From The Editor | July 24, 2009

Study's Challenge: Engage Your Customers More

Without A Queue

By John Roach, Editor, Retail Solutions Online

Top businesses looking to beat the recession are focusing on the people who can help them most — their own customers. According to a new study, a significantly higher percentage of leading businesses view customer experience management (CEM) as important in 2009 compared to last year (63% to 47%).

However, it's not enough simply to create a CEM strategy, according to the study of senior-level executives at more than 200 organizations by CGA and Vovici, enterprise feedback management (EFM) consultants. Companies must act on their strategy, aggressively promote company-wide execution, and encourage customer input, engagement, and feedback to build brand loyalty and drive sales. The study outlines seven key principles of companies with highly loyal customers.

In some ways, Vovici's study reflects a reality retailers know all too well: The customer calls the shots these days. Consumers are reluctant to spend, and are more value-conscious and price-driven than ever when they do. Desperate retailers struggle as a result, and too often turn to discounting and cost-cutting as their primary ways to woo consumers.

That's where the study issues a challenge to retailers: Are you doing enough to engage your customers? You need to find better ways to enhance the customer experience and push that approach throughout your retail operation. "Retailers with the most loyal customers take a systemic approach to CEM," Roderick Morris, senior VP of marketing and operations at Vovici, told me. "Companies that have created a formal CEM strategy and can successfully execute it are better able to upsell, cross-sell, and rely on their customers' willingness to recommend."

Technology can free retailers for greater customer engagement. The use of self-checkout terminals is expected to quadruple in five years. Take advantage of customers' increasing comfort with self-service technology and shift employees from checkout to more customer-facing sales assistance activities.

Do you have an in-store personalized digital marketing program? Using POS sales data, several grocery retailers offer their customers individual promotions catered to their buying history. The result: more loyal customers shopping more frequently.

You could also maximize your multichannel and cross-channel capabilities as people continue to embrace shopping on the Web. Optimize your Web site with customer-friendly features, and embrace social media tools as the two-way customer engagement and service tools they're quickly becoming. You could even steal a page from Vovici and use EFM tools to run your own customer survey.

Or, you could discount the impact of customer engagement and go on discounting your prices, hoping for the best. How has that worked for retailers over the last 10 months?

Have a comment about this article? Let me know. Visit our blog, our Twitter page, or contact me at