The Innovator’s Field Guide: What Are They Saying About You?

“It is surprising how little most small business values the customer. Positive feedback from the customer is critical to your business, and what’s more important is their referral.” –Fabrizio Moreira

A major grocery store chain performed a series of focus-group studies to ascertain what constituted a good shopping experience. Everyone in the organization expected the results would include items like short checkout lines, an attentive staff, and an outstanding product selection at a reasonable price.

When the study data was tallied, predictably, all those items were high on the customers’ mental checklists. There was one item that did take the executive group by surprise – bathroom cleanliness. Customers overwhelmingly believed that if a grocery store’s bathroom was dirty, the staff was not paying much attention to the fresh food items the store sold. Many in the executive group had rarely been in a store’s bathroom because they were focused on sales floor operations and presentation.

New equipment was purchased, and specialized training was put into place to ensure this chain’s bathrooms were always pristine. After implementation, customers still perceived the chain’s bathrooms were not clean. Why? The executives had money in their budgets for the capital expenditures but were unwilling to increase stores’ labor budgets. The already thinly staffed stores had scads of new cleaning equipment but no labor hours to use it.

Listening to customers’ feedback doesn’t mean wedging in their expectations with our metrics. To grow, the metrics must align with the needs of our customers. In the case of this grocery chain, they did add hours into store operations for bathroom cleaning. At the end of the day, the executives found that in stores with higher cleanliness ratings, the customers spent more time in their stores. As customer “in-store” time increased, so did profits.

What Are They Saying About You?: Accelerators

  • What would your customers say about you if you were to ask them some open-ended questions about their impressions of your business?
  • How might you put a process together to gather and act on regular feedback from your customers? (Research “Talking to Humans.”) Develop and implement a plan to get initial feedback from your clients over a period of time and then refine it into an ongoing process.