Why no news isn’t always good news - The importance of giving feedback

People often say no news is good news. Applying this to myself as a customer, this isn’t quite the case. When I personally have had a bad experience with a product or a service, I tend not to report it. Instead I would never buy that tomato sauce again, for example. I guess I’m thinking someone else will bother to tell the manufacturer.

Looking at this from a retail perspective, the customer not telling anyone about the problem and subsequently never purchasing the tomato sauce again is probably the worst outcome for the retailer.

So how do we make sure that the people who need to know get the feedback? What makes me, the customer, make that call or write that email? It’s about changing the attitude of “someone else will do it” and taking the time to let the retailer know when something has gone wrong. It’s also valuable to tell the retailer when something has gone well. For me, this change of attitude starts with understanding the importance of feedback and giving someone a chance to change and improve.

The devil is in the detail

Since joining S4RB and the world of retail, I’ve learnt how valuable feedback really is to retailers and their private brand suppliers – not just complaints, but both positive and negative feedback. Feedback can drive change, influence decisions and change behaviours. Suppliers who make the products won’t know how the customer feels unless they tell them about it.

I’ve recently been involved with setting up a private brand Engagement Centre for a large US retailer. The process made me realise that the specialists taking customer calls have an equally important role to play in this feedback. They need to make sure the complaint, enquiry or praise is recorded correctly with as much information as possible. If feedback is not detailed enough, the customer may as well have not given the feedback at all.

At the Engagement Centre, the call specialists are focused on:

  • Recording the UPC or product code so that we can match it to the right product and therefore to the supplier. This is especially important for private brands when several suppliers could supply the same product based on geography.
  • Finding out the lot number so that the specific production day, specific line/machine, etc can be identified.
  • Classifying the call into the correct category (using the predefined drill-down tree diagram).
  • Engaging with the customer and recording the actual reason why they made the call in the first place.

I saw quite a few “it didn’t taste good” incidents prior to rolling out the Engagement Centre whereas now, the specialist call handlers are recording details such as “too dense and not creamy enough”. This gives the retailer (and their supplier) constructive criticism to help improve their product.

“While you sometimes need a thick skin, criticism can be an extremely useful tool in improving a product or service.”
Alan Duncan, Trustpilot (Retail Week article)

Incident journey to suppliers

Whilst writing this blog, I bought some grated cheese which had a problem with the packaging where the zip didn’t work properly. Normally, I would just use a peg or something to keep the cheese sealed and that would be that. However, this time as well as using a peg, I made the effort to contact the retailer. I told them my story, gave them all the necessary details of the issue and they said they will pass it on to the supplier.

So how does my incident get in front of the supplier? The truth is that often it will not.

What we are doing differently with the new Engagement Centre is sharing customer feedback with suppliers in near real time. With S4RB’s UBX Cloud Services Incident Management, suppliers will be able to see all their incidents soon after being reported, giving them an opportunity to act quickly, spot trends and work on corrective actions. The supplier portal also shows a heat map of incidents, top ‘called about products’ and call reasons, all with the ability to drill down into the finer detail.

We give the retailer an overall view of incidents through visual management dashboards, allowing them to create customisable alerts for different incident categories. With all of this in place, we are working to ensure they are informed of the problem and it has reached the supplier who is working on the resolution.

The US retailer that I reference in this blog really is pioneering a new way of collecting and handling customer feedback through a new type of call centre. To find out more about the software behind the new Engagement Centre, take a look at S4RB’s UBX Cloud Services for incident management. And don’t forget to let the retailer know next time you have a problem or indeed have great feedback about one of their products!

Further reading: Visual management for call centers

Tags: Customer experience, Supplier engagement

Merle Laur

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