Collecting feedback from customers while they’re on premise assists the business at both a local level and a brand level. At the brand level you can gain insights about your business that may lead to changes such as how you train your staff, or where to make improvements to the design of your store. At a local level, you can capture feedback on the individual interactions that might otherwise go unnoticed.

When it comes to the customer experience, the timing and actionability of local-level feedback is critical. Let’s look at the pros and cons of different Voice of Customer methodologies:

Post-visit email surveys

Emailed surveys allow businesses to collect detailed feedback about the customer experience when the customer is no longer occupied in store. It gives the customer the freedom to answer it whenever they choose – which is necessary when the survey requires responding to several detailed questions.

The downside to emailed surveys is that the customer’s memory is not as fresh after they’ve left the premises, making it more difficult to answer detailed questions accurately. Additionally, customers might find it an imposition to be asked to answer a lengthy survey of upwards of ten questions. Response rates to surveys tend to sit around 10-15%, but when you factor in the completion rate, the segment who responded to you gets even smaller. When the dropout rate of respondents is substantial, it suggests that the survey was too long or complicated. It’s also a terrible experience for the customers who have dropped out.

Analog feedback kiosks

Stands or kiosks that use physical buttons tend to be simple in design. Usually there is a call to action that says something along the lines of “What has your experience been like?” with large buttons, often green, yellow and red to represent a rating scale. These types of kiosks are highly noticeable and easy for customers to respond to. However, there is no way to follow up with the individual customer and the feedback can be corrupted through customers (especially children) abusing the buttons.

Digital feedback kiosks

Web-based kiosks, like analog kiosks, are real-time in nature and rely on their physical presence within a venue to invite customers to provide feedback. Their fixed presence makes them available to every customer, however it demands that the business rely on separate communication channels to follow up with customers, which can make following up in real-time difficult.

Digital point-of-sale

Feedback is requested either through a digital receipt after the customer has paid (accessed via the customer’s smartphone), or requested through the card reader display screen, before payment is made. The advantage of point-of-sale feedback is, depending on the service, it can be automatically linked to the transaction. However, since the customer is likely to be occupied at this time, the question must be simple to answer by tapping a single key. If delivered via the card reader, there isn’t an opportunity for the customer to elaborate on their experience.

Verbal feedback

Verbal feedback is one of the most fundamental ways to listen to your customers. By asking your customers face-to-face what they think you are able to take in all sorts of non-verbal cues as well such as their emotional state. While some customers may be willing to share more information in this sort of context, many will share less. The quality of feedback received has many variables such as the personality of the customer, the demeanor of the staff member asking the feedback and the moment in which it was asked.

Another consideration is how well the feedback is recorded. In order to objectively assess overall feedback there needs to be a system in place for tracking what was said.

Messaging

Mobile messaging feedback requests can be delivered as an SMS or sent through platforms such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. The benefit of these channels is that they are direct and a familiar means of communication for most customers. Because SMS feels more personal than email, it also means that retailers need to be careful in not abusing this channel through over-messaging. An SMS will command attention in a way that an email will not, meaning that you’re more likely to get an immediate response.

When messaging is used, customer expectation is likely to be heightened. Businesses need to be prepared to respond immediately to whatever has been said. This demand can make messaging more difficult to implement when compared to other real-time methods of collecting feedback.

Real-time mobile platform

Platforms that present customers with a mobile form can act like a digital kiosk, with the benefit of not being attached to a physical station. Customers are able to respond to prompts through their phone, wherever they might be. A single rating-scale question such as, "How is your visit going so far?" can be triggered at specific times in the customer journey such as when they sign on to Wi-Fi. Identifying information is collected through a follow-up form, or even pre-filled for return-customers. The simplicity of a single rating-scale question makes such platforms unobtrusive while providing retailers with the most relevant information required to act upon. Actionability is arguably the most important function of a feedback program, because it is the reward for each customer who has given their time to provide feedback.