No matter what business you’re in, knowing what your customers want is the first step to making them happy. It’s an important piece of data that you need to strive to obtain from the start. Having this knowledge enables you to guide your business in the right direction; it’s the most important insight you need to navigate your retail store into successful waters.
Not only does this information show you what direction to head into, it also gives you a compass to follow when it comes to future needs. The biggest part of the process is being able to obtain this information in a comfortable and unobtrusive way. You need to be able to make your customers offer this information to you willingly. Trying to pry it out by using deceitful, or downright annoying, methods will only be counterproductive in the end.
The first step you need to take, however, is a step back. Take a look at your retail operation from the vantage point of a customer and try to see what they see first.
Perception vs. Reality
One of the greatest truths in business is that no matter how good of a job you are doing, there is probably still a significant gap between how you perceive your business to be performing and how customers view your performance and services.
One survey on this topic shows that 60 percent of businesses surveyed believed that there customer service response is fast enough, while a majority of customers disagreed.
Here are a few harsh truths that you need to come to terms with if you want to really understand customer needs and build your retail company into one that truly understands its customer base.
A Lack of Complaints Doesn’t Equate to Customer Satisfaction
Many retailers blindly believe that quiet customers are happy customers. This is almost never the case. According to Desk.com, most customers tend not to complain, even if they are upset with the products or services that they are receiving.
Why aren’t they complaining if the service isn’t up to par? Many customers believe that it’s too much of a hassle and that it’s not worth it. You’d be surprised at how many consumers believe that there’s no use complaining because they figure that businesses don’t care enough to fix the problem or address their issue.
And in most cases, these silently disgruntled are anything but silent. While they won’t forward their complaints to you, these types of unhappy customers are most likely to talk negatively about you to their peers.
Your Perception is Probably Skewed
Speaking of gaps between business and customer perception, you won’t believe how big it is when it comes to assessing the general in-store experience of a customer.
This recently study shows most retail business owners and customers are not even close to being on the same page on this topic.
When asked what makes a great in-store experience, retailers most commonly mentioned things like having advanced technology available for customers. However, that’s not what most customers care about. Customers believe that a great in-store experience is created by polite and helpful employees, a smart store layout and a quality selection of products.
That’s definitely something worth thinking about the next time you want to justify the purchase of expensive interactive technology in an effort to improve your in-store experience. While having all of these lovely gadgets might be able to lure customers into your store, that’s not going to be enough to keep them there, and most importantly, ensure that they are going to open up their wallets and buy something from you.
Make It Easy for Customers to Voice Their Opinions
If there is anything you should have taken away from the last couple of paragraphs is that you might have to investigate your customers needs and wants a little more thoroughly. Hopefully, you now understand that the fact that you’re not getting hate mail and angry phone calls every day from customers doesn’t necessarily mean that all of your customers are really happy with your products and services.
One of the most important traits that retailers need to have is a sense of humility. You should accept that you don’t know everything and that you should be constantly working to improve the way you interact with your customers.
Be proactive and accept your shortcomings so that you can work on improving them. The best way to start is to listen to what your customers are saying. And if they are not saying anything on their own, it’s your responsibility to ask them and get them to open up about their experiences with your store.
The best way to get honest customer feedback is through reviews. This is due in big part to the fact that customers can remain anonymous when giving feedback, most of the time. The veil of anonymity allows customers to be more honest and direct in their assessment of your establishment.
Leaving a box in your store and some pen and paper for anyone who wants to provide feedback is a good idea. Remember when he talked about technology in stores? One good idea is to have a tablet in your store that allows customers to leave quick reviews on their way out.
Of course, you should be active on sites like Yelp as well and continuously check the feedback and tips that are being left about your store. Don’t be afraid to respond to them either, that shows that you are listening and taking the customer’s criticism to heart.
If you really want to increase the rate and quantity of reviews, you can do a promotion that allowing customers to enter a sweepstakes by reviewing your store or by offering discounts on future purchases if they leave comments after making initial ones.
Use Social Media
Social media is a great tool for gauging customer reactions to your store. It’s also a great way to interact with them. If you are getting questions on your Facebook or Twitter account, field them, learn from them and act on them.
There’s no better platform these days for showing your customers that you care than social media. It’s also a great place to show your expertise. Don’t be afraid to engage in active discussions that are related to your store’s niche. It shows customers and potential business partners that you are actively involved in your industry and that you know what you are talking about.
Don’t be afraid to dig deep, either. Not all people commenting on your store will mention you directly. Search your store name regularly and check to see what people are saying. And don’t be hesitant in responding to them either. There’s a good chance that they’ll appreciate your response, even if they weren’t expecting it.
Address Needs Before Desires
To really get to the heart of customer satisfaction, you need to simplify the process and get back to basics. Forget about the fancy gadgets and the latest trends for a while and focus on your customers’ fundamental needs first.
The best way to enhance the shopper experience in your store is by focusing on people, not technology. It’s nice to see a great display or a technology-filled store front. But as mentioned previously, what gets people into your door is not what gets them to buy something and come back. Focus on your people instead.
Are all of your salespeople well trained, knowledgeable and polite? Are you keeping track of your inventory and always making sure that you have all the merchandise you need? Does your store layout make it easy for people to find their way around and shop?
These are the types of questions that need to be considered first. And before you do anything on that end, you need to understand what your customers want from their in-store experience.
Here’s a very important rule of thumb that you must keep in mind when trying to get your customers to take surveys; feedback is not a right. If your customers are willing to perform a survey and give you some feedback, they are doing you a solid.
To show them respect and appreciation, the least you can do is make the survey easy to respond to. With surveys, you can get more in-depth responses than you would by asking them to simply give quick some quick feedback as they exit the store.
You can ask them how they feel about the customer service, store design, technology, products, and just about anything you’d like to get more feedback on. It’s a good idea to give them multiple choice questions or a grading system enabling them to rate aspects of the store on a scale of 1-5 if you want to make it easy for them and get substantial feedback at the same time.
Feel free to leave a section at the end as well that can be open-ended to allow them to comment on any other aspects of the store that they might be inclined to speak on.
Organizing in-store events is another great way to get to know your customers better and pick their brains. If you’re going to organize an event, however, you need to do it right. Pulling off a great in-store event takes a lot of hard work and planning if you want to achieve your goals. The better the event is, the more customers will talk to you and, most likely, the more they’ll spend. The better the event experience is, the greater the chances are that the people who attend are going to tell their friends about it.
Plan presentations, hold open discussions and field questions from attendees. Get some music pumping in the store and serve some food and drinks as well. Don’t be afraid to offer discounts or promotions during the event either. It’s all about showing your customers that you care about them and about your store more than your competition does.
Events enable you to increase the level of interaction between you and your customers and show them that there are real, caring people standing behind the brand and the store.