Customer Intercept Interviews: How To Get The Right Information

As retailers, there’s a truth we’re all going to have to start recognizing: No one walks into a store without wanting to buy something. Will 100% of them buy from you? No.

The typical apparel retail store has a conversion rate of 18%. That means 100 people walk through the doors and 82 walk out without having made a purchase. Now, that’s not a terrible percentage when you consider the potential revenue it might generate across a hundred stores, but is there room to improve? Absolutely.

Just a small uptick in percentage can have a huge financial impact. An increase of just 5% – from 18% to 23% could result in $8,176,000 in sales per 100 stores. 5% = over $8 million dollars.

How do you accomplish this? By leveraging personalized preference data obtained directly from your shoppers through customer intercept interviews.

What are customer intercept interviews?

Among the tactics used by customer experience companies, customer intercept interviews are a fantastic hands-on way to better understand your customers.

Professional interviewers are stationed at key store entry/exit points and they intercept customers following their in-store experience based upon target demographics, whether or not they made a purchase, or any other specification that might be helpful for you to know. The interviews are brief and structured around questions meant to gather actionable data that can be translated immediately into an improved customer experience, increased revenue and brand loyalty.

Who should be interviewed?

Most retailers focus their data gathering on customers who’ve made a purchase. While surveys on the sales receipt, in the shopping bag or on your website and email follow ups are commonly recognized as effective tools, you’re missing out on the key segment that holds the answers to improving customer experience – customers who left empty-handed.

It can be a big “aha moment” when you realize that the best information can come from the people who aren’t buying. Understanding their perceptions of your stores and learning what they see, think and feel is just as valuable (if not more) as the insight from those who made a purchase. By interviewing shoppers who did not buy, you’ll have the edge you need to improve your stores, your customer satisfaction and your bottom line.

What should be asked during a customer intercept interview?

Knowing what people experience, think and perceive – particularly those who don’t buy – gives you a fresh perspective on the key drivers of an improved experience. Often the answers are simple and the improvements quick and easy. But if you’re not asking the right questions of the right shoppers, you’ll never gather the information you’re really looking for.

Questions will vary by many factors and a customer experience company will help tailor a program for you. However, the following are several topics you’ll likely want to cover:

  • Are your customers satisfied overall?
  • Are your customers able to find what they’re looking for?
  • What is the overall sentiment toward your brand?
  • How often do your customers visit your store? How often do they purchase?
  • How aware are your customers of in-store advertising and point-of-purchase displays?
  • How effective are advertisements and displays?
  • What are your customers’ motivations for buying from you?
  • If the customer did not buy today, why?
  • Do they shop from your e-comm platform?
  • Which of your competitors do they shop?

Are customer intercept interviews right for me?

Short answer – yes! Even small improvements can result in massive returns.

What if you learned, for example, that a large percentage of your customers in a certain region just weren’t finding what they were looking for? Perhaps you’re an apparel retailer and you overlooked the fact that your customers wanted a greater selection of seasonal sweaters in the Northeast and brighter colors in the Southwest.

Maybe you’re an electronics retailer who learns that your employees don’t have enough knowledge in various departments and without answers, your customers lose confidence and don’t buy.

Suppose you were to learn that customers’ “feelings” caused them to leave your stores. They might tell you the displays are too crowded or the stores weren’t clean enough. Maybe you’ll learn that customers couldn’t find a salesperson to answer their questions and they didn’t feel properly cared for. Maybe they just weren’t pleased with the selection.

Knowing the answers to these questions is the difference between an 18% conversion rate and a 23% conversion rate, which translates into more than $8 million in additional revenue. Don’t ever accept a low or even average conversion rate as business as usual. There’s always room to grow. Your customers came to buy something, so use customer intercept interviews to find out why they didn’t and adjust as necessary. The right answers from the right shoppers will increase your bottom line. You just have to ask the right questions.