SMG Touts Getting Feedback to Frontline Employees

Todd Leach doesn’t believe customer feedback data only belongs in the marketing department and the C-suite.
“That information needs to be in the hands of the frontline employees,” says Leach, Chief Client Officer at SMG, a leading experience management firm that helps clients get smarter about their customers and employees in order to drive changes that boost loyalty and improve business performance.

“Getting the data in the hands of frontline employees so they can take immediate action is of the utmost importance,” he says. “Then we  analyze it alongside other sources of information across the business to understand the relationships at the macro level to identify actions the brand should take to improve the customer experience.”

SMG partners with more than 500 of the world’s leading brands to collect solicited and unsolicited feedback from customers and employee—and translating it all into actionable insights. They serve various industries, including restaurants, retail, convenience stores, grocery, personal services, movie theaters, healthcare, financial services, and more.

Tailoring Data Analytics

While frontline employees get one set of reports on customer feedback, SMG is able to tailor other data analytics for different levels of a company, as well. For example, Leach says district or regional managers will get the same customer feedback that frontline staff get, as well as more details and data to help them gain insight, but not too much.

“You don’t want a general manager or store manager slicing and dicing data because you want them out running the restaurant or the store,” Leach says. “But one manager may need more of that, and then the executive level wants an executive overview of the data, so it is layered where needed.”

On top of getting customer feedback, SMG works with its clients to ensure they are getting feedback from their frontline employees, too.

“If you’re trying to build customer loyalty, you have to ensure you’re listening to employees as well,” Leach says. “That’s a great source of information and knowledge around what your customers are thinking and doing.”

Success at Tractor Supply and Chick-fil-A

Leach says two great examples of major brands they are working with that are executing great feedback processes are Tractor Supply and Chick-fil-A. When SMG meets with the Tractor Supply team, they usually have the CEO, the COO, and the CFO in the room ready to listen and act on trends surfacing in the feedback data.
“They are talking about action in the moment,” Leach says. “It’s not a readout where they all go and think about it until it’s too late to do anything. They’re committed to taking immediate action and adapting quickly. When COVID hit, they were one of the first brands to get curbside pickup services launched, and they did it in a matter of weeks.”

SMG has a 20-plus year relationship with Chick-fil-A, and Leach says they are an organization that is passionate about listening to the customer and getting better.

“What separates great brands is this idea that they’re never satisfied,” he says. “With a brand like Chick-fil-A, you think they have it all nailed down because their drive-through lines are wrapped around the building. But they’re always pursuing excellence, and I think that’s the key to their greatness: they’re never satisfied.”

Mapping Out the Customer Journey

Leach advises brands that are wanting to improve customer experience and loyalty to start with mapping out the customer journey, and then connect those passive and active listening channels to each “moment of truth” in that journey.

“It’s a pretty eye-opening exercise to go through, and we’ve been fortunate to sit down with a number of clients and literally just map out all the different connections that a customer will have with the brand,” Leach says. “And then you have to consider how effective you are at listening across each one of those moments of truth.”
He also suggests brands constantly evaluate the progress they are making on their customer experience measurement strategies. Are they maturing it, and how do they compare to others? The ability to be agile is also a huge benefit to brands, especially with what happened in 2020.

“I can’t tell you how many executives I talked to last April who were saying ‘We were in the middle of a 90-day evaluation process for curbside pickup, and we had to turn it on in about five days,’” Leach says. “It’s that constant iteration of learning , listening, and responding to customers in the most agile way possible. Necessity is the mother of invention, and we definitely saw that last year.”

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