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Using All Your Senses in a Multi-Channel World

Guest Blog By Dani Wanderer

Our five senses are some of our most powerful tools. We use each of them daily. They enable us to process and enjoy the world around us. But our senses don’t exist as separate abilities, nor do they exist in a vacuum.

For example, when investigating an object, you consciously or subconsciously use all of your senses to understand it, right? The combination of sight, touch, smell, sound, and taste provides a better understanding than a singular sense is able to do. This is similar to the approach that some of the most successful modern retailers have adopted in order to improve their business – using all the “senses” they have at their disposal.

Today, organizations of all sizes are actively leveraging multi-channel feedback—much like multi-sensory investigation—to understand their customers better, and to increase competitive advantage, internal efficiencies and profitability. This trend is growing as organizations compete to provide exceptional customer experiences, because unless customers’ needs and wants are well satisfied, customers can and will blast their dissatisfaction on social media and other outlets. This new reality comes with real bottom line impacts.

Retailers are particularly susceptible to this industry shift, and must learn that their businesses, much like their own bodies, must use all of their available senses in order to survive and grow.

One of the biggest ways that companies can improve business is to establish proper platforms and pipelines to accurately collect and analyze all customer feedback. We only have to look at the Neiman Marcus Group’s recently announced plan to invest $100 million to increase its multi-channel presence to see just how important this subject has become to major retailers.

It’s now a necessity for retailers to use all means necessary to better understand their customers and to respond appropriately to their needs and wants.

Establish Customer Listening Posts

It’s absolutely essential to gather Voice of the Customer (VoC) data and to use the insights to implement customer-specific process improvements, but you must be proactive in your efforts to understand your customers.

To do this, gather feedback by establishing “listening posts” (think: senses) including social media, customer councils, employee feedback and surveys to both internal and external customers. By regularly gathering and analyzing VoC and voice of the employee (VoE) insight, your organization will have a bird’s eye view of customer needs so your organization can act accordingly. Remember, employees who regularly connect directly with customers can provide an abundance of insight that your organization may not otherwise have access to, providing you with a broader perspective into just how satisfied your customers are.

Real World Lessons

The international, multi-channel retailer Lands’ End was faced with the issue of having a limited research team to support its growing organization. By evolving its feedback platform from dated phone surveys to a more modern online survey model, Land’s End was able to extend its reach and business without having to invest in additional research staff. Because of this decision, the company saw a 30% increase in its volume of market research and a reduced overall research time by 25%. Lands End is now able to conduct seasonal product testing for 300+ products to aid in buying decisions.

As a result of its research and testing, the retailer developed a new shipping strategy and the launch of an innovative and highly successful new line of women’s swimwear.

Another example is the clothing company Bonobos, which listens to their customers and actually revamps product lines as a result of the feedback it receives. By capturing the voice of its’ customers from a multitude of channels, Bonobos’ designers and merchandisers have the insight they need to improve and adapt their offerings. In fact, after receiving customer feedback, the company recently designed a slimmer-cut dress shirt and amended its sweater and denim offerings. Not to mention the fact that half the stock of the newly designed dress shirt sold out in less than a week!

Consolidate Multi-Channel Feedback on a Single Platform

Imagine that your body has five brains and that each of your senses is linked to a different brain. And that none of these brains can communicate with each other. With that strange picture in mind, how is that much different than an organization that collects data from multiple channels and stores it in disparate, non-integrated systems?

When gathering data from multiple channels, often you can end up with siloed data within and across departments, all in varying formats because each department is likely using a different solution to gather the data. Feedback from one customer could be in 10 or more different places. Unless this information can be readily accessed, shared, and assessed by anyone in the organization who needs it, it loses much of its strategic punch.

The only way to effectively manage the data gathered from multiple channels is to consolidate on a single, organization-wide survey platform (think: one brain). With one platform in use, data is more transparent and actionable, and will provide greater insight into what customers actually want.

We’re approaching an era where no decision will be made without data, a day when organizations can anticipate and instantly respond to the needs and wants of their customers. And in today’s multi-channel, data-driven world, we’re continuing to see a push toward a single survey platform that spans the enterprise, integrates with all existing systems and becomes the engine that drives decisions throughout the entire company.

Dani Wanderer is head of marketing for Qualtrics

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