Embracing Customer Feedback to Enhance Employee Engagement

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2014 Customer Champion John Wompey, vice president of operations at Foot Locker, uses voice of the customer data to uncover truths that drive companywide innovation and employee success.
Customer Experience

Like the human body, careers that are in motion tend to stay in motion. For John Wompey, vice president of operations at Foot Locker, life in retail has been one continuous climb, as he started his journey at the part-time stockperson level and rose through the ranks, learning from customers along the way.

Throughout his career, Wompey has always sought to establish truth in order to drive understanding and empathy between customers and employees. "Being able to work in every position along the way in retail, you have the opportunity to be on the frontline of the truth," Wompey emphasizes. "The truth is where the experience meets the customer. I constantly have to remind myself to dial back to what matters most, the customer, and not only remember the experience I had, but to go directly to employees in those positions-to respect each position-and get their input because those on the frontlines are focused entirely on customer experience as it stands today."

Wompey spends most of his time working directly with associates at Foot Locker locations across the country, helping associates with everything from staffing and store layout, to employee training and product merchandising. Wompey specifically taps into the brand's comprehensive feedback program to establish what consumers seek at each point along the customer journey, thereby using this insight to guide decisions and training techniques.

Because his overarching strategy aims to make all customers feel valued, Wompey focuses his efforts upon listening to their comments directly and educating employees on how to do the same. By teaching associates how to decipher the underlying sentiment for each question or concern, Wompey empowers all Foot Locker employees to understand the 'what' and 'why' behind great customer experience. In one instance, when coaching a 23-year-old associate obsessed with basketball, Wompey asked the young man, "What if LeBron James came in here? How would you treat him?" With one simple question, Wompey managed to convey the precise level of attention and care he wanted from all associates, as these everyday interactions-these moments in time-generate sales today to create loyalty tomorrow.

To carry out such goals, Wompey's team implemented the Customer First initiative, which resides at the heart of Foot Locker's customer-centric culture. The program focuses upon customer journey mapping in an effort to help the company understand how customers experience the brand and how to design interactions around each point that cultivates closer customer relationships. This roadmap highlights touchpoints throughout the customer lifecycle that are critical to both relationship-building and sales. By using customer feedback to identify associate behaviors that could improve experience, Wompey and his team were then able to create coaching programs that educate employees about what's truly most important to the customer. Wompey notes that young associates respond well to quick bites or bursts with regard to training. Thus, these coaching exercises remain frequent and relevant, for this style allows learning to evolve alongside customer behavior and company understanding.

Often times, when conducting a training session, Wompey will respond to customer inquiries personally to teach employees how to handle such interactions and to ensure the voice of the customer remains prominent across the entire organization. Wompey will call the customer back, tell them he's training his managers, and ask if they're comfortable on speaker. In most cases, customers are surprised to hear from him directly and take advantage of the opportunity to help employees understand their questions and concerns. Wompey's willingness to "walk the walk" also offers associates firsthand understanding of how to put said principles into action.

Wompey truly demonstrates his passion for service by actively working to build customer loyalty, educate associates, and create an internal culture that empowers employees to become "customer champions" themselves. This dedication impacts employees personally and professionally, while also enabling an effective customer experience strategy that improves sales and satisfaction.

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EXPERT OPINION