Choosing a CXM Platform for a Retail Chain: 5 Things to Consider


According to Forrester "the key to successful retailing in 2018 is obsessing about customer experience". That is hardly a revelation, but within the same report they point out how a lack of interdepartmental cooperation and the failure to share customer data and insights across teams is hugely damaging to many retailers.  

Investing in a customer experience management (CXM) platform is key to addressing these challenges. A strong tool will empower everyone involved in CX to make decisions based on solid customer data. The right platform used the right way will not merely help you understand your customers better... it will help you drive customer advocacy and keep the customer's perspective to the fore throughout the organisation.

However, a good CXM platform in one sector may not be appropriate for another. One size does not fit all and multi-site brick-and-mortar businesses, as a category, have very specific needs. So when choosing a CXM platform for retail chains or similar multi-site businesses, which are characteristics that matter most?

1. Strong In-store Customer Engagement Tools

The best time to capture feedback from a customer is when they are still in your premises. There are many reasons for this, such as:

  • The majority of brick-and-mortar customer interactions do not present an opportunity to capture customer details like email addresses and phone numbers. In those cases, once the customer is gone they're gone, and you will be none the wiser whether they had a good or bad experience unless they post a negative rev.
  • Reaction times are hugely important to customers and a quickly resolved issue can actually increase loyalty (see point 5). Ideally, you should be aiming to wow customers by addressing the problem before they have left the building.
  • It is the most likely time a customer will give feedback and in particular, give positive feedback. Customers who are really annoyed are most likely to send you an email, tweet or post a review. Unfortunately, it is human nature to complain more than offer praise. If you want positive feedback (e.g. for benchmarking outlet performance), you need to ask for it and there is no better time than when someone is about to walk away from the till.  

The problem is, capturing in-store feedback is very challenging. So challenging in fact, that we dedicated a complete blog post to the main ways of capturing customer feedback in physical locations. Different engagement tools are better suited to certain situations than others, so analysing what will work best in your business and making sure that tool is provided by the platforms you're considering, is important. We are biased, but the survey engagement levels we have seen using messaging apps (primarily Facebook Messenger) have been up around the 20% mark in some brick-and-mortar businesses, so we would recommend trying that channel. 



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2. Store Benchmarking Reports 

A basic requirement of your CXM platform is that it should capture store-specific data. You need that data so you can monitor the consistency of CX across locations and avoid building a model in excel to identify strong or weak performers. This is a key differentiator from many of the CXM platforms used by web-based businesses or single point of contact companies that have little need for such features.

Not only you are interested in benchmarking CX performance, but you also want to be able to compare one area manager against another — so the reports should accommodate this as well. The availability of such features should be obvious from a quick review of the marketing material for the platform, but if they're not be sure to ask up front. 

3. Clear and Actionable Insights

The main benefits of investing in a CXM platform is that it will help you make more informed decisions, react to customer issues, and improve customer experience quicker. Every platform should be able to track NPS and CSAT scores across locations and over time. Quantitative feedback should not need much manipulation to facilitate store rankings etc. The challenge is linking qualitative feedback to the statistical data. For example, if a particular store has got a low NPS, can you easily isolate the customer comments that are linked to those scores and extract any common themes? This is where Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) come in. Once a business is of a meaningful size and is capturing feedback at volume, it will be almost impossible to make sense of qualitative data without the assistance of machine learning.

This is one area where it is extremely difficult to differentiate one platform from another without actually trying them or getting a reference from another business. Any platform claiming to have the perfect AI solution should be treated with suspicion. The perfect AI solution does not yet exist, but many platforms are doing a great job of extracting those insights. 

4. Different Reporting for Employees at Different Levels

In most retail chains, the chain of command will look something like this:

  • store staff
  • store managers
  • regional managers
  • heads of departments, like operations managers and CX managers
  • CEO
To get maximum benefit from your CX strategy, all of these individuals should have access to customer feedback and CX reports. That is the key to driving change. However, the level of data will vary depending on the staff members' level of responsibility. Your CXM platform should provide different levels of permissions so that the dataset they see when they log in is commensurate with their seniority.

For instance, a store manager will really only be concerned with the performance of her own store (and possibly how it compares to the group benchmark), while the Head of Operations will be more concerned about how regional managers are performing. Again, you don't want to have to export data and work these things out in an excel sheet.  

5. Closing the Feedback Loop Efficiently

A Harvard Business Review Study conducted in January 2018 found that responding to customer complaints in the airline industry resulted in customers being willing to pay $9 more when buying the next ticket from that airline. When the airline responded immediately, the customer was willing to pay $20 more next time.

Negative customer feedback is essentially a customer complaint and smart businesses treat it as such. The impact on loyalty and wallet share is likely to be just as powerful in retail as it is in the airline industry, so we recommend to our clients to respond to as much feedback as possible. An added bonus of responding quickly is that you can turn detractors into promoters before they tell an estimated 9-15 people about the negative experience they had. Instead, they will be telling people about the great customer service you provided once the problem was brought to your attention.

To respond quickly and efficiently, your CXM platform will need to have built-in customer communication and case management features. Ringing customers is not efficient and a badly timed phone call can potentially exacerbate a situation rather than improve it. Asynchronous channels like email and messaging work best, so that is what you should look for when researching CXM platforms. 


According to Walker, the leading customer experience consulting firm, CX will become the key brand differentiator by 2020 and using an appropriate CXM platform will greatly improve your chances of becoming a CX leader in your market. It is therefore very important to invest time evaluating which platform best meets your needs, budget and goals as a retailer. We hope these points help you make that decision, but it would be amazing to hear how you are approaching the CX challenge and if there are criteria you think are even more important. 



About the Author: Oisin Ryan
Oisin is the Founder and CEO of ServiceDock, which is a Customer Experience Management platform for Multi-Location Businesses

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