August 24, 2006, 12:00 AM

Customer feedback on Blimpie.com helps improve Blimpie’s stores

When customers submit feedback about a Blimpie’s store on Blimpie.com, loyalty program members get online visibility into the resolution status of their issue as it moves through Blimpie’s management, and store managers get insight into customer trends.

The web’s an easy way for customers to submit store feed feedback or complaints to multi-channel retailers – but what happens to submitted feedback as it’s received on the back end varies widely from retailer to retailer. While retailers attempt to address the issue with the individual customer, if the feedback received isn’t aggregated and centralized on the back end, the retailer’s lost an opportunity to spot trends, see areas in need of improvement, or identify ongoing problems with a particular store or region.

A hosted system from Customer Feedback Solutions Inc. solved that problem for sandwich shop chain Blimpie’s – while also serving as a customer e-mail acquisition tool that boosted online sign-ups for Blimpie’s loyalty program by 25% in the first six months of implementation. With more than 1,500 franchise locations nationwide, Blimpie’s had been using a web-based form on its site that allowed customers to submit feedback and or complaints. But unless the customer provided the information on store location, Blimpie’s didn`t know what location the customer`s feedback was about.

Furthermore, the web form simply dumped all submitted feedback into an e-mail which would then have to be manually routed to different people in the company for resolution, depending on the issue-a time-consuming and cumbersome process.

“Companies have been deploying independent software and services to manage different aspects of customer feedback," says Customer Feedback Solutions CEO Dustin Ruge, noting that customer feedback may come in through different areas of a web site, such as a contact-us page, a service or support page, or a customer e-mail. “The independent systems are running on independent databases, so they are siloed and limited in scope in terms of what they can do with all the customer feedback that comes in.”

Ruge says the company’s hosted system combines the most commonly used customer feedback capabilities online into a single system running off a single central database. The centralized system, branded to look to consumers like the retailer’s site, replaces whatever the retailer has in place for contact pages, support pages and web forms. “It aggregates all the communication that takes place between the company and the customer,” Ruge says.

On the Blimpie’s web site, the system also helps drive a customer loyalty program. Customers can submit a complaint or feedback without registering for the program-but those who do register for it get something besides coupons: visibility into a part of the system that allows them to track the status of their complaint as it moves through the company for resolution. According to Janet Rhodes, formerly manager of guest experience at Blimpie’s and now director of regional sales for Customer Feedback Solutions, more than 70% of the customers who went online to report an incident wound up signing up for the loyalty program.

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