How to use direct customer feedback to help your staff improve
Five ways that organisations can use customer feedback to motivate their staff and improve service standards.
There’s little doubt that, when it comes to delivering a great customer experience, providing great service is absolutely key. In the rush to craft impeccable instore experiences, many major businesses are investing in latest technologies, from self-serve to AI and beyond. However, while new technologies can be a great – and essential – thing for a business, it’s still crucial to get the basics right first.
But how should organisations work to keep improving their service? These are my five top tips for businesses to help understand what customers really care about when it comes to service, and to use that feedback to motivate staff to do even better.
1. Understand what your customers want from your staff
The first part is identifying what matters most to your customers when it comes to ‘good’ service. Is it the availability of staff on the shop floor – a sheer numbers game? Is it a friendly face and a smile?
Of course, these are all important. But we’ve found that there’s a little more to it than that. According to our data, your sales associates’ product knowledge has a big impact on average transaction value – much bigger than simple ‘availability’. When a customer rates a staff member as highly knowledgeable or informative, they spend on average 23.1% more than when they’re given a low rating.
This has implications for staff retention efforts, training programmes, and for how businesses ‘staff up’ during busy periods and weekends. There is a clear ROI to improving your staff’s knowledge of your store, brand and product offerings.
2. Dig deeper by asking a variety of questions
Why would service in one store be continually rated higher than that of another, when you know you have the same proportion of staff to customers? For that matter, why would one store be out-performing others on sales?
To truly understand and share best practices, you can be a little bit creative around the questions you ask customers to start identifying what those best practices might look like.
For instance, one major sports brand retailer asked their customers the question ‘Did we ask your name today?’. Customers that had been asked their name spent 19 percent more on average than those that hadn’t. They were able to take this tactic and retrain staff across all stores to make adoption consistent, which resulted in an uplift in revenue.
Other examples of specific questions are:
- ‘Did staff recommend at least two items today?’ – a question that uncovered a massive 43% difference in ATV when the answer was ‘yes’.
- ‘Rate the staff’s explanation of product benefits’ – asked to test a benefit-led selling training programme, which led to the programme being rolled out nationally as a high rating saw an 11% increase in ATV.
- ‘Are there enough staff here today?’ – used to help test and optimise staffing levels.
3. Create some friendly competition
Once you’ve identified some of the specific questions that show the impact of different of elements of service on your customer experience and the actual basket size, it’s going to be all about driving consistent adoption of those elements and sales tactics across the different outlets.
One of the best ways to do this is to get everyone competing. Make a leaderboard and ensure it’s being regularly updated. The businesses that have most successfully used customer feedback to motivate staff have embedded it deeply into the day to day running of the organisation, from a regional level all the way down to the department level. One major apparel retailer in the UK, for instance, now uses their customer feedback as a KPI for bonusing store managers.
The businesses that have most successfully used customer feedback to motivate staff have embedded it deeply into the day to day running of the organisation.
A caveat here is that for this to work, your team have to trust that the customer feedback is genuine and representative. If they feel like they’re being unfairly penalised because you only hear from the vocal minority – often complaints – rather than the majority of satisfied customers, it could start to cause resentment.
4. Test and learn
How do you know if a staff training programme is going to be effective? Once you’ve pinpointed best practices in one of your stores, how do you understand whether they’ll translate to other locations?
You can use your customer feedback to take a controlled test-and-learn approach. Before pouring resource into initiatives, take a sample of outlets as a test. Ask specific questions around service for a period of time beforehand, then roll out the initiative and see how your ratings are impacted compared to your control group.
If the impact is positive – and particularly if the higher ratings are tied to an increase in basket size – then you have evidence of the ROI of that particular initiative or training programme, and can move forward to a full roll-out with the confidence that it’s worthwhile.
5. Share the knowledge to help staff embrace change
Making your staff undergo new training, or adopt new sales tactics, can sometimes be an arduous process – for management and for the staff themselves. That’s especially true when people don’t fully understand the reasons why they’re having to change.
One of the main ways to motivate staff is by letting them know they’re making a difference. Sharing the positive customer feedback they’re getting – and being able to directly demonstrate how that’s increasing revenue for the business – will help to empower your people, and open them up to changing for the better.
And that will shine through to your customers, creating a positive feedback loop that will influence and motivate your staff through future transformations.
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I was formerly a consumer rights lawyer at Europe’s largest consumers’ association, Which?, before founding TruRating in 2013 when I began to notice how influential online review sites were becoming and the make or break role they were playing for many businesses.
I was concerned that despite best intentions, feedback sites often just...