Photo Credit: Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash
One of the most common causes of poorly performing Customer Experience (CX) programs is a failure to engage staff at all levels of the organisation.
In brick-and-mortar chains this risk factor is even more critical. Multi-unit businesses operate like a group of independent businesses, with each location having its own management team and P&L responsibilities etc (in franchise models they are different businesses). This can make it extremely difficult for the CX manager, or whoever is leading the CX initiative, to communicate the importance of the project to frontline staff and the key role they play in it.
There are lots of things you can do to build engagement and one of the most impactful is to get as many staff members as possible using the Customer Experience Management (CXM) software. In this post I’m going to look at which staff members in a retail or restaurant chain should be using your CXM software and what they should be doing.
Why not let the Customer Experience Manager deal with the Software?
But first of all, why shouldn’t you let the CX manager, or someone on the operations team, run the software and leave it at that? Many businesses do that and with the right leader it can work, but in chain stores it has the potential to create the following unideal scenarios:
(i) General managers simply follow instructions (or not) to get as many in-store customers to engage with surveys as possible. Then they get a report at the end of each month or week via email from the CX manager.
Problem – The report is not real-time so issues may have persisted for a long time. It will also be more difficult to identify which members of staff were at fault or did great work etc. Finally, the lapse in time means the location manager will not be in a position to follow up with the customer and therefore misses the opportunity to turn detractors into promoters.
(ii) Regional operations managers follow the CX themes set out by head office (e.g. focus on greeting customers this month) and emphasise those in their meetings with store managers.
Problem – They can only work with what they’re given by head office, which means their coaching may not be tailored to each individual location. Is the necessary detail in the report to identify issues at an individual location level?
(iii) The Senior Management Team get an executive summary document covering movements in key metrics and maybe identifying a few common themes being raised by customers.
Problem – there is a disconnect between strategic leaders and what customers are actually saying. The leadership might not be hearing the true voice of the customer.
Who Should be Using CXM Software and What Should They be Doing?
In order of priority, I believe these are the 3 key staff members who should be using the CXM Software in a typical multi-unit retail chain or restaurant group, other than the CX manager or VP of Operations or whoever else is running the program.
1. Area Managers
Area managers really are the key operators as far as CX improvement goes in a chain store. You cannot create a strong CX culture without a group of capable regional managers to turn the vision into reality. The following points outline why.
(i) Communication – Area managers sit between between head office and your stores, which means they are a key communication channel between frontline staff and the people who decide what your CX strategy is. If they do a good job of explaining the importance of the CX project and the software’s role in making it happen, then you should be primed to succeed.
(ii) Focus – Without access to customer feedback, coaching store managers can be like shooting in the dark. It’s hit or miss. With store-specific customer feedback to hand, the area manager can walk store managers through that feedback line by line. They can address issues that real customers felt they needed to share with the business and decide how best to deal with them. A good store manager will appreciate the opportunity to learn from a more experienced colleague. A bad one will have nowhere to hide.
(iii) Impartiality – People can be mean. Some can even be nasty. However, most customers are simply telling the truth and sometimes the truth might not be what a location manager wants to hear. A proud or overly sensitive store manager can react badly to negative feedback (even more likely with a franchisee), which can lead to the wrong reaction on the shop floor. Area managers, on the other hand, are a step away from the action and should be able to decipher what is crank feedback and what are genuine customer concerns.
(iv) Longevity – Staff turnover in hospitality is traditionally very high, which makes implementing a long term CX project very challenging. Assuming ops managers survive the transition from single unit to multi unit manager, they’ll have moved into career mode, which means they are likely to be with the business for a few years. This means they will have the opportunity to become very familiar with the CXM software and figure out how best to use it in the field.
The person at the top of the org chart should definitely be using the CXM software. This may be a struggle in some cases, particularly where you’re dealing with a technophobe or someone who is sceptical about the whole CX project. Most commonly though, the challenge is just a case that she is very time poor.
However, the value of a leader who is fully engaged with customer feedback cannot be underestimated. A leader flicking through customer comments on her phone during their commute to work every morning is literally the same as a doctor taking his patients’ pulse. There is nothing more important for a business leader than to fully understand what her customers want and what really annoys them. Getting that information first hand and in real-time avoids the potential for anything to be lost in translation in a summarised report.
3. Location Managers
Restaurant and store managers are the leaders on the ground and for that reason they play a key role in CX management. They are likely to be in the building when a customer experiences a problem and they deal with frontline staff every day of the week. They will determine if an individual unit will strengthen your brand or put a big dent in it on a local basis, or in extreme cases on a national basis. It’s important they buy into the CX initiative.
(i) Real-Time Remedial Action – Provided you have a real-time system, store managers have the potential to take immediate remedial action when a customer has a problem. For example, with ServiceDock’s real-time messaging solution, a customer might complete a survey via Messenger while still sitting at their table. The restaurant manager gets a notification on his ServiceDock mobile app and can respond to the customer before he has made it to his car. If she handles that follow up right, she can have the customer return to the restaurant immediately and she will recognise him from his Facebook profile image. A small gift and an apology could make all the difference in terms of getting the customer to return in future and, even more importantly, have him talking about the nice gesture from your restaurant rather than posting a negative review about his disappointing rib-eye.
(ii) Coaching – Someone needs to communicate the importance of CX to floor staff and the best way to do that is in the weekly/daily In-store standup meetings (though tools like Facebook’s Workplace are empowering CEOs to do it digitally). Ultimately, it is the interactions with the staff in your stores and restaurants that will determine whether the consumer has a good experience or not. Giving the store managers direct access to customer feedback will mean they can identify problems in real time
(iii) CX Competition – One of the most effective ways to encourage location managers to use your CXM software and act on the data within it, is to create an element of CX competition among them. Any good multi-unit CXM application will include store ranking tables, which can easily be understood and can easily be printed and placed on the staff room wall. Gamifying CX in this way can be very effective at motivating staff, but I would guard against making CX scores the sole basis for any significant financial bonuses. That creates a high probability of the results being manipulated to a greater or lesser extent and may ultimately prove counterproductive.
The positive impact these stakeholders can have on CX by using your CXM software is beyond doubt. With that in mind, be sure to put yourself in the shoes of these end users when choosing a solution and don’t just look at it from the viewpoint of an experienced CX practitioner.
You want something that is accessible to people who may not be the most frequent users of software applications. It should be extremely intuitive and be permission-based, so store managers only see features and information relevant to their role. It should capture feedback and facilitate follow-ups in real-time so that it’s useful as a tactical tool on the frontline, as well as a strategic tool in head office. It should be configured for multi-unit businesses and provide the right kinds of reports without any significant manipulation of settings. It should provide mobile access for area managers and general managers who do not spend most of their time behind a desk.
Full disclosure: ServiceDock is built specifically for multi-unit businesses and includes all of these features.