Survey Says: Three Ideas to Expedite Your Retail Customer Experience Program


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Recently Centriam embarked on a study to see if what we were observing with our clients was true more generally. We surveyed almost six hundred shoppers about their recent shopping experiences at major US retailers such as Home Depot, Target, Best Buy and Walmart. For this article I wanted to focus on three takeaways for customer experience professionals from this survey.

1) If you have a CX metric, use it. We looked at three different ways to measure customer experience—NPS, CSAT and CX Index—and all three showed the same patterns. It doesn’t matter if a respondent identified as a promotor, as highly satisfied or as having their needs met. In all three cases the respondent was more likely to buy again and was less price sensitive. Yes, there were differences in the six pairwise correlation coefficients, but they are not material. Plus, aren’t you more likely to socialize bar charts and simple tables? Those graphics look surprisingly similar, because the underlying relationship is similar. For the critical cases of business adoption and support these three metrics are essentially interchangeable. In our client work we have seen companies be successful with all three.

The key takeaway? Don’t invest your time and energy toiling over the intricacies of different customer experience metrics. Focus that energy on getting the organization to act on the metric you have. If there are sampling concerns, address them (see #2 below). If the return on investment is being questioned, build the business cases. (See this blog for support building business cases.) If initiative prioritization is slowing you down, conduct key driver research. All of these will add more business value than debating the metric.

2) Customers rarely complain (plus complaints are biased). We found only one in three customers is inclined to complain after a negative experience. Plus, ninety percent of this feedback is provided at the retail store unheard by corporate. Finally, customer experience professionals must be cautious using social listening to fill the complaint gap: promoters are almost five times as likely to share negative feedback as detractors in reviews and social media. Taken together it is hard for a centralized customer experience organization to truly quantify the challenges customers face across their retail locations.

The key takeaway? Uncovering a representative set of customer challenges can be tough. Start with your digital surveys. They need to be mobile friendly and short to minimize non-response bias. Then integrate other customer data sources with your response data to assess response bias. Are the people responding to your survey representative of all the people you are sending them too? If they have a similar composition you’re in good shape. If not, try weighting your analysis based on the new integrated data—does this affect the relative prioritization of negative issues raised? If the size of the weights suggested by the analysis worries you, it’s time to consider additional investments in sampling. One approach is to augment your sampling with an additional collection channel.

3) Customer experience works across generations. Let’s dispel one myth right away: younger generations do not respond to customer experience programs. It is simply not true—all generations positively respond to improvements in customer experience. Younger generations do show lower repurchase rates overall, but when they score their customer experience high, they repurchase at noticeably higher rates and are less price sensitive. It’s true you may need to segment your customer experience program for different generations, but aren’t you already segmenting or using finer grained personalization methods?

The key takeaway? Be wary of objections concerning your customer base composition when developing your business case for customer experience. Questions of customers being too old or too young, should not weaken your resolve to improve customer experience. We found the same pattern is true across household incomes and it is likely true for any other customer composition challenges co-workers might bring to slow down your customer experience programs. Ideally you will have to time to “seek first to understand” and uncover some nuggets that will improve your program tactics. Many of these objections, however, represent change management opportunities.

The Centriam Retail Survey added to the growing canon on the importance of customer experience in retail. As large retailers continue to face tremendous pressures going into 2018, promotion, proximity and price are no longer sufficient to drive growth. Centriam predicts that companies investing more in customer experience will come out on top.

You can download the whitepaper on Centriam’s Retail Survey here. The survey was fielded from October 3rd through 5th. Respondents were asked about shopping experiences within the last 3 months at the nation’s ten largest retailers. Overall 584 retail customers participated. All respondents were between the ages of 18 and 59, and were sampled across all incomes and U.S. geographic regions.

Jason McNellis
As Vice President of Analytics and Data Science, Jason McNellis is dedicated to improving the agility, adoption and accuracy of analytics across Centriam’s clients. Jason brings a wealth of cross industry experience helping marketing, customer experience and customer insight professionals leverage data and advanced analytics to improve performance. Prior to Centriam, Jason was an industry analyst with Forrester Research where he researched, wrote and spoke on customer analytics. Jason also led the Advanced Analytics team at SuperValu and product strategy at RedPoint Global.


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