google.com, pub-6663105814926378, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 Warming to the Idea of Customer Feedback 4289

Warming to the Idea of Customer Feedback

Nothing makes a company work harder at communicating with its customers than the threat of losing market share. WinterSilks, Inc., a catalog business in Middleton, Wis., experienced the threat firsthand. The company sells products such as winter underwear, sleepwear, dresses, and bedding.



When the catalog business started heating up in the early 1990s, the company left behind its haphazard approach to gathering customer feedback and began tackling the task in earnest to keep up with competitors. Its first step was to hold focus groups. But, as John Reindl. vice president of operations, points out. each group offered the opinions of only 12 customers out of a customer base of more than 1 million. So, gradually WinterSilks came up with a variety of ways to capture the opinions of a greater number of customers. It added a comment section to each product-return form, trained each phone representative to make careful note of any customer complaints or compliments, and established a toll-free phone number for customers'comments. The company also began sending postcards on various topics m 250 customers each month. And an extensive four-page Survey is mailed semiannually to up to 1,000 customers.



Most important, says Reindl, are the ways the information is used to sharpen the company's competitive edge. The results of all these efforts are summarized monthly, and the issues of greatest concern to customers form a top-10 list. In response to customers' comments, the  company has added petite sizes, big and tall sizes, and children's clothing. Shipping charges were reduced on two types of products, gift-certificate handling was improved, and the design of gift brjBM was changed.

Comments have even led to changes in the catalogs product descriptions. As a result, says Keindl. the company has seen a steadv rise m the number of customers who make positive rather than negative remarks. "In terms of the payback, these efforts are very cheap," a Keindl. "To become more competitive, you simply have to do it."

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