Dirty Floors and Retail Basics

While there has been a tendency to paint e-commerce as the thorn in the side of traditional retail, a  recent article in Forbes – Cleanup in Aisle 5? – suggests there are some more fundamental problems at play for the brick & mortar crowd.

As reporter Joan Verdon notes, a study from facilities management platform ServiceChannel has found that retailers who neglect store basics in an effort to cut costs are hastening their own demise…

“In a survey of 1521 consumers, 70% customers said they recently have had a negative experience with a messy store, ranging from dirty bathrooms and broken toilets, to disorganized shelves and burned out light bulbs.”

In an age where competition in the retail sector is at an all-time high, the fact that “over two-thirds of customers said they have walked out of stores because they were messy or disorganized” feels like a shocking statistic.

It seems obvious on paper.  If you’re not unable (or unwilling) to uphold basic hygiene standards, you’re not going to be able to count on repeat visits from your customers. So why is it that so many businesses are cutting back on store maintenance and investment in basic improvements?

Partly the approach might be explained away as an attempt to find a quick fix to a more difficult problem.  With rising costs and lagging sales, store maintenance – “a non-sexy part of the business” – can be one of the first things to suffer.  While a new breed of retailers who understand the importance of providing a consistently excellent (emphasis on ‘consistently’) experience have emerged, there remains a worrying trend to expect customers to reward lacklustre standards with continued loyalty.

Another issue lies in the outdated relationship that often still exists between consumer and business.  Many existing survey methodologies deliver poor response rates, providing little visibility into actual on-site conditions and the fundamentals that impact sales.  While a single store manager may be able to see the floor is a mess, from an operational perspective, it can be difficult for companies to measure and stay on top of such issues business-wide.  If customers are walking out because of poor conditions without telling you – clearly there’s a problem. 

While boardrooms may be under pressure to make cuts, failing to invest in basic fundamentals such as cleanliness is head in the sand behaviour. With four out of five shoppers saying they would “rather have a clean store than ones with the newest tech”, and two-thirds saying “retailers are forgetting the basics… in the rush to add tech”, it seems that for some, a back to basics crash course, may be required before it’s too late.



What lies in store for the future of retail metrics?

Typical – you wait an hour for one article about the inadequacies of our current methods for measuring retail performance, and two turn up at once.

Recently at TruRating Towers we came across two interesting articles both questioning the validity of today’s most commonly used retail metrics.

Writing in Forbes, Richard Kestenbaum’s “The Way We Measure Retail Store Performance Needs to Change“, puts a straight forward and well-argued case for change.

Historically, there have been two metrics fundamental to measuring store performance:

  1. Sales per square foot
  2. Store income statements

The first was often used to provide a base level indicator of performance that allows for store-by-store comparison, regardless of the actual size of each location.  The second is a more localized metric, that allows management to review performance as if each store effectively operated as its own business.

While these were once stable and generally industry-normative indicators for judging a store’s performance, the relationship the modern consumer has with physical retail locations is more complex. Stores are no longer mere warehouses for selling and holding goods but operate in a variety of ways including:

  • Boosting online sales in the local area (the store as billboard)
  • Pick up and drop off point for online purchases and returns
  • As a venue for ‘experiential’ events

While traditional KPI’s are not without value in this new world, our relationship with stores has evolved, and so too, argues Kestenbaum, should our success measures as a result.

In, “Measuring the Store of the Future“, Doug Stephens goes a step further, labelling retail’s traditional KPIs as ‘industrial-age metrics’, “Judging a store’s performance simply by regarding it’s most recent sales results is like evaluating a patient’s health by asking what they had for breakfast that day.” 

Stephen’s hypothesis, echoing his 2017 book Reengineering Retail, is that we will judge the worth of the store of the future in terms of it’s ‘media value’ more than anything else…

But what does this mean?  As the digital space becomes increasingly saturated and reaching anyone online via targeted media becomes near impossible, the value of the store as simply another channel by which to reach customers becomes increasingly tenable, “Your stores are your media,” Stephens writes, “you’re just not measuring it.” (Yet!)

Image result for customers queuing in-store event
‘Store as Media’ – a glimpse into the future?

For Stephens, the retail metric of the future will be closer to our existing digital measurements e.g. positioning ‘one positive in-store experience’ as equivalent to a digital impression or click through.  Stephens proposes a method of value calculation that utilizes NPS scores to attempt to derive a quantifiable $-comparison to establish each store’s ‘media worth’.

While certainly thought-provoking, the idea of evaluating store success purely by this kind of hypothetical metric seems a little way off yet.

At TruRating, we believe that ‘Experience’ is the metric that contemporary retail needs to focus on.  While every customer experience is subjective to a degree, providing a consistent way to measure the majority of customer interactions, across a full range of experiential metrics, is the closest one can get to something like an objective truth when it comes to CX.

To put it in simple terms – if you want to understand your business, it’s a necessity to ask your customers about it frequently.  And if you can map that customer sentiment to transactional point-of-sale data while you do it?

Well, you just might be on to something!

Leaving a Lasting Impression: Traditional vs. Digital Marketing

Modern Marketing:  A Digital Love Affair

Good data is the foundation upon which strong marketing decisions are made.  The more data at our fingertips, the more targeted we can get.  Which goes some way to explaining the contemporary marketer’s infatuation with all things digital.

Digital is steeped in data.  The ability to A/B test every permutation down to the smallest detail often makes it irresistible to the analytically minded.  Indeed, spend on digital now dwarves that of all other categories, having beaten out its closest rival television just recently.

Traditional vs. Digital – but is it a binary choice? 

Of course not. While digital may be the market leader, at least when it comes to pure $-spend perspective, we’ve gathered evidence to suggest that traditional marketing still has a few tricks up its sleeve and that a combination approach is the most effective.

We’ve collated over 48,000 responses from shoppers across a variety of retailers that deploy our technology, and made some surprising discoveries about the type of marketing that lingers longest in our minds, and is most likely to shape our behaviours.

In our latest white paper, we take an in-depth look at the fresh evidence we’ve pulled together combined with further industry research, to give practical advice and recommendations that will be invaluable to any marketer looking to optimise their budget.

To download your very own copy, just click on the link below.

Leaving a Lasting Impression: A Marketing White Paper

The Art of the Survey

Customer Experience Icon Shep Hyken, was kind enough to feature a guest post from Georgina on his wonderful blog recently over at Hyken.com.  A fantastic speaker and all-around nice guy, Shep has authored several NYT bestsellers including his most recent opus The Convenience Revolution.  For daily doses of  CX wisdom, we highly recommend following Shep on Twitter where he posts regularly along with collecting his five top customer experience related articles each week.

We wrote a piece focusing on the much-maligned ‘art of the survey’ and why in nearly all cases, one question is more than enough for the majority of customers. Here’s a little taster of the post, you’ll find the link to the full article at the bottom of the link.


One of the biggest misconceptions about collecting customer feedback is the idea that asking more questions provides more of the insights you’re looking for.  In fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

While it may be tempting to ask a customer to fill out a survey before they leave your store or solicit feedback online with an incentive on their receipts, there’s a reason those methods tend to fall short on capturing meaningful insights.  In many cases, the response rates are extremely low because customers simply don’t have the time or desire to take a survey.  And when customers do respond, you run the risk of only hearing from those who complete it to earn the incentive, which can damage the accuracy of their responses.

With short attention spans and little patience for anything that may slow down the shopping experience or infringe on free time, many shoppers aren’t looking to fill out long surveys for businesses.  In fact, roughly 80% of consumers believe the most important part of good service is the ability for a company to respect their time.

Striking the delicate balance of garnering feedback from customers, without negatively impacting their experience can be challenging, but the good news is it’s not impossible.

Sometimes a less is more approach can help you gain accurate and powerful customer insights…

Click here to read the full post. 

Image result for survey fatigue

NPS: where next for the Net Promoter Score?

NPS was developed by an employee of Bain & Co consultancy in 2003, to provide a way to measure customer satisfaction as it correlated directly to increased sales.  The method – traditionally a simple one question survey – asks customers to rate their experience on a scale from 0-10.  An NPS Score is derived by subtracting the percentage of customers who rated 0-6 (“detractors”) from those who rated 9 or 10 (“promoters”).  Those who score 7 or 8 are considered “passives” and not counted in the calculation.  While the score has been massively popular in boardrooms across the US, it is not without its critics…

A recently published story in the Wall Street Journal – The Dubious Management Fad Sweeping Corporate America ­– is one of the more damning recent examples.  Based on an investigation of the company reports of over 688 S&P 500 Index businesses, the piece questions the ‘cultlike’ following NPS has developed, and while not outright claiming it to be a false indicator of performance, enough questions are raised to suggest the authors aren’t fans.

Part of the appeal of a system like NPS to the busy executive must surely lie in its apparent simplicity.  “Push the score up and you make more money”, provides a simple goal for a distracted mind.  And while there is evidence to suggest that NPS may be reasonably effective as a superficial performance indicator, good or bad, it is much more limited as a tool to show businesses where they should be focusing their valuable time and energy.

Though expanded versions of NPS have been developed to include follow up questions asking why a customer is scoring them a 7 rather than a 9, response rates tend to be so low (5% according to the WSJ source) as to be almost meaningless as a realistic representation of actual customer sentiment.  The glut of companies in recent years whose sole purpose is supposed to help to businesses improve their NPS, smacks of naivety at best and opportunism at worst.

iStock-1086229740.jpg‘Managing to a metric’ comes with its own cultural baggage for organizations too.  Companies who focus solely on NPS, tend to be very good at creating employees who are very good at, well, achieving high NPS scores.  The ‘one-size fits all’ design of NPS can also offer a somewhat reductive way to view the lived complexities of the modern retail environment.  Businesses who listen to the needs of their customers as a strategic goal are likely to see an uplift in NPS regardless.

In our own work, we’ve noticed that more often than not context is key (something not always captured by NPS as a standalone figure). Analyzing the data from one of our clients, we noticed that both ‘Indifferent’ and ‘Promoter’ customers tended to have very similar profiles of spend and basket size.   For this business, NPS wasn’t a great predictor of spend in the short term at all.

Only by looking across a much longer time period were we able to identify that that ‘Promoters’ (and even then, only those who scored absolute highest) were more likely to return and make subsequent visits.  While this aligns with the NPS philosophy and suggests good news for businesses who rely on subscription models or customers who make frequent repeat visits, for the business looking to maximize the value of a single but high-value transaction, an NPS score might mean very little.

At TruRating, while we offer a version of the NPS question within our toolkit, it is only a small part of what we do.  By giving businesses the ability to ask questions across a range of metrics, including specific initiative-based questions, tied to a response rate of up to 80%+, we are confident in the claim that we offer merchants a much more robust and actionable solution.

RetailEXPO 2019 Wrap-Up – what we learnt.

RetailEXPO has fast become a highlight in the European retail calendar and this year’s event was another fantastic showcase for the latest in technology, design and innovation. We were absolutely thrilled to play an active part in the show this year, with TruRating founder Georgina Nelson speaking to a packed house on the Marketing + Branding stage on Day 1. It’s hard to capture the breadth and diversity of the action on display over the course of the event, but here are a few of our key takeaways.

Screen Shot 2019-05-03 at 10.30.58 AM.png

Dismantling Myths – ‘The death of the high-street’

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, picked up on a common thread for industry analysts worldwide when she noted that a lot of her and the BRC’s time was still spent “trying to dispel the myth of the death of the high-street”.  In 2019 the fact that this message still has to be driven home feels a little strange.  While no-one would deny the seismic impact of e-commerce, as industry analyst Steve Dennis noted this time last year – Physical Retail Isn’t Dead. Boring Retail Is.

Screen Shot 2019-05-03 at 10.36.42 AM.png

The Future is Personal

Martin Wild, the Chief Innovation Officer for MediaMarktSaturn (one of Europe’s leading electronics retailer imprints) delivered a refreshingly honest keynote on the future for next-generation retail.  While Wild was happy to admit that, “I don’t know what the future of retail will look like”, he was clear on one thing – “personalisation and hyper-personalisation will be a very big thing.”  As customers become increasingly used to brands building experiences around their expectations, this seems like one of the few remaining certainties in an ever-changing retail landscape.  A quick shout out to Andrew Busby, who ably intro’d the Headline Stage at the event – if you haven’t already, check out his excellent regular retail column in Forbes.

Screen Shot 2019-05-03 at 10.34.10 AM.png

Data-Driven Insights Today

While we’re not usually ones to toot our own horns, we’d be remiss not to take a quick look at Georgina’s feature on the Marketing and Branding Stage.  Discussing our work with JD Sports, it was great to be able to shine a light on a collaborative relationship, showing how TruRating has helped the retailer to operationalize their customer feedback, rather than simply use it as a marketing opportunity. George offered a strong call to action on the day, “Find a customer feedback solution that removes friction, connects sentiment data to basket and delivers in real-time”.

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves 😉.


As always, a huge thanks to all the hard work put into the event by the organizers and folks behind the scenes.  We were honoured to take part in such an exciting showcase for the retail community.

A final word of appreciation to our incredible partners FIS, Worldpay and Payment Express for giving us the opportunity to showcase our technology on their stands.

We can’t wait to do it all again next year.

TruRating at Retail Expo 2019

We are delighted to be speaking at the Retail Expo 2019 in London on May 1-2.  As one of Europe’s leading events for retail technology and design, it’s an honour to share the stage with so many fantastic retailers and industry names.

Georgina will be taking to the Marketing & Branding stage with JD Sports Head of Retail Kevin Dowson, in a panel entitled “Innovating the Basics: Using data-driven insights to improve the fundamentals of customer experience”.

You can expect to find out about subjects such as…

  • Understanding the core factors driving your customer’s shopping behaviour
  • Data backed methods for improving customer experience and correlated revenue
  • How to collect feedback without impacting the customer experience
  • Discovering the ROI of being excellent at often neglected retail basics
  • Operationalising customer experience-based performance metrics

Join us to find out how JD Sports has used TruRating on their journey to become one of the British highstreets biggest success stories (the JD Group recently acquired iconic US sports retailer Finish Line to overtake Sports Direct as Britains’s leading sportswear retailer!)

We recently filmed a testimonial with the team that we look forward to sharing in the near future, but in the meantime, here’s a couple of very nice things that they’ve said about us,

TruRating has removed the guesswork… we’re not spending resource on initiatives that we only assume will delight the customer.” Wayne Davies, Retail Director, JD Sports

 “The bonus is that you don’t have to have a degree in data science to understand the insights.” Lee Bagnall, Managing Director for JD Outdoors

You can register for the Retail Expo free of charge here

If you’d like to book a demo with one of the TruRating team in person, just leave your details on our event landing page and we’ll be in touch.

Georgina will speak with Kevin Dowson, Head of Retail JD Sports, at 1.35pm on May 1st on the Marketing + Branding Stage.  Read the full program entry here.


How to put Customer Experience Theory into Practice

A recent report by Bain & Company contained the somewhat shocking statistic that while 80% of businesses believe they provide a ‘superior proposition’ only 8% of their customers agree.

For those in the retail business, this highlights one of the key challenges facing the industry today – how to close the gap between the service you think you’re providing and your customers lived experiences.

The evidence is there to show that a well-executed CX strategy really is one of the key drivers for the ‘holy trinity’ of customer spend, loyalty and advocacy, but actually implementing an approach that works for your business can be a complicated endeavour.

To help you make the leap from theory to practice, we’ve collected a series of insights from some of the best minds working in customer experience today.  Practical tips that you can start to put to work right now, or at the very least, use as inspiration for your future CX adventures.

Jeanne Bliss – Get Deliberate

For five-time Chief Customer Officer Jeanne Bliss, taking a deliberate approach to customer experience is key: “What is the memory you want to imprint on your customers? Are you hiring the right people and behaving the right way to make those moments?”

In a world where up to 80% of Gen-Z shoppers prefer to shop in-store, but often turn to online for convenience sake, it’s up to retailers to find ways to draw shoppers into their doors. By focusing on the tangible elements of your customer experience (our data indicates that outstanding service is a key driver here) you can connect with your customers in a truly ‘meaningful’ sense, without necessarily requiring a huge output in terms of costs.

Tip: Every interaction with a customer provides an opportunity to create an ambassador for your brand – be deliberate in your efforts to empower your staff so that they can make decisions that are right for your customers and business both.

Jeremy Watkin – Be Part of the Solution 

Jeremy Watkin, thought leader and co-creator of the Customer Service Life Blog, believes everyone is responsible for the customer experience: “Before we start beating the drum, let’s roll up our sleeves and be part of the solution. This means that whatever your level in your organization, you can start improving the CX right now.”

Whatever the size of your business, individuals should be given the chance to shine. A shift manager at one our partner merchants, noticed a dip in scores for product and service scores across the evenings in his busy urban location. After an inspection of the floor, it became clear that stock and staffing issues were affecting the customer experience.  Through a few simple measures – reshuffling the staff schedule and ensuring product layouts remained consistent across the day –  he was able to achieve a 22% increase in satisfaction with a 12% associated increase in customer spend.

Tip: ServiceChannel recently reported two-thirds of customers have walked out of stores because they were messy or disorganised.  Investing in a tool that helps measure service standards at the individual and store level can help you to avoid basic, but costly, mistakes.

Shep Hyken – Convenience is King  

For New York Times best-selling author Shep Hyken (The Convenience Revolution), the businesses that will lead the way tomorrow, are those that make it easy to shop with them.  To truly please your customers, you have to focus on ‘innovation that makes life more convenient for them’.

The rise of “Click & Collect” is one example of a recent retail trend, born as a result of businesses adapting to the needs of the modern consumer.  While overcoming limited retail space can pose a challenge in terms of fulfilment pressures, for those who can get it right, it’s been shown to be a winning formula.  UK retailer Next was able to see off the challenges of an increasingly difficult market, largely in thanks to its Click & Collect program, which grew by 15% following a strategic investment in fulfilment capabilities.

Tip:  Investment in operational capabilities like fulfilment can be just as important as the more obvious front-line aspects of your customer experience.  If you can anticipate your customers’ needs, it makes the choice to do business with you a much easier one.

Nate Brown – Voice of the Customer is Key   

Nate Brown, Director of CX at UL EHS Sustainability and co-founder of CX Accelerator, warns that in today’s environment, “Competition is too fierce to be asleep at the experience wheel”.  For Brown, the missing bridge from theory to action is the “Voice of the Customer” (VoC). Without having an accurate tool in place to help listen to and react to customer response, it can be hard to know if you’re focusing on the right priorities.

Retail Prodigy Group (master franchisee holders for Nike in Australia and New Zealand) utilized VoC technology to help them do just that.  By measuring the impact of a series of relatively simple service standards – asking for a customer’s first name, offering multiple product selections, smiling at checkout – the retailer was able to clearly demonstrate their value to staff, increasing compliance, and shortly thereafter revenues, in one fell swoop.

Tip: A Voice of the Customer tool can help you to make informed strategic decisions for your business.  When looking at providers, it’s important to consider both measuring customer satisfaction and the associated revenue opportunities. 

Brian Dennis – Show the ROI of your Initiatives    

For Brian Dennis, former VP Customer Experience at Kohl’s, one of the greatest challenges facing professionals today is the challenge to secure executive support for customer experience initiatives, “All the time and effort spent planning and designing a CX program will be for nought without an ROI that meets similar criteria to other areas within the business.”  While trusted sources like the Forrester Customer Experience Index have shown that incremental CX performance can be worth millions of dollars in revenue, external evidence isn’t always enough to make a business case.

Working with a large discount-retailer, we helped the operations team to deliver quantifiable proof that the cost of additional training to special ‘Service Champions’ was a worthy investment.  By providing a simple framework to measure the impact of their efforts (and a clear projected long-term ROI) a once seemingly complicated decision, became much simpler. 

Tip: If you can clearly tie your initiatives to revenue opportunities, it becomes much easier to earn support for CX goals with executive teams. Be prepared to justify your ambitions at both a customer and business level!


No matter the size of your budget or team, there is never a wrong time to think about the ways you can implement CX best practices into your day to day operations.

Tools like TruRating, provide a simple and effective way to both manage and prove the value of your initiatives. If you would like to discuss how we could help you to get the most out of your CX strategy for the year ahead, we’d love to hear from you.

Email us at hello@trurating.com or visit our Let’s Talk page to find the direct phone number for your region.

Continue reading “How to put Customer Experience Theory into Practice”

CX Icon: Brian Dennis

This week, we were fortunate enough to speak to Brian Dennis, known throughout the country as the “the customer service guy”.

An internationally renowned CX innovator and forecaster, Brian has served as a Fortune 150 executive – most recently as VP Customer Experience at Kohl’s – alongside being the best-selling author of his newest book “If the Customer’s the Copilot, You’re in the Wrong Seat”.

Brian is one of the most requested keynote speakers on the topic of customer experience and we wanted to get to know a little more about how Brian got into CX, how the industry has evolved since he started, and where we’re heading next.

Hi Brian – thanks so much for finding the time to speak to us.  To get things started, could you give us the abbreviated version of how you got into CX and ended up where you are today?

My passion for customer experience started at an early age when I was selling seeds in my neighbourhood. There was a man on our block who all of the kids were afraid of by the name of Mr. Groshack – think old man Marley from Home Alone. Anyway, he stopped me to buy a pack of seeds. A few months later he stopped me again and said the seeds never grew.  Without hesitating, I reached into my pocket, took out a dime and gave it to him with the hope I would never run into him ever again. Fast forward to the following summer, I just began selling my seeds when Mr. Groshack stopped me and said he would buy them all.  I never ever forgot his words – “I like the way you do business kid.”

Ever since then I’ve seen the rewards both personally and professionally that come when you treat people fairly and deliver a great service experience. I have continued to capture those learnings and am now happy to be in a position to share with others around the world.

Retail teams sometimes struggle when it comes to proving the immediate ROI of customer experience – do you have any advice for showing value to busy executive teams?

Great question.  One of the biggest challenges I hear from CX professionals is how do I get the C-Suite to buy into my initiatives. They are passionate about their ideas and expected benefits but struggle to identify a hard return value. More simply, they struggle to get a budget approved because the ROI in most instances has not been quantitatively expressed. Soft benefits rarely work anymore.  All the time and effort spent planning and designing a CX program will be for nought without an ROI that meets similar criteria to other areas within the business.

A formula I like to use is CX ROI = 100 X (Benefits – Investments) / Investments.

An example of a commonly used benefit would be revenue. For example, Forrester Customer Experience Index showed that the largest companies in select industries can earn up to hundreds of millions of dollars in incremental revenue for every one point of increase in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index™). That’s a powerful metric and a great start. Other benefits such as customer satisfaction, margin improvements, retention, reducing customer service costs (remember – sometimes the best service is no service at all), loyalty increases and many more are now measurable components that allow you to formulate a return on investment.

Now, calculate the investments that are going to help you achieve the desired result e.g technology upgrades and development, training requirements, operating costs such as improving a mobile app… and you’ve got your ROI.

A recent client of mine was a call center who took over 3 million calls annually for a large retailer. They were able to identify almost 20% of their calls could have been avoided if the customer was just simply more aware of the self-help tools that were available to them and expand the offering to multiple platforms. So, the call center estimated they could reduce their calls at a cost of $6 each for a total cost savings of $3,600,000. They brought forward this ROI, got approval and over the course of the following year actually saved close to $4,000,000.

What is your take on the current landscape generally – do you believe in the feted ‘retail apocalypse’ or is that a misunderstanding?

Certainly, if one were to look at the last decade, you would hypothesize that a retail apocalypse is upon us. Heck, if you even looked at the 5800 store closures last year and compared that to the 5846 store closure announcements in just the first quarter of this year alone, one may be running for the hills. Let me give you one more stat – UBS is expecting the number of store closures to reach 75,000 by 2026.

So yes, the current landscape is changing and it’s changing fast. However, I don’t see a retail apocalypse but rather an industry that is navigating how best to compete both off and online. More specifically, how to blend these commerces into a unified customer experience that readily allows a very simple experience – on the customers’ terms.

“I don’t see a retail apocalypse but rather an industry that is navigating how best to compete both off and online.”

Despite the retail apocalypse chatter you read online and hear in the media, these closures are not necessarily bad. As I travel the country speaking on the topic of customer experience, most industry experts are in agreement that the US has too many stores. So, utilizing their stores to be more productive such as Click & Collect, Ship From Store and other revenue generating opportunities will be key in their survival. E-commerce is going to continue to grow at rapid speed. UBS, who I mentioned earlier, forecasts that e-commerce will account for 25% of all US retail sales by 2026 which is up from about 16% today.

It’s an exciting time as you are starting to see online players start to expand their businesses into offline. Look at Wayfair, the Boston based furniture retailer whose net revenue topped $2 billion in the 4th quarter last year, announcing its plans to open its first full-service retail store this fall. These businesses are getting smarter and testing the customer experience in pop-up shops in advance before spending large capital dollars on a physical store presence.

And it’s not just Wayfair pursuing this true omnichannel experience. Amazon, Rent the Runway, Casper, Madison Reed & others are now piloting these into these brick-and-mortar footprints. In fact, where I live in Milwaukee, TripAdvisor is opening up a store in our airport later this year.

I would say it’s one of the most exciting times I have seen to be in retail, but also one that requires an incredible conviction to keep the customer front and centre in the planning of every experience you are trying to deliver.

In your view, how have customer expectations ‘changed’ in recent years – are people harder to please?

Absolutely, customer expectations continue to climb and the ladder to please them is raised every day. You almost have to assume that customers are not going to be satisfied tomorrow by the same offerings as today. Customers now operate in this real-time digital and always-on world. As a result, their expectations continue to rise. In a recent survey released in 2018, nearly two thirds (59%) of survey respondents had higher expectations for customer service than they did just a year ago. That same 59% of respondents have also used 3 or more channels to get their questions answered and that’s why it’s important for businesses to convert multiple touchpoints into a single seamless experience.  But the good news is they continue to value great service and those businesses that can deliver on that will be rewarded.

“Customers now operate in this real-time digital and always-on world. As a result, their expectations continue to rise.”

A trend that I am starting to see growing in importance, is customers are now demanding more than ever before that their issues get resolved in a single interaction. In many surveys, it can be the single most important aspect of them rating an experience as good and themselves as more loyal. With video chat, social, co-browse, AI agents and converging in-store and online technology, customers now have a greater choice of servicing their needs on their terms than at any other time.

Ok, so what’s next in retail?

A leaner, meaner and faster retail is what’s next.  Seriously, you are already seeing major shifts in department superstores with the likes of Kohl’s, Target, Walmart and Nordstrom’s all experimenting with smaller store formats.  Ironic as it sounds, retailers are coming up with smaller footprints to help their growth. 

But perhaps the biggest change to happen in retail will be that (AI) Artificial Intelligence will become real. I am already witnessing prescriptive analytics finally overtaking predictive analytics, eliminating any opening for decisions based on intuition – which can never keep up with the changing speed of technology and customers. A barrage of voice-activated devices shipping to consumers is changing how they choose to shop and which brands they want to engage with.

Think about this, next year, up to 50% of Search is expected to be accomplished through Voice. What’s game-changing about AI, is that Search will be entirely up to the owner of the eco-system to decide the results. Specifically, Voice will turn e-commerce into a very unfair winner advantage for those who dominate the space. Think Amazon – already this year, more than 60% of Alexa’s results were generally found to be biased. Retailers are recognizing these challenges are finally embracing the need to compete with AI at the very front of this strategy.

A huge thank you to Brian for taking the time to speak to us, if you’d like to reach out to him for more information about what he’s up to email him directly or via his website

For more CX thoughts from Brian, why not purchase a copy of “If the Customer’s the Copilot, You’re in the Wrong Seat“.

That’s a wrap from us for the immediate future for the CX Icon series.  It’s been a blast for us and we hope you’ve enjoyed it too.  Fear not, we will be back soon with more from some of the best minds working in retail today, till then, stay Tru! 

Unlocking the Value of Customer Experience (CX) Initiatives

Putting a Value to Customer Experience

While it’s easy to pay lip service to the importance of customer experience, for those in charge of CX initiatives or Voice of the Customer programs, proving the value of investing in Customer Experience to the wider business can be a challenge.  While a commitment to exceptional service values is commonplace, understanding what that means in a given context, at a given time, is not as simple as it might seem.

Strategic goals tend not to map neatly to the complexities of the retail environment and identifying which aspect of the in-store experience is actually impacting customer spend can be an incredibly complicated task.  When you add the hurdle of proving a quantifiable ROI to the mix, it’s not surprising that while many businesses are saying the right things, they’re not always able – or willing – to provide the support needed to see things through. 

TruRating works with retailers to help them understand – in plain and simple $ terms – which aspects of the Customer Experience are adding genuine value to their business and are therefore worth focusing on.  Here’s a recent example of how we helped one of our clients.

The Context

As part of their 2018 CX program, a national discount retailer wanted to test the introduction of specific service-focused staff across their stores. The purpose? To test whether the staff, known as Service Champions, would enhance CX in stores during the busiest hours and establish a business case for investing in additional training and resources across their entire store network.

As a retailer with a large and varied store footprint – from busy urban locations to remote mural stores – part of the challenge was establishing a fair measurement standard for each of their locations.  Previously used services such as mystery shopping had turned out to be inconsistent, while a receipt based survey program drew so little responses as to be essentially useless.

By asking simple, fast and anonymous feedback questions using the payment terminal itself, we knew we’d be able to gather a statistically relevant data sample in just a few weeks, so we came up with a plan.

Setting up an A/B Test

After meeting with the retailer, we established a selection of pilot stores from both rural and urban locations (to ensure a representative cross-section of their overall store network) and set out to run a simple A/B test approach.

Having identified our test stores, we implemented 3-service related custom questions we knew to be associated with a strong spend uplift.  These were selected to provide clear and measurable goals for the Service Champions and offer a clear way of seeing how impactful they’d be.

With custom questions in place, we established a baseline for performance by measuring TruRating scores and ATV across test control stores before and after Service Champion recruitment. The Service Champions were scheduled during the busiest shifts of the week – Thursday afternoon to Sunday mornings – to ensure that their impact on service would be truly tested.

The Results

In our post-trial analysis, we found that 75% of stores in the test group where Service Champions had been in place saw an increase in Average Transaction Values compared to previous periods.

The biggest impact occurred on the busy Friday afternoon shift when a 6% increase to average transaction value was measured. While the impact on spend for Friday and Saturday mornings was relatively low, these periods saw a much lower volume of transactions, helping the retailer to qualify that their greatest ROI would be during their busiest shopping periods.

unnamed (1).jpg

As well as validating the impact of Service Champions on CX and average transaction value by the time of day, TruRating was able to identify differences in response by store type e.g. small-town stand-alone outlet vs urban shopping centre environment, providing a rich area for further segmentation analysis in the future.

By capturing thousands of responses from customers over the course of the trial period, accommodating for contextual analysis based on store size and location, this discount retailer was able to conduct a truly controlled experiment unaffected by external influences. In a short time, TruRating was able to quantify the impact of the Service Champion initiative, across multiple CX drivers, identifying clear ROI for both customer sentiment and spend.


We’d love to hear from you too!  Get in touch with one of the team to find out how we can better help you implement your 2019 CX Initiatives at hello@trurating.com or head straight to our business page to find out more today.

If you’d like to read more… 

Why not see check out how New Balance used TruRating to reinvent its store layouts here

For a more general introduction to the concept of Customer Experience, you can find the first in a series of posts on the subject here.





Put a Spring in your step with our April Insights

As the clocks move forward across the globe and the cherry blossom begins to bloom, it’s finally starting to feel like Spring is truly here. And what better way to celebrate than with a round-up of our latest retail insights?








The ‘Keanu’ Effect 

  • Working with an independent grocer in Kankakee, Illinois, we recorded an incredible jump in customer satisfaction after they hired Keanu Reeves to serve one of their lanes on Saturday mornings.  The ‘Keanu’ effect saw a 25% increase on average spend, alongside a staggering 60% spike in first-time visitors.  Asked for comment one shopper said, “What can I say, everyone just loves Keanu.”

Image result for puppies







Puppies for all 

  • A bed and breakfast located in the ancient Cathedral city of Salisbury was able to create an impressive increase in Service scores by presenting every customer who entered with a puppy for the duration of their trip.  “I used to go the Premiere Inn up the road,” noted one guest, “but without the puppies, it just sort of felt, well, wrong.” 

Image result for free hugs

Free Hugs

  • A chain of quick service sushi restaurants in Melbourne, Australia was tentative about a staff training initiative implemented by their departing CEO ‘for a laugh’, until they noticed an impressive and unexpected impact on their product scores and ATVs.  “Sushi just tastes better with a hug,” reported a beaming manager. “You might not have ever suspected it, but it’s true.  We’ve worked out one hug is worth about $7 per transaction.  It just makes business sense.”

For more information about how TruRating Insights can change your business for the better visit our Let’s Talk page or reach out to us at any time at hello@trurating.com.

Happy April 1st.

CX Icon: Nate Brown

This week we are delighted to speak to the fantastic Nate Brown. Alongside his role as Director of Customer Experience for UL EHS Sustainability, Nate is an ICMI Top 50 CX Thought Leader, and as co-founder of the CX Accelerator (a virtual forum for CX professionals) is something of a catalyst for communication amongst the customer experience community as a whole.

Nate was also recently crowned CloudCherry’s Top Customer Experience Influencer, a victory made only sweeter by the quite awesome CX Champion wrestling belt that came with it (make your way to the end of the interview to see it in all its glory!).

We wanted to learn a little bit more about how Nate’s CX Journey started and his thoughts on the state of CX today…

Hey Nate – firstly, thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us today! Would you mind telling us how you got started with CX Accelerator? It’s a fantastic community and great resource for anyone interested in customer experience.

I think we can all agree that Customer Experience work is really difficult. With all the factors that can bring you down and burn you out, we needed something that could encourage us and build us up. CX Accelerator is that thing. The community is energizing and helpful because the people in it are so generous with their wisdom. It’s the perfect starting point for someone just emerging into CX, as well as a wonderful encouragement for veterans doing the work day in and day out. This first year has been incredible and we are just getting started!

Are we in a boom time for CX or is it a discipline still finding its feet somewhat?

Absolutely both. Organizations that are not making CX a part of their core strategy are border-line negligent.

“Customers expect too much, and competition is too fierce to be asleep at the experience wheel… at least for any business that wants to be around in five years.”

That being said, there is still a tremendous amount of confusion around CX and how to do it “right”. Customer Experience Management has so few anchor points that could be considered true best practices. Realistically, there are only guiding principles. Any experience design strategy requires a highly customized approach, placing tremendous responsibility onto the CX leader. It is a new frontier to be sure… and whether you identify more with Lewis and Clark or Captain Picard you will face challenges!

A statistic from Forrester’s CX Predictions for 2019 had it that up to 89% of CX practitioners do not believe the ROI of CX is well established in their companies. How do you feel about this? 

Honestly, I feel deflated. We all know CX is the right thing to do… both intrinsically and mathematically for the long-term growth of an organization. So why is it so hard to prove? Many CX professionals are victims of a short-term revenue mentality. The company has quarterly numbers to hit and things like Customer Experience, which requires multiple years to properly develop, are not considered a priority for the long-haul. Showing the ROI of CX requires both a very capable Customer Experience leader and a very patient, customer-centric CEO. It’s hard, but it is entirely possible! Let’s encourage each other along the way and secure the future of CX together.

Do you think there is a discrepancy between CX theory and actual practice?

This is a great question. Nearly everyone loves to talk about making customers lives better. But then enters the reality. It’s amazing how the energy in the room can shift when you go past the “feel good” and start talking about knowledge management, effort reduction, implementing self-service channels, and other hard work required to actually improve experiences.

The bridge from theory to action has to be Voice of Customer (VoC). It’s VoC that isolates the most critical priorities that can enhance the journey, and it’s VoC that can show whether or not these changes are making a real difference. Connect action to compelling customer stories on both the front end and the back end. This is how momentum is collected and big problems are resolved.

In our recent conversation with Jeanne Bliss, she described the purpose of CX as ‘to unite the disparate parts of an organization to see what the customer sees’. Does this ring true to you? Would you say CX should play a uniting role for businesses?

Far be it for me to disagree with the godmother of Customer Experience! Her “Chief Customer Officer 2.0” book is the best CX resource that exists today in my opinion.  Jeanne has also said that the Customer Experience leader is the “architect of customer-driven growth.” I believe this is a brilliant metaphor.

“The CX leader is often viewed as being the chief “fire-fighter” or a glorified project manager. This should not be. The CX Leader’s role is to unify the business around a holistic strategy for bettering the lives of customers and earning the right for the business to grow.”

We can create a strategy and guide people toward the vision, but no CX function can build this structure alone! People across the organization will have to stand behind the effort with real action. I’m a huge fan of taking your VoC priorities and having each department head own at least one CX goal and one EX (Employee Experience) goal that will directly correlate back to the CX strategy. It’s important to tap into the accountability engine that already exists in the organization because it will be very difficult to create one yourself!

As a Director of Customer Experience, what do you see as your primary responsibilities? What are the challenges you meet on a daily basis?

The role is balancing the strategic with the tactical. We must be planning a year plus in advance, but we cannot ignore the present. There are things happening to customers today which impact loyalty and require immediate attention, but we cannot lose sight of the big picture.

The biggest challenge is simply trying to do too much. Literally, everything impacts CX to some degree, and it’s extremely easy to become distracted. The best CX leaders are those that have the clarity of vision to focus on the very most important things and execute with diligence.

Thanks so much for talking to us Nate, one last one before we go – any trends or technology that is really exciting you from a CX or Retail perspective right now?

I’m thrilled at how technology is getting to the point where it can capture true customer perceptions. Surveys still have a place in Voice of Customer, but it’s a limited place.  Better things are coming, and I love it!  When CX pros are equipped with superior VoC data, we can be far more effective in our roles.


A huge thanks to Nate for the time, as promised, a picture of his epic title belt below!

For more in the series check out our previous posts:

Jeanne Bliss Part 2

Jeanne Bliss Part 1

Jeremy Watkin

Shep Hyken

Annette Franz

Nate CX Champ.jpeg

Meet the Team… Giorgia Amici

We’re delighted to kick off our new Meet the Team feature here on the TruRating blog, and what better way to start than with Front-end Lead Engineer extraordinaire (and all round lovely person to boot) Giorgia Amici.

Giorgia brings a little bit of Italian flair to our London HQ, and we were keen to learn a little more about how and why she got into doing what she does today…

Take it away Giorgia!

Hey Giorgia – could you tell us a little bit about what you do an what a typical day at TruRating look like for you?

Sure! I work with the Product and Data teams to make sure that the frontend team delivers on the overall TruRating product suite.  We meet at 10:30AM for our daily standup, where we update the team on what we did the day before and what we are planning on doing that day. After that, well we work!  I’ll start off by looking at the current list of features we’re delivering or perhaps will spend some time with the data team to discuss any upcoming initiatives.

What I like about being a frontend engineer is that you are always working alongside product, design and UX but also data and backend. This keeps things interesting and makes it fun!

Did you always know that working in technology was what you wanted to do? How did you decide to go into tech and product?

I’ve always been interested in maths and statistics. Then at Uni, I discovered programming and computer science and it just clicked – I knew straight away that this what I wanted to do!

What advice would you give to somebody considering a career in the tech industry? What do you wish you had known?

I advise you to get a mentor, whatever your gender. A mentor is someone that should inspire you in all different levels and provide you with training, tips, and support.

My mentor is Claire Davenport. She is the CEO of HelloFresh. She has always been such an inspirational woman: passionate, smart, driven and a natural leader. While I was still new in the industry I was taken under her wing and given my confidence thanks to Claire’s guidance.

By giving me independence and guiding me to find my own answers when I doubted myself, she helped me define what I wanted from the future of my career. Claire is a true inspiration, always investing time in people, even with a packed schedule. A mentor will never give you an answer to your questions, they will give you the tools and support so that you can find the answers yourself.

Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that’s the case?

There is definitely an imbalance in terms of numbers. The main reason is probably that historically computer science is not something girls were interested in. But now, with the ubiquity of companies like Facebook, Uber, Google, women do understand the importance of technology in everyday life and are more interested in being involved in it. Technology is such a broad sector that everyone can really find their own voice.

Is there one piece of advice you wish somebody gave you at the beginning of their career?

Never be afraid to say “I don’t know” – it’s the best way to start learning

Any reading or websites you would recommend to stay updated?

If you like frontend – I’d check out https://www.jstips.co/

Tell us a fun fact about you.

I broke the same leg twice, same spot, same way just 3 years apart… trust me I am a good skier!


ShopTalk 2019: 3 from the Floor

Since appearing on the scene in 2016, ShopTalk has fast grown to be a date of note on an already busy retail calendar.  Offering a fantastic variety of speakers covering the latest trends in retail and tech, it’s as good an excuse as we need to hop on a plane to Las Vegas for a few days!

Check out our Top 3 takeaways from the floor so far:

Finding the Fit Between Customer Experience + Data Strategy 

While CX continues to establish itself as the true North Star for retailers looking to understand their business through the eyes of its customers, a solid data strategy is the flip side of the modern retail puzzle.  While collecting the right data can prove challenging in itself, building the analytic and creative skills to translate that data into meaningful stories is just as important for modern retail.  Lilly Pulitzer’s Sarah Engle caught the ‘left brain/right brain’ scope of the challenge nicely, with her observation that ‘customer data is both an art and a science’, requiring both process and storytelling to be effective.

Change or Fail – Art Peck, GAP

Speaking to a packed room, Art Peck, President & CEO of Gap Inc offered a clear message to the retail industry when he described today’s stakes with brute simplicity: “Change or Fail”.  While just what ‘change’ means exactly continues to be a topic for hot debate, the idea of progress as a necessity is increasingly prevalent.  Across the floor, entrepreneur Anil Aggarwal could be found delivering a similarly tough-line statement, “Reinventing retail is not an option.  It’s an obligation“. A hush from the audience reinforced the notion that neither was talking lightly.


Do we really need to say it again? Physical Retail matters.  The old dichotomy of ‘online vs. offline’ is well past its sell-by date, but for those still looking for further proof, Macy’s keynote delivered.  Laura Heller shared the interesting nugget that when a Macy’s closes a store, online sales in the same market tended to decline.  While convenience is oft-said to be king, the tangible physicality of the in-store experience is key for building trust. Today’s smart retailers understand that channels operate as part of a single retail ecosystem.  Sing it with us, #StoresMatter.

CX Icon: Jeanne Bliss Pt 2.

Welcome back to part two of our conversation with the godmother of customer experience herself, Jeanne Bliss.

In a fascinating follow-up to part one, this week we discuss the impact of hiring on the customer experience, what it means to practice ‘fearless listening’ and dig deeper into the ultimate purpose of the Chief Customer Officer.

A huge thank you to Jeanne again for taking the time to speak to us, we thoroughly enjoyed it, over to you…

While there’s no ‘secret recipe’ to getting CX right, you’ve talked about how important hiring can be as a part of the process… could you elaborate on that for us? 

Let me give you a perfect retail example.  We’ve all been to stores that sell swimming suits. For a woman, this can be a horrible experience. It’s just not always a fun thing to do. As a business, you have to ask yourself: are you hiring people who have the empathy and skill to make a potentially awkward experience joyful? Do you have the right people onside and have you trained them to diagnose your customers’ needs with empathy?

For me, it all starts with deliberateness.  You need to ask yourself, what memory do I want people to walk out of my store with?  Do you want your customer to walk out feeling demoralized that the teenage sales assistant in the store can’t possibly understand what it means to be a 50-year-old woman buying a swimming suit? Or to come out thinking, “Wow they really took the time to listen”, or, “Well, I didn’t buy a suit today, but I’m going to go back because I know they can really help me with this and make me feel comfortable.”

Asking the customer how it’s going, always helps to point us in the right direction. But in order to start taking actions from that feedback, you need to have conversations with your customers, where you can see their faces.  Rather than just asking them about their experience, you need to ask about their lives.  Who are they? What are their goals?  What do they need?  What’s working and what’s not?  That will lead you to the truer picture of how to stand out, how to connect, and ultimately, how to be specific in the things that will set you apart.  I call this “fearless listening”.

We’ve got – and I’m grateful for this – way past focus groups where we put customers in a room, with company leaders behind a mirror watching.  What we’re doing now is closer to a form of anthropology, because we start with the customer, with their life and their goals.  Feedback points us in the right direction but we then need to consider:  what more do we need to know to start taking action?  Human context is key.

What would your advice be for a retailer looking to embed the ‘human context’ into their daily practices?

The fortunate thing for retail is that it is less complex than health care or buying an insurance policy, it is less complex than working with a financial advisor…

There are 3 key things that retailers need to get deliberate about:

  1. What is your purpose? Is it understood and known throughout the organization? Is management flexible enough to let employees own it and translate it? Does the organization provide people examples to follow?
  2. Do you really know your customers?  Have you dug in and done the hard work of talking to them in earnest, listening to them fearlessly and understanding their lives?
  3. What is the memory you want to imprint?  What are your marquee moments? Are you hiring the right people and behaving in the right way to make sure you hit those moments?

Retail doesn’t have the complexity of being a regulated industry, so the world is your oyster in terms of really crafting experience, but you have to have clarity and deliberation about what you’re trying to achieve.  People need to own that sense of purpose throughout the organization.  Shameless plug, but that’s what I was thinking about when I wrote my book, “Would You Do That To Your Mother?”  Are you crafting each part of your customer journey with that kind of ‘personal barometer’ in mind?

It’s interesting that you mention ownership here.  There’s a tendency for organizations to say that ‘everyone owns the customer experience’.  Does that seem like an oversimplification to you?

There are a couple of points I’d make here.  First, when it comes to customer experience, every organization needs to ‘build an engine’ to manage it.  By that I mean every company needs to have a very deliberate process for how they go about acquiring and processing customer information. To be able to organize customer information into clear storytelling, to be able to render a single version of the truth, to help leadership understand what’s working and what’s not.  That is the work of a Chief Customer Officer.  You need to build this engine so that as an organization, you’re not just constantly reacting all the time.

A lot of businesses struggle to do this. But get it right and it will cascade throughout your team so that delivering a ‘marquee moment’ is inherently a part of the job, wherever you happen to sit in the organization.  If we just say, ‘it’s everybody’s job to love the customer’, that can end up meaning everything and nothing at the same time.

Just another corporate mantra?

Well, that’s the second part of it.  We all like to say we love the customer, but perhaps we have policies in place that cause 10 customers a month to walk out of our stores unhappy.  As a front-line person, I can’t be happy doing something I know doesn’t make sense.  If we really love the customer, and you love me as an employee, and you want me to deliver value to the customer, then hire me because I’m smart and empathetic.  Trust me to make the right decisions for the customer and the business.

Policies are there to provide frameworks.  But we need to be secure in the knowledge that we’ve hired good people, who know how to engage a certain amount of flexibility when it’s warranted.

So are you saying that employees need to be even more empowered in terms of being creative when it comes to CX?

Customer Experience exists to reveal incongruencies and to unite leaders in enabling their people to make the right decisions. I have a podcast.  I call it the “Chief Customer Officer Human Duct Tape Show” for this reason.  Our work is to unite the disparate parts of the organization to see what the customer sees.  To shed light on the things we can’t see inside of our silo.  To understand what we’re putting our employees and our customers through, deliberate or not.

Thanks so much for talking Jeanne, it’s been fascinating – do you have a final message for our audience?

Recognize that our responsibility is to improve lives.  We’re all dealt life and we can choose to be givers or takers.  Bravery in business develops givers, whose behaviors earn prosperity – not only financial but in the human spirit.  Decide which one you want to be. Ultimately, it comes down to choosing whether you will or won’t grow.


Jeanne’s latest book Would You Do That To Your Mother? Is a fantastic introduction to her work.  For readers who would like a taster, you can download the first chapter here.

If you’d like to hear even more from Jeanne, the Customer Bliss website is a veritable treasure trove of fantastic information and insight.

For more in the CX Icon Series, you can check out our previous entries below:

Jeanne Bliss Part 1

Jeremy Watkin

Shep Hyken

Annette Franz