ARLINGTON, Va. — The National Grocers Association  here has issued a white paper suggesting ways store managers can use customer feedback to improve the way they operate their stores.
The research was conducted in January on behalf of NGA and the Center for Advancing Retail & Technology (CART) by the Retail Feedback Group, Plainview, N.Y. The retailers who participated were Coborn’s , St. Cloud, Minn.; Gerlands Food Fair, Houston; and Yoke’s Fresh Markets, Spokane Valley, Wash.
“How retailers respond to shopper feedback, pro and con, has a material impact on measures of success,” the white paper said.
It suggested retailers practice “active listening” though a customer feedback system — offered through phone lines or the Internet — to encourage customers to communicate with them, after which they can benchmark their individual performance against company, regional or national norms.
SN blog: How to Get Grocery Shoppers to Complain More 
The white paper detailed several case studies on how store managers apply active listening to improve shopper services and experiences. The examples cited included the following:
• A manager who said he believes greeting customers is a key to building store loyalty. According to the report, he monitors frequency of customer greetings by store employyes, which tracked at 70.1% in 2012, up from 42.9% in 2005. The store’s goal is 80%, the study noted. Since the store does not have a loyalty-card program, the manager said he views strong greetings practices as a major way to drive customer loyalty.
• One manager who said he concentrates on people interactions. “We do business in a small urban area where we are not as competitively priced, [so] we hang our hats on service,” he told the survey. While he said he pays attention to responses from large-basket shoppers, “those are already pretty locked in,” he said. “I give them attention, but sometimes I like to give greater weight to [comments from] the $15 to $25 people because we are not yet their primary store. That’s who we really try to go after.”
• A manger who said following up on customer feedback can provide a mechanism to foster better relationships. “The [feedback] mechanism allows customers an opportunity to vent, and very often they are quite impressed when you call back or resolve their issue,” he explained. “Plus, it can save a relationship. Some shoppers become more loyal when they see we look after their concerns. If nothing else, you get a second chance.” Using customer feedback has enabled the manager to improve the quality of front-end service, he said. “It gives me something to communicate about with the team.”
• One manager who said he encourages store associates to track how their individual actions are perceived by customers by posting positive and negative customer comments about specific individuals in the break room. “A little peer pressure doesn’t hurt,” he noted. To encourage positive customer service, the store awards badges of merit to employees who win positive comments, which qualifies them to participate in a gift-card drawing each month.
• One manager who said he and his assistant monitor comments daily “and try to reach out to customers [because] we want them to know we are listening. Shoppers are often surprised that we even called.”
Read more: Beef Backers Talk Marketing, Customer Contact 
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