to boost productivity while keeping yourself sane.

Good Riddance to Best Buy’s ROWE

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

BBY_logoBest Buy’s recent news to eliminate telecommuting and its ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) program has met with hue and cry by many in the Twin Cities.  Not me.  Take a look at this blog post from 2010 where I called it one of the worst ideas of the year. Here’s an excerpt:

Do you remember trying to work in a campus environment when you went to college?  Let me remind you: you had to leave your room and desk because your neighbors got out of class at noon and scored Pink Floyd’s The Wall along with some excellent Maui Wowie.  Your roommate could only study with Wheel of Fortune on and there was a squirt gun war between your dorm and the one across the quad every day at 3:00.  Remember?  That’s why you moved off campus as soon as your residence hall contract would allow.  So why do you think it would be any different 30 years later?

[Best Buy has] a campus environment with universal wi-fi where employees are encouraged to work from anywhere at anytime. Turns out, however, that people only come into the office for two reasons: meetings in conference rooms or socializing.  See, if they actually need to get work done, they work from home or Starbucks… The headquarters has become the least productive real estate in the company with people coming and going at will and no boundaries for respect for people actually working at their desks.

Or as I like to say: all the headaches of a college campus with none of the booze.

CEO Joly’s decision to eliminate ROWE is perhaps the best sign yet that Best Buy may actually be able to engineer yet another resurrection. Not because adults cannot be trusted to be productive from home, but because a turnaround company’s most valuable currency is CLEAR COMMUNICATION & FOCUS.  To seize employee focus and keep it, Best Buy’s management team needs direct, timely, consistent communication with every associate everyday.  That’s not a dig against anyone’s management skill. It’s a truth I lived at Musicland.  Best Buy’s corporate team needs to stay up to date with priorities and plans each hour.  There should be a healthy level of discomfort for any distraction. Say what you will, ROWE was nothing if not a stimulus for distractions.

Where ya been, Flora?

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Flora DelaneyReaders of my weekly blog posts will note that I have been absent from the site for nearly 9 months.  In that time I have continued my ongoing work with both retail and marketing communication clients and started a secondary business that has kept my attention for nearly 70 hours a week!!  But I am pleased to report that the birth process of that new business is over and I have settled into the management phase of running multiple businesses just like I have balanced running multiple clients over the years.

More importantly, I have had the chance to work with a variety of both small retailers (3 stores) up to multi-branded national retailers (over 2,000 stores)  and have reignited some first-hand observations about the similar issues and complexities all retailers face.

So, I am glad to be back. Get ready for more retail advice, insight and maybe even some solutions re-appearing here on

It’s good to be back!