Ask and Listen: Customer Ideas Can Help You Excel

A good shop gone great utilizes a variety of sources to keep their business thriving. One of the most overlooked but promising sources is your customer base. Tapping into the thoughts and suggestions of your customers is the most effective way to keep a business healthy and can lead to solutions you might never have considered before. A few ways to get your customers to talk include:

A good old-fashioned suggestion box. Let your customers provide feedback by allowing them to share their opinions anonymously. By positioning a comment box in a visible yet somewhat private area, customers will be more inclined to share their thoughts without feeling that they will be criticized. A good place to locate this box may be in the dressing room area, by the front door or even on a shelf in your store display. While the cash wrap may seem ideal, it also draws attention to someone putting a comment in it. Don’t forget to include paper and a pen!

Blog it and ask for comments. A blog or social media tool such as Facebook or Twitter are great ways to gain customer interaction and insight. Encourage them to post comments on products, customer service and everything else that relates to your retail business. Of course, use careful word choice when asking for suggestions. Once you get feedback, you need to respond to the consumer with your plans for addressing their suggestions or concerns.

Customers deserve some appreciation! Use an event to drive traffic to your store while making it all about them. Thank them for their support with cocktails, appetizers, discounts and entertainment… Then, while you’re at it, ask for feedback about how to make your store even better. By making it fun, they will be more likely to want to talk.

Implement key customer programs. A good example of a key customer program is Great Outdoor Provisions’ MuleTeam. They offer their key customers exclusive in-store deals and invitations to special community and store events. Key customers are the ones who know and frequent the store and provide honest feedback and consistent communication about products, service and events.  It’s like relying on a close friend to tell it like it is – even when you’re not sure you want to hear it.

Affiliate or Ambassador types of Programs. These consumers range from activity-oriented to influential people in the community around your store. Nau portraits are an interesting example of a group of consumers that the company respects as living the Nauian life.  They don’t work for the company but are representing it to other customers as a brand they believe in. Theses types of programs are effective in bringing in outside points of view on the product, retail environment and ideas around marketing and events.

Brian Thompson, Director of Sales, Horny Toad and Nau clothing