(video) Excellent customer encounters are more important than sales campaigns
Text by Nils Vanebo
Hageland is a Norwegian, nationwide chain that comprises 103 garden centres which are all managed by their owners. The chain started using Maze a year ago – in order to gain an overview of and improve customer encounters in store.
– We recommend that all stores use Maze. Maze provides fact-based information about how the store is doing, says Hageland CEO Øyvind Krohn.
In the following blog post and video, Hageland Group CEO Oyvind Krohn, and store managers Martin Arvnes and Geir Mellingen, share their experiences with Maze.
The blog post covers:
- Why customer experience beats sales and campaigns
- The connection between acknowledgement and good leadership
- How using Maze creates value for each store
He says that the stores now get customer feedback that they would otherwise not have received. Krohn believes that the customer encounter is very important for sales. Satisfied customers keep coming back. More traffic means more money in the till.
– When the customer enters the store, it is our job that counts. The way we take care of the customer then and there determines whether the customer comes back. Increased customer satisfaction leads to increased loyalty. These customers can even help to recruit new customers, he says.
Customer experiences > sales campaigns
– With sales campaigns, you can buy traffic, already the next day. But our surveys show that 6 out of 10 choose Hageland because of excellent shopping experiences, and only 1 out of 10 cites sales campaigns as the most important reason, continues Krohn.
Maze helps Hageland understand the extent to which they have succeeded in communicating their knowledge to customers.
– Have we welcomed customers and helped them to choose the right product? Have we concluded the sale properly at the checkout? We get an answer as to whether the customer had a good experience and whether we helped the customer succeed, says Krohn.
It is about mindset and a continuous willingness to improve.
– There’s always something that can be improved. There are areas where we’re able to improve by a couple of percent, and Maze helps us identify where, says Krohn.
Some of Hageland’s garden centres have improved significantly after they focused on areas with potential for improvement. The chain’s ambassador grade is now around 90 and has been steadily increasing since Maze was introduced. After one year of use, the stores in the chain that use Maze most actively are the ones that have raised the score the most.
They are also seeing that engagement is greatest in stores where all store employees have the app. The garden centres typically compare themselves to stores of the same size in the same area. Hageland was excited about how they would score during peak season, when there are queues of customers and serving everyone is difficult.
– We learned that in those periods, too, we mainly received positive feedback, Krohn notes with satisfaction.
Kudos is good leadership
Maze has a Kudos feature.
– Seeing people and recognising their work is exercising good leadership. For example, highlighting a particularly positive comment. Underlining the fact that someone did an extra good job in front of the employee and the employee’s colleagues is positive. The Kudos feature is in itself an excellent management tool, says Øyvind Krohn.
But he emphasises that it is teamwork that ensures the customer an excellent customer experience:
– It’s the result of the efforts of multiple employees in various roles. Those who have built the store, those who have served the customer and those who work at the till. That is why it’s important to involve all employees.
Contacting the least satisfied
The customer’s motivation for giving negative feedback is usually to give the store the opportunity to improve.
– Addressing the least satisfied customers is valuable and useful. We have the opportunity to try to rectify the customer relationship, and those who are most committed do that, says Krohn. The store managers also save time, as all employees continuously receive feedback on customer experiences at all times.
Not doing so well without tools
The garden centre at Gjennestad in Vestfold is among the largest in the Hageland chain, with a wide range of plants, garden furniture and greenhouses. The centre has a total of 35 permanent employees as well as a significant number of extra help during peak seasons.
– Our ambition is to make the garden centre a destination for those who live in the area, says general manager Geir Mellingen.
He says that they actively use Maze and the customer club. February is low season, and the store is being remodelled for the busy spring season ahead. But recently as many as 400 participants came to a customer event about sowing and the properties of soil and fertiliser. Growing your own is a huge trend that was reinforced during the pandemic and forms part of the green transition. Hageland will use this to consolidate its relationship with customers. Several customer evenings are planned throughout the spring.
Going through the feedback
– We are a specialist store and offer customers advice. We possess the know-how and help our customers succeed, says Mellingen. He greatly appreciates the feedback that Maze provides:
– When we use the tool in a useful way, it creates value for us. Maze sends us reminders of what works and what doesn’t. We review the trends in Maze at our regular morning meetings. Most of the employees access their mobile phones daily to read the feedback.
I’m also on the app every day. I read the feedback and give my employees praise or offer suggestions, which is something they appreciate, says Mellingen.
– Something Maze has shown is that when the garden centre is busy and has many customers, the store still achieves a high score. But in the transition between seasons, when all store employees are focused on remodelling, our score drops. Awareness of this has increased after Maze was introduced last year.
Following up on dissatisfied customers
The garden centre in Gjennestad does not focus on budget in its communication with employees, but instead on serving and helping each customer.
– This ensures that results come by themselves, and Maze helps us with that, says Mellingen.
He admits that receiving negative feedback hurts a little. Mellingen has chosen to tone down the green and red faces and instead focus on what customers are communicating. To customers who have responded with a red face – and who have not indicated that they wish to remain anonymous – Mellingen sends a written response in which he apologises and provides a cautious explanation. This usually has a positive effect.
– Some then reply that they will, of course, be shopping with us in future. They only wanted to help the store improve.
The store previously used Mystery Shopper, which Mellingen says was seen as ‘a bit scary’ by the employees. Maze also provides continuous feedback.
Geir Mellingen recommends that all the garden centres in the chain use Maze.
– Some garden centres believe that they’ll manage fine without any tools, but I’m not sure that things will go so well.
“The feedback gives us something specific to work with”
Hageland Kolsås has nine permanent employees and about 20 extra helpers during peak seasons. The store is among the five largest in the chain.
– We believe that customers leave the garden centre satisfied. But getting specific feedback directly from customers is important, says managing director Martin Arvnes.
He has a long history at Hageland Kolsås, and eight years ago he became store manager.
– We’ve seen a positive effect, but we still have a long way to go, he acknowledges.
The store manager believes that written feedback from customers is the most valuable. Because it gives the stores something specific to discuss and work with.
– All permanent employees use the app. They monitor results and read the feedback, confirms Arvnes.
He believes that they learn most from the negative feedback. In the relatively rare cases where feedback is extremely negative, the customer is contacted.
Before Maze, they used Mystery Shopper, which provided the store with feedback at a more senior level.
– We felt that this approach cost more than the value it created for us, says Arvnes.