Friday 21 October 2016

Problem Solver: How can I get my staff to focus more on my customers?

Published 20/08/2015 | 02:30

Feargal Quinn
Feargal Quinn

Q: How can I get my staff to focus more on my customers?

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A: During my time in Superquinn we put a lot of emphasis on what we referred to as the 'boomerang principle'.

We all know the imagery: if you throw it correctly, it should come back to you. In the same way if customers are treated well and given exceptional service, they will come back. We talked about the boomerang at every opportunity with our staff and we even got tie pins created that each staff member would wear to act as a reminder of the importance of the customer. A symbol is only one of many aspects. Developing a great customer service training programme and backing this up with staff appraisals, etc are all part of getting staff to focus more on the customer. It is all about culture from the top down. If your staff see that the customer is important to you and is on the top of agenda for your management meetings, then it becomes important to everyone else. While the boomerang worked for us, find an image to represent the importance of the consumer in your own industry and build it into the fabric of your business.

Q: How did you take customer feedback in Superquinn? Did you employ a formal research company?

A: From time to time we did some formal research, however by and large all of our customer listening was done through internal mechanisms.

There is an old Irish proverb which says 'Éist le fuaim na habhann agus gheobhfaidh tú breac' - Listen to the sound of the river and you will catch a trout. What that means is that if your business can stay close to consumer feedback, then you will have a good chance of success.

We had a very active system of customer comment forms which were acted on each week basis and our managers rang customers to either answer queries or thank them for their feedback. I would also go to a different branch every week and have a coffee with customers to discuss how that branch could be improved. That is where we got some of our best ideas.

In the initial stages, the store manager tended to be a little sceptical of the feedback, so we invited a neighbouring Superquinn manager to sit in on the focus group and not say who they were. At the end of the meeting we introduced them formally. The effect was immediate. Firstlyl the visiting manager went back to his own branch and checked all of the points the consumers raised to ensure he would not be caught out too, but more importantly he rang the manager of the store where the panel was being run and validated the points consumers made. So use every opportunity to take feedback.

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