In my opinion: retailers could benefit from a ‘TripAdvisor-style hub’, says S4RB

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By James Butcher, managing director at retail technology specialist Solutions for Retail Brands (S4RB)

Butcher: retailers should embrace customer feedback

Within the four walls of most major retailers, customer feedback is predominantly categorised as ‘complaints’. As customers, we sometimes fall into the same trap in our own communications, because it is the vernacular used. But it isn’t only complaints. It is feedback, which includes the positive, the negative, the factual and the subjective. Retail private brands could certainly do more to actively listen.

The problem with ‘complaints’ is that the retailer’s core objective is to make the problem go away. However, a replacement or ‘sorry’ voucher doesn’t address the fact customers want to be heard, and their feedback valued.

Call centres, when used by retailers, shouldn’t just focus on how many calls can be answered in an hour, it should be about the quality of the private brand experience. It will be interesting to see where Tesco is heading with the recent announcements to close its Cardiff call centre with 1,100 jobs at risk. Is this nothing more than a cutting exercise? If so, what will this do to customer feedback?

The feedback process varies drastically across industries; for example, TripAdvisor has become the ‘go to’ site for feedback on the leisure industry. Yes, there are alternatives, but for whatever reason, TripAdvisor is now the beacon for hotel reviews and for most aspects of travel. So many people now visit the website before booking a holiday or eating out, so much so that establishments now actively attempt to garner reviews. Many customer satisfaction surveys now make it increasingly easy for you to post your comments to TripAdvisor at the end.

The point is there is a whole industry that has accepted the need to encourage feedback, to utilise it as fuel for success and identify areas of weakness, this will help brands to develop and become stronger.

So where is the TripAdvisor equivalent of grocery products?  Where do you go to find who has the best ‘Free From’ range, or the tastiest spaghetti bolognaise?

Is the lack of such a ‘go to’ place a sign that there is no need, or a sign that many private brands don’t want to listen?

It’s obvious that as consumers, we all do a little more research before we spend on a holiday, than we do on which lasagne to buy next. Maybe the TripAdvisor for ready meals isn’t about to become the next big thing, though I do think private brands can do a lot more to listen.

We work with retailers to help them share their customer feedback with their private brand suppliers more meaningfully, improving the customer experience and reducing complaints. However, 20-30% of ‘complaints’ also include helpful feedback, with social media pushing this figure closer to 45%.

Gone is the time when brands should focus on the one-star or two-star reviews and look to ‘fix’ them. They now also need to look at the four-star reviews which say “this product is really good, but…” and take advice of how to turn a four-star product into a five-star one. Call centres should not just be considered a cost centre, but a major part of the customer experience and an extension of the marketing department in terms of customer feedback and product insight.

The challenge for retailers is not to try and choke the noise of consumer feedback, but to embrace it as much as possible. Given the volume, it is therefore essential that retail private brand teams collaborate effectively with their suppliers, working as ‘one team’ to listen and learn and be able react to this feedback quickly.

Do I think that in time there will be a ‘go to’ TripAdvisor equivalent for typical food groceries?  Probably not.

Do I think retailers could learn a lot from TripAdvisor and invest in encouraging consumer feedback to inform their private brands team and private brand suppliers? Absolutely.

Solutions for Retail Brands

(A Retail Times’ sponsored article)