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The new rules of customer feedback – post-COVID-19

By Sebastien Riolo, Critizr UK’s Senior Customer Success Manager

We’re currently dealing with the biggest retail shake-up in a century. Lockdown, isolation and staying local mean that new customer experience priorities are emerging – think safe store formats, more compassionate service and stronger emotional ties between brands and consumers. Some businesses have had their doors closed for almost three months, others have rapidly adapted to keep essential stores open for the public and to up their online services to meet demand. But both know that there’s no return to operating – or shopping – ‘as normal’.

The challenge now? How to become more agile and stay a step ahead of such fast-paced change. It’s critical for retailers to maintain the three pillars of customer experience – efficiency, simplicity and emotion – and to adapt them to suit new consumption patterns. But how do you keep track of consumer shopping patterns and know if what you’re offering is really meeting customer expectations?

Putting customer feedback at the heart of a retail recovery plan is essential. It’s an invaluable tool for taking the real-time, multi-channel ‘pulse’ of the business and providing insight into the new shopping landscape and the needs of customers – whether they’re loyal, lapsed or new to the business.  

But if businesses are still asking the same questions as before the COVID-19 crisis, then they need to make urgent changes. Customer surveys need to be relevant to the new customer journey, otherwise they risk becoming insensitive noise, clogging up inboxes. Start by looking at the changes you can make quickly to survey content – the questions to ask, how to ask them, and the customer data that is most important for the business.

Six changes to make now to your customer satisfaction questionnaires

1. Measure your customer’s response to safety and hygiene measures put in place in-store. Reinforced hygiene standards are part of government guidelines so ensure your customers understand and appreciate the measures (hand sanitiser, increased cleaning schedules, one way systems and the wearing of masks, amongst others). 

2. Adopt a reassuring tone whilst acknowledging the current climate. This is important when soliciting feedback and can be achieved by making simple changes to the language you use, for example: ‘We know that these are difficult times, please help us to support you by completing our questionnaire’. 

3. Adjust questions to suit customers’ more regimented approach to store visits. Instead of ‘were our staff friendly and knowledgeable?’ use ‘was your visit quick and easy?’. Customers want instant answers about opening times, queues and stock availability before they leave the house, often having already decided on the products they will buy via online research.

4. Add questions that allow your customers to review changes in the way they shop: Did you create any new processes or services during the crisis? Click & Collect? Contactless only? New delivery services? Ask your customers about your new offerings. 

5. Remove questions about services you no longer offer, even if these changes are temporary. Whilst COVID-19 is still an everyday issue, you may have removed some services or offerings, for example, fitting rooms. Questions about this, therefore, need to be removed from your questionnaire. 

6. Manage customer expectations. Retailers may still have limited staff to deal with enquiries so explain this to customers and give an expected response time. This will prevent having to manage multiple messages and will prompt more understanding if it’s likely to take a bit longer to get back to them.

Tips for longer-term strategies

COVID-19 has created a real break in purchasing habits, but before the crisis, the retail sector was already managing a lot of change. It makes sense to take as broad a view as possible through what we call the ‘customer lens’ to fully understand customer expectations. Re-inventing customer satisfaction questionnaires is a vital part of this process.

  • Make questionnaires local and conversational to drive engagement and to factor in regional variations, particularly in the response to COVID-19. 
  • Ensure questionnaires secure quantitative as well as qualitative feedback to help your business adapt to ongoing change. 
  • Include questions on both traditional and new products and services, taking into account both the physical and digital customer journey. 
  • Use multiple-choice options and open text fields to discover the causes of friction in the customer experience. There’s nothing more frustrating for a customer than filling out a satisfaction survey to leave a specific piece of feedback and reaching the end without the chance to communicate it. Beyond simply the NPS or customer satisfaction score, this will help businesses to understand the reason why a score is low. 

To help you understand how to adjust your whole CX program in the face of the crisis we’ve created a free E-book: Human Centricity is key for physical retail in the new COVID-19 world.


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