Customer Experience Insights: Transforming Big Data into Smart Data

Big Data presents great opportunities for insights into the customer experience, but it is not without its challenges. The problem, of course, is that Big Data, by definition, means that there is increasing volume, velocity and variety of data. That volume and velocity of data often outstrip a company’s ability to utilize it.

Over the past decade I have seen brands gather data from various sources (mystery shopping, customer satisfaction surveys, social media, audits, contact centers and finance), but few companies truly break the data down into actionable insight and build a clear customer strategy behind it.

It’s no wonder. With so many forms of data being collected by various methodologies, different vendors, with siloed analysis of data streams, it’s not surprising that mixed and sometimes even conflicting messages are reflected back to the business, from CEO to store manager, to Learning & Development to Operations. Or what is more typical—companies end up with lots and lots of data, but no real insights.

Through working with hundreds of brands, we have learned the best way to transform Big Data into Smart Data is to:

  1. Aggregate. To take advantage of Big Data and understand how to improve the customer experience with the greatest ROI, we recommend investing in technology that allows you to gather data inputs from multiple sources and multiple vendors in real-time into a single platform.
  2. Analyze. Turning Big Data into Smart Data, is not just the aggregation but analysis. To extract insights you need analysts who specialize in dealing with customer experience data. In fact, our analyst team has found that by combining different types of data you get insights you could not get with each individual data stream. These insights can then be fed out to each location via the technology platform.
  3. Recommend by Location. Make sure that the platform allows you to drill-down to location-level data and recommendations. Not all locations need the same fixes. Giving blanket instructions based on aggregate data to all locations will penalize some, and totally miss the mark on others.

To learn more about Market Force and how we help companies turn Big Data into Smart Data, schedule a briefing today.

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As a Senior Director of Strategic Relations at Market Force, Jay aligns his team's focus on providing the best actionable insights to the UK & European client base. He has vast experience not only in Retail Management, B2B Client Management & thought leadership, but also how to empower and motivate your teams to deliver the best Customer Experience possible.

It Takes Two; a Customer Experience Measurement Strategy

World class multi-location brands leverage several measures to understand individual store performance. This is true across numerous industries, from restaurants to supermarkets to petro and convenience retailers to drug stores to department stores to hotels to banking and financial services organizations. However, not all stores are created equally. There are many factors that go into measuring how an individual location delivers on the brand promise. Financial metrics are an obvious metric—but tend to be in the rear view mirror. In Market Force’s modeling work, we have found that both delivery to brand standards (assessed through mystery shopping and audits) and customer experience metrics (surveys and call center data) can be lead metrics of financial performance. So how?

Location-level customer experience derives from two components:

  1. Operational execution—how well did the location deliver on the brand standard?
  2. The experiential factor—how did a customer feel about his or her experience?

Both operational and experiential measures tell a brand how its locations are delivering on the brand promise.

Operational Measures: Most brands leverage mystery shopping to understand their operational execution. This measure is a black and white, objective evaluation of exactly what happens at the store when a customer comes in. Were they acknowledged and greeted? Were they served properly? How quickly did they receive service? How long did it take them to check out? Were they thanked for their business? These are simple questions, answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses. In addition, shoppers can assess the sales process—did associates ask needs based questions, provide recommendations, and interact in a way that positively represents the brand. Mystery shopping enables a business to ‘inspect what they expect’. This feedback helps brands know where they are executing and where there are performance gaps.

Experiential Measures: Just as many businesses deploy customer experience surveys. This measure is more of a ‘shades of gray’ perspective; a subjective read on how a customer felt about their visit. Overall, how satisfied were they with their experience? How likely are they to return? How likely are they to recommend the store to a friend, family member or colleague? How do they feel about the value for the price paid? These questions are answered using both quantitative scales and open-ended text data. Leveraging both numeric and open-ended data will provide operators with the information they need to coach their teams to delight each and every customer.

With both measures in place, an organization has a truly holistic view of their location level CX, and change becomes a matter of acting on very specific behaviors. In our research across hundreds of multi-location businesses, we find that better performance on brand standards (as assessed by mystery shopping) has a high impact on the actual customer experience—customer satisfaction increases as locations deliver better on standards. In addition, our sophisticated financial models show that the actual behaviors of store staff and operational attributes of a store can predict financial metrics like same store sales, transaction counts and average transaction value. And these are the metrics that really matter.

For additional insight into this integrated approach, please see our “Better Together: Integrating Direct Customer Feedback and Mystery Shopping Data” white paper.

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Brad Christian is a Managing Director at Market Force and consults with retail and restaurant executives to design cost-effective customer experience measurement programs that help them protect their brand's reputation, delight guests and drive greater unit economics.

Making Sense of Sensors and Beacons

Many companies have invested in camera and beacon technology to track customers within brand locations. That data is very rich. How can you make sense of the plethora of information? We recommend tying behavioral data from these sensors to the subjective data supplied by customers.

For example, a Market Force partner uses sensor data to track cars and people at a gas station and convenience store. Data includes unique visitors, first time visitors, dwell time at certain stations (like the pump) and number of visitors entering the convenience store. This rich behavioral data can be combined with subjective survey data, contact center data, or mystery shopping data. Brands can examine:

  1. Relationship between dwell time and cashier service in the convenience store, and sales. Modeling can relate actual physical time spent in the convenience store to basket size and sales. It can extend to test hypotheses—like whether dwell time is related to cashier friendliness collected on your customer survey. And if that relationship exists, analytics can help determine what a cashier could do to ensure that a longer time spent in the store or at the register, ensures a higher number of items purchased.
  2. Bounced visitors. Real estate is an expensive investment. The number of bounced visitors who spend very little time at your location is a great indicator of abandonment. This information can be related to your mystery shop data to indicate whether the attractiveness, security, and cleanliness of your site discourages or draws in traffic.
  3. Average days between visits. This frequency metric will help you determine whether you have a steady clientele or new customers entering every day. That’s an implicit measure of loyalty and can be related to both customer satisfaction and loyalty card data.
  4. As a last example the number of people in a particular zone can be related to conversion rate. For example, three people might visit a zone that has a live sales person and only one purchases. Conversion rate could be related to the time spent with the sales person or the effectiveness of the sales person in positioning products. The latter would be measured through customer satisfaction surveys

With the use of GPS tracking in smart phones and the nearly ubiquitous implementation of cameras and sensors, your brand has the opportunity to link highly complex behavioral data with subjective perceptions and operational metrics like mystery shopping. A wealth of insights that your analytics team can mine to manage your business more effectively. To learn more about our location based services offering and/or analytics, schedule a briefing with us and we’ll be glad to have a conversation. 

 

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As Chief Strategy Officer, Cheryl aligns Market Force's strategic direction with our clients' strategic objectives. She oversees the North American client base, Analytics and Insights, Winnipeg Operations and Marketing. She has a Ph.D. in social psychology and broad business experience in both private and public companies.​

 

Time to Re-evaluate Strategy

When was the last time you took a walk in your customer’s shoes and experienced your brand from their perspective? Having a clear understanding of their priorities and how those priorities connect to your bottom line is extremely important.

The reality is, our knowledge of the customer experience, customer expectations, and our ability to deliver against their needs, is in constant flux. If we get complacent we may find that our focus, metrics, and the systems we use to manage performance, lose their ability to create real positive change. If it has been more than 2 years since your last deep-dive into the customer journey and the associated measurement and support systems, it is time for fresh perspective.

Are you asking the right questions? Do you have the right processes in place to listen and respond if customers have issues? Are you timely in addressing customer concerns? Are you listening across all of the relevant online, social, and conventional channels? Are you aggregating and disseminating information in effective ways? Do you have a clear picture of reality in terms of your ability to execute against your standards and training? Is it clear to all what the true priorities are?

These are just some of the important questions to consider. That said, even if you recognize the importance of the customer experience, it can be easy to get lost in the daily grind and lose sight of important details. If any of the following conditions exist, now is the time for a second opinion regarding the efficacy of your customer experience practices. To make the review process easier, we’d like to share a list of telltale signs that it is time to revisit your customer strategy.

  1. Low engagement in customer experience programs with customers and/or employees and managers;
  2. Low executive engagement or visibility into customer experience program metrics;
  3. Flat or declining customer experience scores;
  4. A high degree of variability in performance across your brand;
  5. A lack of certainty in the connection between scores and a desired business outcome;
  6. Dated program design, branding and PR strategies;
  7. Reliance on a limited number of channels to engage customers;
  8. High or improving scores, with inverse financial outcomes.

If effectively designed, your customer experience program can be a highly scientific tool to manage your business, placing the wants and needs of your customers at the forefront of decision-making. By deploying best practices in combination you will elevate your chance of success, and ensure you maximize the financial return on your investment of time and energy in creating great customer experiences. 

Contact our experts today to schedule a free 30 minute consultation that will help you determine whether it’s time to revisit your customer experience strategy.

 

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Scott Griffith is Vice President, Executive Business Strategist at Market Force Information. Scott consults with client executives to design strategies that foster growth for companies in early stage ventures through IPO and beyond.

 

Feedback is a Gift: Managing Customer Complaints

Consumers expect us to be united and omni-present in understanding their experiences. That’s a tall order when feedback can come from so many different touchpoints. How can you listen and respond effectively to consumer feedback, especially to those negative comments that can hurt your brand or lose loyal customers? Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Make sure you listen across a wide variety of touch points, such as your inbound phone calls (into head office or call center), emails, social posts, online chat, customer satisfaction surveys, in store quick-feedback pods, comment cards, etc.
     
  2. Incorporate new technology touchpoints that look at customer behaviors—not just opinions. Cameras, beacons, and app integrations give you extremely insightful information into some operational measures, for example: dwell times, queue abandonment, and conversion rate. When you couple this behavioral data with customer perceptions, you will have powerful new insights into the customer experience and how you can take action.
     
  3. Manage the complaint process consistently across all touchpoints. Ensure that each item—no matter whether it is a call, an email, or a social post—is appropriately handled with a closed loop system. Communications, escalations, fulfillment—all need to be handled in a single case management solution.
     
  4. Analyze your complaint data to find specific locations that generate most of the complaints—and link complaints to financial results. Allow data analysis to open your eyes. At Market Force, we have analyzed complaint data and consistently find two very important outcomes:
    -  The number of complaints per thousand transactions can vary widely, with some locations generating 3x to 4x the number of complaints averaged by other locations in the system.
    -  The number of complaints about a specific location is negatively correlated with financial metrics like same store sales growth.
     
  5. Act. We often find that clients can make it to Step 4 and then get stuck. It’s very difficult to actually act on this data. It requires consistent messaging and expectations to all locations, clear action plans, and then will to follow through and hold managers accountable for results. That takes time, and your closed loop reporting system can open your eyes to the behaviors of A, B, and C managers.

Feedback is a gift. Listen to what your customers say, respond consistently and effectively, and use the insights to hold your teams accountable to delivering exceptional service. 

Ben Dards is the Chief Technology Officer at Market Force Information and has been developing technology in the rapidly expanding customer experience management space for over 15 years. His experience working with over 250 clients in the space has informed development of reporting and visualisation platforms, an online app for collecting data, and unique tools empowering operators take action on data. 

Make Loyalty Your Currency

You've painstakingly crafted your brand, your organization lives and breathes its values, and customers are responding to its message. Protecting that brand image is now paramount. As business booms, so does the need to establish processes to interact with customers, secure feedback, answer questions and resolve issues. You need a contact center. Whether your approach is home grown or outsourced, it’s imperative to institute an engagement strategy and to measure how effectively the contact center is maintaining your brand image and recovering unhappy customers.

After all, loyalty is your currency. Yes, coupons and gift cards can demonstrate that you value feedback and that you are willing to acknowledge bad experiences and provide some recompense. However, many consumers simply want to know that your organization cares about their concerns and acts upon them.

As you evaluate your own contact center or consider partners for outsourcing, keep in mind three criteria to inform decisions: 

1) Be Responsive

Negative experiences impact a customer’s willingness to return, which impedes the future relationship (revenues). When a frustrated customer wants to tell you about their bad experience, your brand needs to be available to listen. To this end, your organization must have effective workforce management and agent engagement measures.

KPI: Service Level is a measure of how quickly customers are served and Abandonment Rate measures customers who were unable to engage you. If agents are connecting with customers 80% of the time in less than 20 seconds, and no more than 5% of consumers abandon their call, then you have hit a solid performance level for engaging with customers.

2) Make resolution a priority

An apology for a poor service experience is not a differentiator - everyone does it. Your customers are looking for a connection. Resolution requires that customers feel they’ve been heard and had a great resolution. Without that, customers may defect to a competitor.

KPI: First Call Resolution measures the percentage of customer contacts that ended in resolution at time of engagement (no follow-up required). Strive for this number to exceed 90%. Using a post-call automated survey that specifically asks the customer, “Are you satisfied with the proposed resolution?” will help you evaluate your resolution activities and options. First Call Resolution should match customer sentiment on resolution offered to be in the sweet spot.

3) Trust your best talent with customer relationships

Service agents are brand ambassadors and must be up to the challenge. Highly skilled, trained and motivated agents need only apply. As mentioned, customers expect responsiveness, a personalized connection and action. They also expect their service agents to be highly knowledgeable and empowered to resolve issues. Remember that customers have already had one poor experience – they should not be set up to potentially encounter a second one.

KPI: Ensure every customer service associate has completed and passed with top marks all available customer-handling and tool-utilization training. 100% complete = Certification. Strive to ensure 100% of agents remain certified at all times when facing customers.

Contact centers are fertile ground for the expression of positive customer experience and the championship of customer concerns. If you've not given a contact center strategy correct thought, you could be tarnishing your brand dramatically, and without measurement you may not know it.

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Ryan Stewart is the General Manager, Market Force Center of Excellence in Winnipeg and oversees customer surveys and contact center services in Winnipeg, leveraging experience at companies like Sears and Staples. His mission? Deliver operational excellence to our clients. 

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To discuss your needs for improving performance for your multi-location brand, give us a call. We’d be happy to discuss best practices for measuring the customer experience and compliance to brand standards, using analytics to understand what matters most and the ROI for change, and technology solutions that integrate large quantities of data on one single platform. We look forward to a great discussion!

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