Retailers are challenged daily to continuously improve margins, maintain customer loyalty and remain competitive. Unfortunately, the traditional marketing mix is dying, consumers are desensitized to price wars and product differentiation has shrunk. While it seems brands have become powerless in today’s saturated marketplace and there is nothing left to compete on, retailers do have the ability to control one thing – the customer experience.
The customer experience is the last battleground for retailers. Research into customer behavior has added weight to the idea that a positive customer experience is the number one driver of both new and repeat business, influencing as many as 80 percent of all purchasing decisions. A positive brand experience results in increased loyalty, which in retail terms means increased frequency, higher transaction values, more willingness to forgive mistakes and positive word-of-mouth. On the flip side, when a customer has an unsatisfying shopping experience and retailers don’t have recovery measures in place, brand allegiances are severed and negative financial implications ensue.
THE FINANCIAL COST OF A NEGATIVE EXPERIENCE
One escalated customer complaint equals 50 unhappy customers and 1,375 negative word-of mouth cases
For example sake, let’s assume a retailer has one million customers, each of which averages $200 in spend per year, totaling an annual revenue of $200 million. According to Leger Metrics research, on average two in five consumers will have a negative experience with this retailer. Of those who are irritated with some aspect of the shopping journey, whether it’s poor service, unhelpful associates or long lines at the register, 54 percent will contact the retailer to voice their dissatisfaction. In the end, more than half of those disgruntled consumers will take their business elsewhere. As a direct result of a negative customer experience the retailer is at risk to lose $9.8 million.
The complaints retailers actually hear is just the tip of the iceberg. What about the 46 percent of customers who have a negative experience, say nothing and simply never return? That’s equivalent to a $7.5 million punch in the gut. Understanding consumer perceptions and reacting more quickly to address issues when they arise can reduce the instances of negatives experiences. Brands who successfully reduce the risk of permanent customer defection have the power to positively impact sales and shape public opinion.
THE POWER OF OPINION
Ninety-seven percent of consumers have admitted to airing grievances about a negative brand experience to friends, family and co-workers or on social media. In a hyper-connected world, poor experiences are easily amplified and multiple quickly. Third party referrals continue to weigh heavily in the consumer’s path to purchase with 53 percent of shoppers admitting that a negative online post has influenced decisions on whether or not to conduct business with a retailer. Negative reviews affect sales and without implementing a strong feedback loop that empowers retailers to react in real-time and pre-empt undesirable messaging in social media, the brand’s reputation weakens in the eyes of the consumer.
MAKE SHOPPING A THRILL
46 percent of customers who have a negative experience, say nothing and simply never return.
Whether shopping for tires, furniture or a new lipstick shade, consumers want to be thrilled – not simply satisfied. Some intriguing cognitive research found that a positive customer service experience has definite physiological and psychological effects on consumers. According to the Neurosense study, being exposed to “fantastic acts of service” initiates a chain reaction of positive physical responses in the human body indicating excitement, such as increased heart rate and perspiration levels, a decrease in anxiety and stress levels and slower breathing rates.
The study found that, on an emotional level, benefitting from great customer service triggers the same basic cerebral reactions as feeling loved. In other words, a positive experience will literally give customers a thrill. Achieving this level of emotional and physical customer engagement is what brands strive for, yet fail to achieve because assumptions trump the customer’s voice. The best way to know if customers are thrilled is to simply ask.
Customer satisfaction surveys have significantly evolved presenting retailers with an affordable and less time consuming means to collect feedback. Surveys that can be automatically distributed, measured and analyzed close to the moment of truth will ensure retailers are delivering on promises, identifying key drivers of customer satisfaction and uncovering specific areas that lack a thrill factor.
CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE DRIVES REVENUE
While retailers should always make judicious use of marketing and advertising tactics to boost brand awareness and drive traffic, these activities simply cannot match the ROI potential of a memorable customer experience. Delivering a superior customer experience drives profits, and according to the Temkin Group, increases the likelihood to recommend a brand, revisit a store and dismiss competitors. Voice of the Customer (VoC) technology offers retailers the ability to measure interactions between employees and customers then track transaction outcomes as it relates to the quality of service. Retailers who possess the analytical dexterity to understand the correlation between financials and customer satisfaction will ultimately have the upper hand.
USING THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE TO IMPROVE YOUR BOTTOM LINE: 5 BEST PRACTICES
69% of consumers improved their opinion of a brand after the retailer reached out and addressed negative experience
- Start Measuring the Customer Experience: Establish a Voice of the Customer program to give your customers an easy way to share feedback continuously and at the store level.
- Share Customer Feedback Across the Organization: Deliver feedback from customers to location staff and senior management in real-time to instill accountability, improvement planning and immediate reactions.
- Take Action: With the tools in place to know when a customer is dissatisfied, an issue resolution process can be established to close the loop, build lasting loyalty and prevent permanent defection.
- Leverage Insights to Drive Improvement: Identify the key drivers of customer satisfaction, track brandlevel insights and utilize financial linkage analysis to correlate sales transactions and customer satisfaction.
- Get Customers Talking Positively: Uncover brand ambassadors and pre-empt negative reviews on social media.
- Leger Analytics
- Temkin Group