Blog series: Call centre research #1 The happy ostriches

Solutions for Retail Brands (S4RB) commissioned a study to help better understand the top US and UK retailers Unified Brand Experience (UBX) performance in 2016; focusing on their private brands customer care services and website reviews.

This new study benchmarked the levels of customer care and product knowledge alongside the positioning of how open the retailer was to receive and indeed encourage feedback. The results were extremely interesting and over the following weeks, in a series of blogs I will talk you through some of the related observations and conclusions, as we tracked the evolution of private brands in the key area of consumer brand engagement.

Happy Ostriches! - “Sheltering from, rather than embracing quality feedback”.

The first group we identified represented roughly 20% of the US retailers; we nick named this group the ‘Happy Ostriches’. These retailers had performed well on execution for call centre engagement particularly about industry knowledge of the consumer requests and access to detailed product information and at first glance the premier brands all seemed to align with our expectations. However, as we delved a little deeper into the data and considered how easy it was for the consumer to get access to this information we found they all had one important thing in common. Our Happy Ostriches were not making it easy or inviting consumers to provide feedback or engage with their brand and products.

So, our Happy Ostriches highlighted the first obvious difference in the development of private brands in the UK versus the US. Every major UK retailer has a clear call out encouraging feedback about their own brand products, either by placing a number in a prominent position on pack and/or by providing a method for product reviews online.

The high levels of call execution for the Happy Ostriches were therefore directly related to the number of calls being placed into the retailer via these channels. This was allowing in most cases the private brands quality team to be getting involved in responding.  It is well documented that the best time to impress and retain customers is often around the point that there is a problem; an issue or complaint.  At a time when retailers are searching for methods to secure and maintain millennials it seems inconceivable that the door might be half closed at what has been proven to be the best time to turn from zero to hero in the consumer’s eyes.

What makes these findings even more surprising is that we see the same group of retailers joining the industry spending a huge amount of time and money in getting vital panel feedback on their products and building new test kitchen facilities but will then setup an in-house associate driven panel process. We believe there is an additional wealth of feedback from existing customers, by encouraging feedback whenever possible and delivering a customer experience which encourages brand advocacy. Surely it should be better to find a way to make these advocates central to your product feedback rather than locking out the advocates of the brand when it is exactly those passionate consumers that represent the future success for your products and brand.

As already mentioned another worrying aspect of this group was that it contained several identified “Premier” US private brand performers. How could that be?  Our conclusion from this study was that the consumer was actively being driven away from the phone and online channel and back into the store where associate engagement was superb. This may align with the retailer’s strategy but this means they also ignore the wish of the consumer for omnichannel performance in brand performance. For millennials, particularly that ability to engage in the way they want is a must!

In my next blog in this series I will look at the group that have evolved into what might be considered as the ‘norm’ for private brand retail and we will discuss the potential opportunities that group are ignoring.

Read more in this blog series! 

#2 Call centre research: The accepted norm: Missing the essential magic

#3 Call centre research: Engagement Centres


Tags: Customer experience

Jan Fura

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