Managing customer experience in a multi-unit business is more difficult than it is in most single point of contact businesses. The volume of people involved in these businesses and the geographically distributed nature of business units (i.e. stores, restaurants etc) makes training, monitoring and communicating much more challenging. And that makes implementing a Customer Experience (CX) program more difficult. So what can you do to increase the chances of your multi-unit CX program being successful?
The following success factors could be applied to any business, but in each case I have looked at how to apply them in the most impactful way for multi-unit businesses.
1. Commitment to put the Customer First
To be a truly customer-centric company you need a change of mindset from organisation-first brand experience, which is typical, to customer first, which is the way the likes of Amazon operates.
Amazon’s mission is “to be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
Becoming More Customer-Centric
It’s very easy to change your mission statement to match Amazon’s sentiment, but it’s much more difficult to let the customer’s voice shout loudly at a board meeting. Amazon leave an empty seat to represent the customer at meetings, which may seem a little cheesy to some, but it does create a constant awareness of how each and every decision impacts customer perception. That’s not going to work for every business but appointing a Chief Customer Offer (CCO) or making a senior executive responsible for great customer experience should be. Having a strong voice who knows how to interpret voice of customer data sit in on such meetings is a more orthodox way to achieve the same effect.
Of course, helping that mindset take hold outside the boardroom is also critical, so it needs to be reinforced wherever possible. This sign hanging in a Brew Dog location is a good example of the sort of simple and on brand messaging (not appropriate for every business) that will help you achieve that in your stores and restaurants.
Credit: Emma DeSena
The second element of commitment is taking a long-term view of the retail experience. Many organisations start customer experience initiatives expecting things to change quickly. But achieving meaningful and sustainable CX improvement in large multi-unit operations is more likely to be a 2 – 5-year process. After all, your mission statement is supposed to represent the culture of the organisation, and changing culture means changing people. Changing people takes continuous effort over a sustained period of time.
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Peter Drucker
Measuring what your customers are saying and doing is an essential activity in any CX program. We routinely have businesses tell us that they get very few complaints and they don’t need a Voice of Customer (VOC) solution. That may well be true very occasionally, but in the majority of cases complaints are either not heard because customers aren’t bothered to voice them (they’ll try the coffee shop next door tomorrow) or staff do not communicate them back up the line. If you don’t ask for customer feedback in a way that they find easy and are comfortable with, then don’t expect to get much feedback. Tweeting to the world about a cold pizza delivery is not for everyone and without customer feedback you’re shooting in the dark as far as making CX investments is concerned.
We address what the core CX metrics are and how you should be using them in a multi-unit business in other blog posts.
Core CX Metrics
No matter what kind of business you’re running, you should be tracking one core CX success factors like Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) or Customer Effort Score (CES), for example. This is the metric that you will follow for the long-term and use to compare different locations, touch points or processes within your organisation. How these metrics are calculated is covered here, so I’m just going to touch on how they and others should be used in a multi-unit context.
Measure per Location
To compare locations against each other you need a consistent metric to rate them on. NPS is certainly the most popular metric in this regard, but whatever works for you and your staff should be fine. It’s important to track this over time to detect when standards are slipping in a particular outlet.
Using league tables is an excellent way to create CX competition among store managers or franchisees and is a very fair way to select a manager or franchisee of the month to. No one wants to be seen to be the bottom of the table and the more ambitious operators will go to great lengths to be at the top. Implemented correctly, this should improve store experience across the entire chain.
Tip: We have clients printing off these tables and putting them up in staff rooms to motivate frontline staff to really focus on customer experience.
Sample NPS League Table from the ServiceDock dashboard
A restaurant lives and dies by the quality of its food, so CSAT is a great metric to quantify what customers think of your menu options or the actual meal they’ve just completed.
Typical CSAT Question as asked using Facebook Messenger and ServiceDock
Customer Effort Score (CES) measures the amount of effort a customer had to exert in order to complete a task, like checking out in a supermarket for example.
It’s a great metric for identifying friction points or bottlenecks in a customer journey. Setting it alongside a dataset of how and where a person paid for their goods could reveal valuable information about staff performance or that your self-serve checkout counters are more efficient than your express-lane, for example.
Ask questions that check that staff are adhering to good CX practices such as greeting customers on arrival, for example. Simple “Yes/No” questions are very effective here, as the customer doesn’t have to think too much and the results can easily be interpreted by location managers and area managers.
Most Voice of Customer (VOC) surveys conducted in physical locations need an element of staff input, whether it is handing out a card or drawing a customer’s attention to the survey on the receipt or kiosk. It’s important that the data capture is as consistent as possible across locations in order to be confident you’re comparing like for like metrics. You should also track survey engagement to avoid employees cherrypicking which customers are prompted to take the survey. Building the survey permanently into the customer journey helps to combat this and create a high-quality system of customer support.
3. CX Leadership at All Levels
I’ve already mentioned the importance of having C-Suite support for your customer experience strategy program. If the board/owners of a business aren’t saying the right things and investing in the right initiatives, then you’re almost certain to fail.
However, in a multi-location business, this sort of leadership is required at national, regional and store level, in addition to key departments like marketing, operations and customer service. You could have the best CX manager in the country working in head office, but if their instructions are not being carried out in each location, the customer will not see any meaningful improvements in the retail experience. The image below illustrates the way CX infiltrates all aspects of a business.
Image Credit: Nate Brown, CX Accelerator
This brings us back to the importance of culture, recruitment (including recruitment of franchisees) and training. The hospitality business as a whole is notorious for having high levels of staff turnover, which makes managing CX a real challenge. But people want to work in harmonious environments and great CX means happier customers, which equals fewer complaints and higher tips or commissions. That should result in lower staff turnover, which is an often overlooked benefit of being top of the CX performance charts.
In a retail or food service context, things will go wrong, circumstances will change and opportunities will present themselves. Strict procedures will fail to deliver great customer experience when those situations arise. Empowering your frontline employees to make decisions “on the hoof” will help you deliver against your CX vision.
Of course, there have to be boundaries, but giving customer-facing staff the wiggle room they need to deal with real people in real situations will result in far better outcomes than “I’m afraid it’s company policy, so I can’t…”
Providing staff members with a small budget or gifts to use when they see fit can be very impactful on both customers and staff.
Like any other project that was ever conceived, getting some early wins in the bank will help the project team build confidence and credibility. Yes, a CX program should be a medium to long-term project, but it would be foolish not to go for the low hanging fruit first.
It can be difficult to pin down the return on investment on CX initiatives, so targeting areas where there is a clear and demonstrable economic benefit will secure C-suite buy-in. Without that, your CX initiative may not make it out of infancy.
Using the 5 Factors to Succeed
As we’ve highlighted before, customer experience is largely about people, so it should be no surprise that all of the above factors relate to people either directly or indirectly.
But if you get on top of these 5 factors, are good at recruitment and build the right culture, then your CX program is primed to succeed. It will deliver lasting competitive differentiation and lead to increased customer loyalty and advocacy. The return on investment will be there for all to see in a thriving organisation.