How Connolly SPAR uses customer feedback to be ahead of the competition
Founded in 1932 in the Netherlands, SPAR is the largest food retail chain in the world. In a highly competitive industry, SPAR bets on exceeding its customers’ expectations by creating more relevant in-store experiences.
All three stores in Wiltshire*, UK, have been equipped with HappyOrNot Smiley Terminals since 2014. Susan Connolly, Sales Director at Connolly SPAR, turned to HappyOrNot to innovate on the way they work, to better understand the shopping experience they offer, and to improve the overall quality of their customer service
Using feedback to keep customers happy
Connolly SPAR stores receive an average of 1500 customer feedback responses via the Smiley Terminals each week, and have reached a very impressive Happy Index score of 96 – way above the industry standard of 87 and placing them in the top 10% within their industry. The data helps Susan and her managerial staff to take fast and informed decisions to always exceed their customers’ expectations.
HappyOrNot helps Connolly SPAR to:
“We need to stay relevant for our customers”
Delivering strong and consistent customer experience is crucial for retailers. If they can’t meet the demand, and/or if customers don’t feel comfortable shopping somewhere, they will go elsewhere. “We need to stay relevant for our customers – to be relevant is to always be ahead of the competition.”
To secure their competitive advantage for the years ahead, Susan and her managing team were trying to find innovative solutions to connect with their customers when they came across HappyOrNot’s solution.
Before relying on HappyOrNot’s Smiley Terminals to collect in-moment customer feedback, Susan admitted that Connolly SPAR didn’t have any efficient process in place to collect and process customer feedback.
“As long as we had a product to sell to them, we didn’t place a strong focus on customer experience. We worried about it and always tried our best, of course, but it wasn’t our main focus as we had no proper way to measure it.”
Susan reported that HappyOrNot has become an integral part of the shopping experience. The terminals are located on the exits to make it more convenient for customers to interact with them. As a result, people press it on their way out as a standard procedure.
In the beginning, Susan hadn’t expected that HappyOrNot would become such a valuable tool for them. “We didn’t realize how valuable it would be. It actually enhances the shopping experience, highlights issues in stores, and brings ways to fix them. It’s one of those things that simply work. In fact, we haven’t changed the questions we ask our customers in 7 years, and our customers keep interacting with it.”
Identifying and solving problems in real-time
Collecting customer feedback helps Susan and her store managers to identify issues they wouldn’t be able to directly pinpoint otherwise.
For instance, in one of her stores, “the Happy Index Score went down to 80, and that was definitely alarming—what has gone wrong? We looked at it, and it turned out that our fridge wasn’t working properly, and our milk was warm. As people were bringing their milk back, they pressed the red button on their way out, indicating that something was wrong.” Because she was alerted in real-time, Susan was able to take immediate action and work on a solution to fix the problem. Today, the store personnel regularly check the fridges as part of their routine to prevent this from happening again.
The Smiley Terminals also help Susan to better train and manage her staff. “We had a member of staff who was really slow at serving, and we saw the number of red buttons increase to unacceptable levels. Here again, customer feedback helped us to see that they needed more help at that time of day. We asked a more experienced staff member to switch shifts with this person while they received additional training, and the score went back up.”
“Sometimes, you’ll suddenly see a lot of red buttons and panic. But you can easily pinpoint the time on the [HappyOrNot] reporting dashboard, go on CCTV, and see what’s creating it.”
Susan shared another concrete example of how she turned a momentary negative experience for her customers into an opportunity to serve them better. She noticed that the stores were receiving a lot of negative feedback towards the end of the day but couldn’t explain why. “We looked at the time of the day on our dashboard, looked it up on CCTV, and realized that the amount of time it was taking to get served in the evening was generating a lot of frustration for customers. As an action, Susan decided to provide staff members with headsets and “they can now call for help and get the queue down quicker.”
A motivational tool for employees
Besides being an instant reward for staff as they see customers pressing the green button on their way out, another benefit of using HappyOrNot is that it creates a healthy competition between Connolly SPAR stores.
On the one hand, gathering customer feedback helps Susan to “view the business” to best serve her customers. On the other, it motivates store managers and employees to give their best to secure the highest Happy Index score. “My store managers are always striving to be top-of-the-chart, and we offer our staff members a bottle of wine when their location gets the highest score for the month.”
Susan also reveals that she uses customer feedback collected via HappyOrNot as a competitive edge. “One of my stores recently got a 100 Happy Index score. This is information that I can use to show that we care for our customers and do things differently from the competition.”
Supporting customers during the pandemic
Just like most retail professionals around the globe, Susan and her teams had to cope with the unprecedented measures taken to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Surprisingly enough, Susan reports that the pandemic has had no effect on her customers’ willingness to share their feedback via the HappyOrNot Smiley Terminals. This is verified by the feedback data in the reporting service which shows that their response rates have remained at the same levels as pre-pandemic.
We’re taking all the necessary measures to ensure our customers’ safety. We’re cleaning the terminals every hour, we’re making sure that social distancing measures are followed by our staff and customers, and we’re providing masks and anti-bacterial solutions.” Susan adds that they “haven’t taken the terminals away because they belong there, they live there. Customers keep pressing the buttons on their way out, and they let us know that they don’t like it if the terminals are placed elsewhere”.
What’s more, Susan revealed that her stores’ employees have doubled down on pretty much everything they do to keep serving customers during the pandemic.
“We started working through the nights to restock, introduced home deliveries […] we bought 25 kg bags of flour and split them up so that our customers could get flour, we rationed eggs, rationed toilet rolls in bags of four so that everybody got some, we gave out food parcels to those in need and provided lunches to kids from families in need. We have not stopped.”
Susan’s staff are so dedicated to the task that she had to convince them to take two weeks off to rest, and Connolly SPAR gave both Christmas Day and Boxing Day off in 2020 to reward them for their hard work.
“Our customers have been so happy with us during the pandemic. They often told us that they don’t know what they would have done without us. When the bigger supermarkets ran out of essential goods, we had everything in stock.”
All in all, Susan feels that “people are more appreciative. It feels like all the community work we usually put in was now being acknowledged during the pandemic.”
Despite all that has happened in 2020, Susan and her staff’s unyielding determination, coupled with their ability to process customer feedback, strengthened their relationship with their customer base, and helped them to attract and keep new customers.
For instance, Connolly SPAR stores retained a whopping 27% of new shoppers during the first 2020 lockdown in the UK. This alone demonstrates how crucial it is to take your customers’ feedback into consideration and show them how much you care for their shopping experience, especially in times of crisis.
SPAR is the world’s leading voluntary food retail chain. The business started with one Dutch store in 1932 and now comprises more than 13,300 stores in over 48 countries on four continents. The development of SPAR has been underpinned by a set of values that have guided the organisation since its establishment more than 85 years ago. At the heart of these core values is the commitment of SPAR stores worldwide to freshness, choice, quality, and service. To learn more, visit www.spar.co.uk
To learn more about HappyOrNot’s anti-COVID solutions, visit Next Normal
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