Friday, January 27, 2012

Take a CX Field Trip

Have you ever wondered what retailers do with the feedback they gather from those receipt-based post-transactional surveys?  I have! And I work in this industry!

Any time you buy a product or use a service, you are asked to complete a survey about your experience. Whether you're buying shoes, staying at a hotel, getting your garbage picked up, or going for a cab ride. Everyone wants to know if you were satisfied with the experience.

I took a little field trip today.

I confess. Occasionally, I shop at Kohl's. I have a Kohl's credit card. I am a Kohl's MVP. I get the 15/20/30% off coupons in the mail from them every week. I've gotten Kohl's cash. Wow! All they do to acquire a customer, get you in the store, and make a sale! But what do they do for you once you get in the door? Quite frankly, it's a mixed bag. Sometimes the experience is good; other times, it's exhausting. But, hey, I can get all of my kids' school clothes and a new vacuum cleaner for great prices minus 30%, so what do I care?!

Well, I actually do care. And not only because of my profession. You see, there's a Target about two minutes down the street from Kohl's. I can get a pretty sweet deal on school clothes there, too... and get my groceries at the same time!

(Sidebar: JC Penney has been competing heavily with Kohl's and their marketing tactics over the last several months, but to finally trump Kohl's, they are now getting rid of their sales and slashing prices by 40%! And it appears that they are thinking about the customer experience, too.)

OK, back to my field trip.

I went to Kohl's today to talk to the store manager about how they use my feedback. (I haven't taken their survey recently, but I have a couple of times in the past.) I arrived at the store and decided to go upstairs to the Customer Service desk to ask for the manager. 

(Sidebar: I have always wondered why they have the Customer Service desk upstairs, in the furthest back corner of the store. Are they trying to make it difficult for people to return items or to get questions answered?)

On my way to the escalator, I passed a sales associate, and she asked me if I needed help finding anything. (Yay for that!) I politely declined and went up the elevator and to the far back corner. At the Customer Service desk, I asked the associate behind the counter where I could find the manager. She asked me why I wanted to speak with him and then paged him. While she was waiting for him to call back, she started to tell me about how they track numbers... ring, OK, the manager is downstairs at the cash registers.

Back down the escalator I go, and sure enough, the manager was at the cash registers! He was also the only person at the cash registers, checking out a line of waiting customers! I got in line because, despite that, I figured I'd just ask my questions quickly and take no more of his time than it would take to ring up a customer who was buying something. Luckily, another cashier came along, but there were six people behind me at that point.

When it was my turn, I quickly walked up to him and asked him how he uses the feedback that customers provide when they complete the survey that is presented on the sales receipt. He seemed momentarily tongue-tied, like no one had ever asked him that before (probably not, though more of us should), and then he proceeded to tell me that:
  • they use a 3rd-party vendor to collect the feedback
  • the vendor parses out the feedback for each individual store
  • there is no incentive for customers to complete the survey because they feel that this gives them true feedback (as a researcher, I read into that: "not biased")
  • they review the feedback in their weekly huddles
I appreciated that much information but wanted to get to the meat of it, yet still trying to be mindful of the people waiting in line to pay. I threw out a couple of doozy questions for him, and before he answered them, he needed to know who I was. Why was I asking? I told myself before entering the store that I'd stick to the "interested customer" character, but I ended up letting him know that I work in this industry and was curious to find out how companies are using our feedback down at the store level.

I asked him if he followed up with individual customers about their feedback, and he responded with, "Yes, depending on the situation." (If I had more time and was truly conducting a fuller interview with him, I'd have gotten clarification on which situations.) Note that Macy's follows up with every single one of their respondents, over a million a year.

I also asked him if he created action plans to resolve recurring issues, and he said he did. The example of a recurring issue I posed was long lines at the registers, which was the situation while I was talking to him, but I didn't feel right questioning him about the effectiveness of his action plans at that point.

The bottom line: I wish I had had more time to speak with him, but in that brief conversation, he gave me "the right answers." (Sorry if I sound skeptical; recall, I noted earlier that the experience there is hit or miss, not consistently good.) The one concern that I have is that they are likely just focused on the number.
  • Reviewing the feedback weekly is great, but honestly, it needs to be reviewed daily. If you're not, then you're missing out on hot spots, as they're happening. If you're reviewing feedback weekly, then that leads me to suspect that you're focused on the number. Set the number aside and look what customers are saying happened in the store yesterday/today. Take corrective actions immediately.
  • The Customer Service desk associate started to tell me about how they look at the numbers. I'd much prefer that frontline staff tell me that they review the feedback, discuss the issues, consider root causes, and talk about what they'll need to do to deliver a better customer experience. After all, that's why they are collecting the feedback. 
Have you ever stopped to ask a store manager, who is asking you to complete a survey about your experience, how your feedback is being used? We should all do that. And better yet, companies should be sharing with us regularly what changes and improvements they've made as a result of our feedback!

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