I’ve always been relieved that critics don’t review retail shops. Imagine putting your life savings and entrepreneurial dreams into a restaurant, only to have someone tear it apart because one visit didn’t meet their expectations.   Well, it turns out that today customers do indeed write reviews of stores, online, using their own blogs or web sites such as Yelp.com. And sometimes the reviews are not 100% glowing.

 Although all but one of the comments about our store on Yelp.com were positive, the one that wasn’t really hurt.  Still, I like to think of criticism and complaints as an opportunity to do better.  If the customer who wrote on Yelp.com felt that he was slighted in our shop because he wasn’t dressed well, and didn’t look like our other customers, then we need to address that issue and try to do better.   “A happy customer tells a friend, an unhappy customer tells 10 friends.”  Except that now an unhappy customer can tell 10 friends, and hundreds of strangers!


It may seem odd to go out of your way to attract criticism, but we do need to periodically find out what areas of our store operation could be better.  After all, improving our customer service and merchandise assortment is key to increasing sales.  Customers appreciate being asked their opinion, and if they have something negative to say, you can only take action if you find out about it.  


Have you conducted a customer survey recently?  You can do one your store, asking a few targeted questions before the customer leaves.  Always make responding optional, and allow the response to be anonymous if you want honest feedback.  It’s a nice idea to provide a small thank you gift to those who choose to participate.  


A suggestion box is also a great way to get constant feedback, including requests for items you don’t carry.  You might want to include a space for optional contact information in case the customer would like a response.


It is inexpensive and relatively easy to do an online survey using surveymonkey.com or zoomerang.com.  This is a good use of the customer e-mail list that you are hopefully compiling to use for permission-based e-mails.


And here’s one last tip — if you’d like to find out whenever your store is mentioned in someone’s blog, or on a shopping web site, you can sign up for the beta Google program googlealerts.  It’s free, and although they don’t catch every new posting (it did take me to a neighbor’s blog thanking us for reuniting him with his lost dog, though), it will increase your chances of finding out what’s being said about your store out in the cyber world.  Hopefully it’s mostly good, but there is always room for improvement.


Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder