Top Customer Experience Opportunities in Retail, Restaurant & Grocery Industries: Q&A with Mike Debnar

A customer works on their laptop in a coffee shop

The retail, restaurant, and grocery industries look noticeably different from a few years ago. Between rapid operational changes, along with a shift to digital across each vertical, there’s plenty of transformation across business units, with new strategies and priorities being developed. And amid this state of change, new customer experience opportunities continue to emerge — some of which require more attention than they’ve been receiving.

To zero in on the most pressing customer experience opportunities, Medallia Solutions Principal Mike Debnar highlights exactly where there’s room to improve and innovate across the retail, restaurant, and grocery industries. 

Based on recent years’ disruption in the retail, restaurant, and grocery industries, what have you noticed separates the leaders from the laggards in terms of the customer experiences they offer?

I’ve seen customer experience leaders separate themselves from the crowd by innovating and delivering on what customers want and need. While there’s more than one way to go about it, I believe it often comes down to paying close attention to your customers. 

Listen to what customers have to say to you in surveys and service channels, watch how customers behave online and offline, and recognize changes in preferences. Look at every channel, from website and app, to social media and reviews, along with contact center exchanges via call, chat, or email. By monitoring every event across these journeys, you’ll find some of the most impactful customer experience opportunities that can help you deliver experiences that truly move the needle.

In the wake of rapid digital transformation, customer journeys often possess a combination of physical and digital experiences. How can these hybrid customer journeys ensure exceptional customer experiences?

With the rise of digital, I think it’s become clear that customer journeys are no longer online or offline — it’s often both for retail, restaurant, and grocery. With so many different ways for customers to interact with brands online and offline, managing these hybrid journeys has become increasingly complicated. 

Between reserving online and buying offline, ordering online and picking up offline, browsing offline and buying online, and so on, these hybrid journeys are seemingly endless. However, I think there are some new customer experience opportunities in these hybrid journeys. And it starts with minimizing the risk between online and offline experiences, and ensuring they function seamlessly from one to the other.

For instance, providing shopper assurance when ordering online and picking up in person is essential now. If a customer visits a location to pick up their order and it’s out of stock, or the service is subpar, it may have ruined a perfectly seamless digital experience with a dysfunctional in-store experience. Blending these different experiences together will go a long way in the eyes of customers.

How can organizations better collect, measure, and analyze data to better meet customer expectations?

Feedback typically acts as the crux of insights for companies looking for customer experience opportunities in retail, restaurant, and grocery industries. Unfortunately, most customers don’t respond to surveys, as we’re seeing outgoing engagements rise while response rates tumble across channels. While this creates a knowledge gap around so many different experiences, I believe capturing and acting on digital and operational data solves that issue. 

By tracking behaviors and signals across every channel customers interact, you’re removing the necessity for customer engagement and capturing insights that would otherwise go unnoticed. Whether it’s click and mouse behaviors, text and voice sentiments, or buying patterns, these signals tell you as much — or even more — about experience as direct feedback from customers in a survey. And with this intel, I think brands can build detailed customer profiles to further enhance experiences by eliminating friction and personalizing journeys. 

Retail, restaurant, and grocery are service-oriented industries, which places a lot of pressure on frontline employees. How can organizations directly improve the customer experience through their approach to employee experience?

Before even considering improving employee experience, brands in the retail, restaurant, and grocery industries must start by defining what it actually means to the organization and employees. At its core, I think employee experience revolves around the interactions employees have with customers, other employees, and leadership, along with their working environment. 

To improve your employees’ day-to-day interactions in a way that positively impacts customer experience, you’ll need to get your workforce more engaged and involved. But employees don’t necessarily care about business outcomes, they care more about how they impact their customers and coworkers.

With this in mind, I believe more businesses need to democratize customer feedback, share insights specific to employees, provide tailored coaching and training, and help staff perform their jobs better. By creating a more supportive and engaging employee experience, those employees in turn will improve how they execute the service and selling models they were hired to fulfill.

Find out how signals, insight, engagement, and action in a customer experience program separate the leaders from the laggards in our report, Uncovering the Secrets Behind a Successful Customer Experience Program.