Your restaurant may offer delicious food, your grocery store may provide plenty of affordable options, and your B2B company may always have hard-to-find goods ready for purchase. But no matter your industry, if your customer experience disappoints, your competition will swoop in and steal your customers away.
Globally, 96 percent of consumers say customer service is an important factor in their choice of brand loyalty. A customer’s choice to stay loyal — or not — can quickly spread to other would-be customers. After a poor customer service experience, four out of ten consumers will tell friends and family not to frequent that business.
How Can Your Business Know What Customers See?
It’s clear the customer experience is crucial. So how can you know how customers really experience your business?
- Online reviews
Reviews can provide great insight, and your business will certainly benefit if you pay attention to what reviewers are saying. But often, reviews don’t give enough specifics to help a company make changes.
A negative review may say “the service was slow,” but without more details, a business owner may not understand why it was slow. Was a staff member distracted? Was the store or call center swamped? Was a vital part of the process overlooked? Even if you reach out to the reviewer, they may not remember. And staff may not recall either, making the actual situation anyone’s guess.
- Customer surveys
Many companies ask customers to fill out surveys by prompting them to on a receipt. This practice, however, isn’t always successful. Yes, you may get some customers to fill out the survey, but statistics show this isn’t necessarily the most efficient practice if you aim to gauge what customers see.
According to Forbes, 66 percent of consumers prefer to give feedback by directly reaching out. Eighty percent said they’ve abandoned a survey halfway through, and more than half said they wouldn’t spend longer than three minutes filling out a survey. Today, only 2 percent of people fill out these surveys.
And while the Forbes article said insight gained via surveys can be valuable, receipt surveys are often poorly executed, meaning the resulting data can be low quality.
- Mystery shopping
Online reviews and customer surveys show your company only part of the picture. In contrast, mystery shoppers zoom out and give you a complete view of what your shoppers see.
They look (and sound) just like any other customer but come in with a checklist of what you want them to look for. They time how long it takes an associate to greet them, peer into bathrooms to ensure they’re clean, and act out problems to see how associates react.
Their shopping trip may take less than 15 minutes, but their experience can provide insight that will change your company’s approach to training and processes — and ultimately increase sales.
Is Mystery Shopping Relevant Today?
Absolutely! A case could even be made that excellent customer service is more important online and over the phone than in person, where it’s easier for a customer to read body language and feel more at ease.
Mystery shoppers shop in person and make calls, interact with live chats and observe the eCommerce experience. Their ability to provide companies insight into a customer’s experience across platforms remains valuable, especially in the digital age.
3 Ways Mystery Shoppers Can Help You Improve Customer Service
- They Identify What Business Owners Miss
As a business executive, you can’t be at your store 24/7 (especially if it’s a franchise), listen to every phone call or watch every online chat interaction. Mystery shoppers act as your eyes in all these situations and notice problems you may have never realized exist. They’ll measure your staff on product knowledge, ability and willingness to assist, and measure how they handle customer objections, issues or complaints. They’ll also observe the condition of your store.
Mystery shoppers, unlike regular customers, will objectively report what they see (both positive and negative), enabling you to make critical decisions. Fixing the bad and promoting the good will improve your customer experience — which could mean the difference between receiving a positive or negative review.
- They Provide Measurable Data
Your online reviews give insight into what customers think, especially when you receive multiple reviews that say the same thing. But, often, these reviews aren’t actionable and are ultimately anecdotal.
In contrast, mystery shoppers are equipped to ask specific questions that aim to provide your company with particular insight. Suppose you consistently have mystery shoppers return to your store to ask similar questions or look for the same things. In that case, you could gauge whether your customer experience is improving due to changes you’ve made, meaning less guesswork for your company and your staff. Data from your mystery shoppers will help your team have a clear idea of what you expect from them.
That data can also help you provide exactly what your customers want. You’ll be able to shift your focus from simply delivering a good or service to providing exactly what your customers need or expect. You’ll learn to do more of what’s working and train your staff accordingly, ultimately improving your customer experience.
- They Show You Your Competition — or How Retailers Sell Your Products
Mystery shoppers can do more than analyze your own company’s flaws and strengths. You can also hire mystery shoppers to check out the competition to see how you measure up — and how you can utilize what they’re doing well. Your manufacturing or consumer packaged goods company can similarly harness the power of mystery shopping to investigate retailers selling your products.
In the digital age, both of these practices are easier than ever before.
When a mystery shopper checks out your competition, they’ll look at their daily practices to find you a leading edge in your market. For a simple example, if your competitor’s staff always greets customers, and your mystery shopper indicates this creates a positive atmosphere, you could begin implementing this practice at your store. Mystery shopping is a particularly great way for companies new to an industry to peer into the day-to-day of significant players.
When a mystery shopper checks out the retailers selling your products, they’ll take notes on how much space your product takes up compared to competitors, purchase the product to check quality control, or purchase items online to see how the shipping and returning process goes.
Using mystery shopping to analyze how your product or service measures up against the competition, or how your product is being sold, will enable you to identify flaws in the customer experience. You can then take steps to improve it, which may bring in more customers, retain current ones and increase sales.
Does Your Company Need a Mystery Shopping Program?
Mystery shoppers provide insight that no other form of customer engagement can. When companies decide to work with a mystery shopping program, they open their eyes to an entirely new view of their business, staff and competition. Creating an action plan is undoubtedly worth the effort in the long run!
Shoppers’ View Will Help Your Company Satisfy Customers
For more than 25 years, Shoppers’ View has collaborated with businesses to define and achieve their best. We set the bar for quality, ethics and performance in everything we do. We strive for 100% accuracy in our services, and our top priority is giving your business a thorough, high-quality product.
If you’d like to learn how mystery shopping can improve your customers’ experience, reach out. Start your customer engagement plan with a free 1-on-1 consultation today!