The global pandemic has meant that the way that organisations interact with customers has changed forever. For many businesses, particularly those in the retail sector, failure to adapt to the new paradigm could spell financial disaster.

One key element is obvious, more consumers have embraced the online sales process having been unable to engage face to face during the lock down period they have now developed a working relationship remote shopping.

But this has thrown up a new set of rules of engagement for both the retailer and the consumer. Consumers understand the value of reviews, and of feedback from the retailer. Product comparison is as easy as a mouse click so therefore the process of engagement with the customer and understanding his or her needs is vital as the first point of contact.

Hard sell or indifference to specific and specialised need will only drive the customer away and potential lead to a negative review.

Many retail organisations are missing the boat as they have failed to see the need to develop a new way to engage with customers.

To help Australia’s retailers, I have developed a ten point check list to assist companies to build customer engagement and avoid the pitfalls.

Simply setting up an online sales operation is not enough. In order to gain long term consumer engagement retailers have to build trust and that can only happen by being empathetic to the customers needs.

The 10 top ways to build customer experience are:

1. Data rich but ‘action’ poor

It can be a trap to think that collecting more data will magically fix your issues. You need actionable data where everyone knows what their personal focus point needs to be and how to improve. Your program needs to be end-to-end. How effectively you can turn customer feedback into action is the priority. Measure the success by rate of improvement not Net Promoter Score (NPS).

2. NPS score blinded

Net Promoter Score in simple terms is the percentage of people who are likely to come back to you. No question this is hugely important but it’s also an outcome. Instead of chasing NPS scores, your program should take the guesswork out of why the experience is good or bad, so you know how to drive meaningful change. This isn’t just the balance of quantitative and qualitative research data, you need to boil it down to the one thing for every staff member that they must improve while also encouraging consistency across a range of behaviours that all together drives NPS.

3. Not aligned with training

You spend a lot of money developing training materials and employing people to run the training. You must align your customer experience (CX) results to eLearning. This isn’t just about content – you need the key priority that is singled out in results for each person to be directly linked to the eLearning module for that specific behaviour. To go further, the whole program is all about building skills and capability – that’s the only way you will ever sustain it. Your secret weapon is how well (and quickly) you identify proven best practices and share that with everyone.

4. ‘Fatigueback’

When your team get so much information that is irrelevant to them or impossible to action you will find you have very little inspiration and ownership. In 2021 it’s all about empathy and knowing how your behaviour makes people feel (and what you can do about it?) You need your CX program to bring the real voice (audio, video, email and SMS) based on real experiences in as close to ‘real-time’ as possible. Not a boring online radio button survey.

5. Doesn’t inspire change

If you are just chasing scores and the results are high-level or complicated then arguably the program is superficial and you will struggle to inspire anyone to change behaviour. To test how well your program is understood, ask a team member at your frontline “What is your number one customer led priority this quarter? What are you working on and if you smash it, what will that mean to you and the results for your team?” If they can answer you clearly, you’re on the right track.

6. Hard to show an ROI

A great program will drive culture change. It will be considered a positive tool and clearly lead everyone on how to improve and show what that is worth in ROI for the business. Every business is different, so every program must be carefully customised and integration with other things that are going well is a critical difference between a program that is failing and one that is thriving.

Give yourself a score out of 10 as to how well your program is truly driving your strategy in action. What was your improvement rate last year and how much money was it worth?

7. Same people get the same results month after month

A classic indication you are score focused.

You need to know ‘why’ which quickly leads you to ‘how’ to fix it? You will also know ‘what’ needs to change and ‘who’. Breaking that cycle of the same at the top and bottom is only possible when you isolate behaviours.

8. We seem to be leading our provider

Drop in software is expensive, limited in the willingness to customise… but apart from that, you need ideas from outside and program leadership from a partner who can work proactively to boost results and really drive a breakthrough not just deliver reports. They should sweat the results as much as you do and have a hunger to see things improve asap.

9. Not building our reputation on social media

Your program should cover everything from online, telephone, instore and must help build marketing effectiveness. It should also boost positive reviews on social media. No excuses.

10. Hard to hold anyone accountable

The only way you can, is if the program directly relates to each person and helps them address and improve issues. Simple action plans, ongoing follow up, reward and recognition to implementing the changes.

Following the guidelines will ensure retailers are in sync with customer needs, something that was often missing in the relationship leading up to the pandemic.

Phil Prosser is founder and CEO of FeedbackASAP.