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Mystery Shopping Programs

Evaluating Contact Centers Over the Phone

Evaluating service is not always done in person. In some cases, such as contact centers, it can be done over the phone, without ever having to leave the house or office.

A few years ago, the CEO of an Australian telecom company made news because he had been calling his own company’s contact centers to find out whether they were providing the kind of customer service he expected — and had established policies to ensure.

As anyone might guess in a situation like this, what he found was not always positive. The results of his “research” were probably hard to hear at times, but the CEO’s experiences showed him the issues he needed to confront in order to make changes and ultimately help turn his business’ customer service around.

His evaluation efforts of the contact centers brought to light some crucial questions. For instance: Why do customer service problems crop up in the first place? Is it apathy on the part of contact center employees, or are they not being equipped with the tools they need to do their jobs properly? Is there an incentive structure set up to reward employees for doing well?

All business owners have a responsibility to ensure that their contact centers’ customer service policies are being implemented as effectively as possible, whether they are running a major corporation or a small business — or anywhere in between. There is a place for mystery shopping within every contact center’s customer service strategy.

When a business hires a market research and brand auditing company, the two organizations will work together to create a customized program that investigates all the elements important to the customer service success of the business’ contact center. The company should be able to tailor the plan to target specific problem areas or specific training issues a business client might need to focus on. Once the two organizations have agreed upon the list of criteria shoppers will look for, the mystery shopping company will select shoppers with appropriate expertise. Research staff will phone the contact centers, posing as actual customers, and track every detail of their experience.

Here are some things mystery shopping professionals might look for when they shop a contact center:

  • Friendliness and helpfulness of staff.
  • Amount of time spent on hold.
  • Quality of hold music.
  • Number of transfers.
  • Whether they have to explain their problem over and over when they are transferred.

Customers’ chief complaints with calling contact centers are fairly universal. Issues like long hold times, endless transfers, lines gone dead, overly scripted and unempowered employees, and more run rampant throughout contact center culture. Any business that thinks it is exempt should probably reconsider. One simple way to find out for sure whether these things are happening: hiring mystery shopping company to act as the company’s ears on the front lines.

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Mystery Shopping Programs

Evaluating Contact Centers Over the Phone

Evaluating an assisted living center can be a long, drawn-out experience, and can be fairly involved.

Still, it’s vitally important, since it’s already a legal requirement that all assisted living centers measure the satisfaction of their residents. A mystery campaign can help administrators identify problem areas before they ever become so big, they affect the residents’ satisfaction, resulting in lower performance on the state’s satisfaction surveys.

But not all shopping campaigns have to involve site visits. In fact, we don’t even recommend that that’s the first step you take. If anything, a mystery shopping campaign should include, or at least start with, a phone call. That’s because many assisted living center visits already start with a phone call, so why not make sure you’re presenting your best possible image at the earliest possible moment.

When you begin working with a company like MeasureCP, we put together a program just for you that examines the factors that are most important to your assisted living facility. We will work with you to create a mystery shopping program that looks for specific pain points within your organization.

Once you’ve agreed upon the list of criteria, we choose our roster of shoppers and start making phone calls to your assisted living centers, acting as potential customers. We’ll run through the series of questions that we have both agreed upon, and find out how your staff does during this initial contact. When we’re done, we’ll create a full report for you on our findings.

Here are some typical factors we look for during a call:

  • Staff members’ personalities and helpfulness.
  • Hold time.
  • Number of transfers.
  • Comprehensive nature of information given.

Be sure that you’re providing the best possible experience to your current and potential residents and their families by bringing mystery shoppers into the mix. Good customer service never gets old!

www.measurecp.com

Mystery Shopping Programs

Evaluating Contact Centers Over the Phone

 

Respondents often ask how they can better maximize their earnings. While it can take a variety of shops to reach your financial targets, it is important to know that Mystery Shopping Provider’s (MSP) entrust higher-value projects to those with a history of making accurate and high-quality submissions. Brands rely on very precise data to make business decisions, sometimes affecting multi-million dollar budgets, thus making it critical for assignments to be done correctly the first time.

Because many programs require you to follow certain criteria as directed by each client, here’s how you can understand all the steps necessary to achieve success.

How can improving quality lead to financial reward? MSPs typically make assignments available to those individuals with a strong record, based on their ability to accurately follow directions. Not only are quality and accuracy critical – timeliness is, too.

To help, we have collected four best practices designed to improve your skills!

 

1. Tools to Stay Organized

When accepting an assignment, check your calendar and be sure you are available to complete the assignment before or by the due date. Because assignments have deadlines, it is critical for you to finish on time; otherwise, clients lose valuable resources, leading to incomplete and unusable submissions.

Most smartphones today have a calendar feature with reminders and alarms. As soon as you accept the shop, add a reminder so you do not forget to complete it, especially when accepting an assignment in advance. Google offers a free calendar tool, making it easy to manage your tasks, especially if you are scheduling tasks for multiple MSPs.

 

2. Stay Objective, Don’t Let Things Become Personal

Shoppers are so passionate about their jobs that things can often become personal instead of objective. Scenarios and guidelines provide a framework to your interaction so that the client can focus on the data they are trying to measure. Objectivity and knowledge of the framework will keep your feedback accurate and be of more use to the client. This will help to capture the true essence of an interaction and make your feedback valuable.

 

3. Document All Steps Required

Most assignments have strict requirements such as keeping a receipt, recording any phone conversations, or visiting during a specified time. Be sure to keep all documentation required to prevent delays or incomplete submissions. Oftentimes, your payment is contingent upon submitting your records; delays can result when not submitting proper documentation.

In addition, be sure to keep backup copies and do not delete any files until you have been paid. This makes it easy to verify and reimburse you for any expenses correctly the first time! Cameras and cellphones make a great way to snap a record of the receipt and keep a digital copy.

 

4. Communication is Key, Especially When Issues Arise

Things do not always go as planned and sometimes issues come up. Whenever a problem arises, it is important to contact your scheduler as soon as possible. If a short timeframe is available to complete the shop and you are unable to complete the shop for any reason or need clarification, keep the communication lines open and call or email your contact to seek help.

Do not be afraid to raise your hand if you do not understand something or to let your MSP know you cannot complete things on time.

 

www.measurecp.com

Mystery Shopping Programs

Evaluating Contact Centers Over the Phone

Video mystery shopping is an invaluable training tool for your business. Are your employees acting as ambassadors of your brand? It’s one thing for an employee to give great service when they know management is watching, but what about when management isn’t there? Whether or not it’s a conscious decision, many employees simply act differently when they know they’re being critiqued. Video mystery shopping takes the concept of mystery shopping to the next level, and the findings from a video mystery shopping experience may just be valuable beyond measure for your business.Measure CP Logo Icon

Measure CP partners with you to find ways to increase your success. Here’s how we do it. First, Measure CP gains an understanding of the intricacies of your business by performing a thorough analysis of what you believe are your company’s main problems and opportunities. Next, we collaborate with you to find a customer experience management solution – such as video mystery shopping, brand audits, mobile feedback, or a combination – which measures and reports on how your processes and protocols are being followed, and where your areas for improvement are.

Our customer experience management solutions are effective because they mirror the actual shopping experience that a customer undergoes, so you can see exactly how your associates represent your brand. With video mystery shopping, Measure CP works with you to place high-quality hidden audio video equipment throughout your business location. We’ll record the visits of several mystery shoppers in diverse situations, then we’ll hand the footage over to you along with a thorough analysis of your company’s opportunities for improvement and areas of strength and weakness. We’ll help you interpret the findings of our video mystery shopping research, looking for patterns and opportunities for growth.

You’ll get a truly clear picture of how your company operates and presents itself to potential customers through our video mystery shopping program. You’ll see if your employees are representing your brand accurately, and we’ll help you find clear opportunities for improvement through close analysis of the video mystery shopping content. What can Measure CP’s video mystery shopping program do for your business? The possibilities are endless, so call us today and let’s start exploring the potential.

Mystery Shopping Programs

Evaluating Contact Centers Over the Phone

In today’s business climate, mystery shopping firms protect a company’s most important asset – the customer experience.

For B2C companies, there is nothing more critical to success than fulfilling the brand promise. Sadly, most companies invest more money and effort in their marketing plans and store fixtures than they do in the front-line staff who do more to fulfill that brand promise than anyone else in the organization.

Real-Life Training

Whether it is the food service industry or retail, most front-line employee training looks something like the following:

• Day 1: Employee fills out paperwork and meets the team. At larger companies, the employee may watch some training videos.

• Afterwards, the employee shadows co-workers (who have received the same caliber of training) and spends some time with shift supervisors and managers, learning the ins-and-outs of the tasks associated with the job, like working the cash register, how to serve customers, and so-on.

• As soon as possible, the new employee is pushed out on the selling floor, forced to sink or swim and develop habits that will get him or her through the day. If there are no disasters and the employee shows up for work on-time, the training is deemed a success.

• From this point on, the employee will train subsequent new employees and be evaluated on whether or not key metrics, like new credit accounts or menu up-sells, are being met.

Some companies do a better job at preparing employees for the sales floor, but not many. Companies like Wal-Mart, whose success is based on being the low-price leader, can get away with a “good enough” attitude towards customer experience – customers will excuse the experience if the price is low enough.

But companies like Apple depend on the quality of the customer experience, and would soon lose customers in droves if they stopped investing in it. Apple’s ability to create a nearly unbreakable relationship with the customer is the key to success.

There are very few Wal-Marts and Apples out there, which means most B2C companies fall somewhere in-between. The trouble starts when the in-between companies behave like Wal-Mart and ignore customer experience in favor of slick marketing or some other strength. Employees are “trained” as in the model described above.

Other companies talk like Apple, but lack the commitment to truly execute Apple’s cult-like business model.

Once the marketing budget is cut or the strength is neutralized, what happens? That is when the in-betweeners get customer experience management religion. They put together committees who quickly discover that they have a host of dissatisfied customers who have abandoned their brand due to neglect.

Effective Customer Experience Management

Mystery shopping firms are the best defense against corporate complacency when it comes to customer experience management. Rather than paying lip service to the customer only to focus on more credit account conversions, committing to a third party audit of the customer experience puts a company’s money where its mouth is.

Here are a few examples of why a mystery shopping provider is a better conduit for understanding and improving the customer experience:

• Mystery shopping evaluates the customer experience in a real-life setting: When a front-line employee is with a trainer, she is on her best behavior, doing her best to remember all the things that go into properly executing the tasks being evaluated.

Mystery shopping firms send shoppers into real-life situations, where products are bought and sold in real-time. It is only by doing this that a company can get a true gauge of what their customers go through.

The front-line employee, having no idea he is being evaluated, will do the things he or she does when no one is watching – whether good or bad.

• Mystery shopping provides a standardized measurement across a network of locations: Let’s face it, a store manager or district manager doesn’t want to be the bottom feeder in a chain store environment, and that desire to succeed can lead to loose standards when it comes to scoring locations on evaluations.

Mystery shopping firms eliminate any kind of bias in evaluating by a) not having an emotional stake in the scoring of locations; and b) by having a standardized instrument that is used across the entire network of locations. When these two factors are coupled, B2C companies are equipped with a powerful tool for taking a crystal clear snapshot of the customer experience. Thus equipped with a new vantage point from which to see their operation, companies can make critical adjustments in how their stores and people interact with the customer.

• Mystery shopping firms provide powerful reporting tools: When evaluations are completed in a willy-nilly fashion across a network of locations, the results cannot be compared side by side. There is no integrity in the data.

Mystery shopping firms are uniquely suited for providing a suite of reporting tools that give B2C companies a 3-Dimensional view of their operation. Because the mystery shopping provider is using a standardized instrument with no emotional stake in outcomes, the data can be trusted and analyzed in the following types of reports:

o Rank by location by overall score

o Rank by location on a question-by-question basis

o Rank by employee

o Trending over time

o Recommended follow-up training

o Hierarchichal reporting that is designed for the C-Suite down to the store level

Mystery shopping firms work with clients to design reports that are the best fit for the B2C company’s goals.

In addition to traditional mystery shopping methods, where mystery shoppers visit the location, observe, then complete the survey offsite, a growing number of mystery shopping firms use hidden video technology to capture the most objective view possible of the customer experience, with high quality sound and imagery.

In a highly competitive world where almost all B2C companies sit somewhere between Wal-Mart and Apple, keeping a vigilant watch over the customer experience is the best way to grow and protect market share.

Mystery Shopping Programs

Evaluating Contact Centers Over the Phone

Market research comes in many shapes and sizes. For example, imagine a scenario where you are the number nine player in your vertical, and you have just been charged with getting your B2C company into the top three. Where would you begin?

For many, this process would begin with a call to Measure CP, where the top eight companies would be identified, a shopping program would be implemented, and data would be collected that would help identify opportunities to exploit.

Here are three ways Measure CP helps B2C companies with market research:

1. Benchmarking

Black frame Wayfarer sunglasses on a white notebook and clipboard. We often associates clipboards with market research.In the scenario outlined above, you could have the eight companies ahead of you, as well as your own company, shopped. The survey would cover the critical success factors for a positive customer experience in your vertical. Reporting will give you the opportunity to examine each shop and stack rank them by question and by total score.

Once the data is collected, you can slice it and dice it, looking for patterns that tell a compelling opportunity story for your organization.

Look at the companies in the top three positions in your vertical. Where do they score high? Are there weaknesses that can be exploited? If the numbers don’t give a clear-cut indication, perhaps a video shop will paint that picture. If the number one player in your vertical has a reputation for excellent customer service, a video shop will capture that experience so you can deconstruct it, looking for opportunities to compete.

2. Process Mapping

If your vertical has a complex selling structure, knowing how the competition sells essentially the same product can tell you much about your opportunities for gaining market share.

As with the benchmarking example, video shops are a great way to discover the “secret sauce” of your competition’s success, so consider using video for those top three positions while conducting market research. This will allow you to see what they are doing better than the rest.

By having mystery shoppers report back on the process used to sell them on a product, you can chart each process and find the patterns that are the key performance indicators for success in your vertical.

3. Pricing

In a commoditized selling environment, it is not enough to know what the competition is charging. Good market research lets you know what is included in the price, as well as how that pricing model is communicated.

Is the competition winning extra revenue through clever upsell strategies? Are there warranties or other value-adds that separate the competition from the rest of the field? By sending mystery shoppers into your competitors’ locations, you can see for yourself how they are structuring their deals – especially on a market-by-market basis.

Advantages of Mystery Shopping for Market Research

Using a mystery shopping provider like Measure CP to perform market research offers the following advantages:

  • Speedy: Measure CP has hundreds of thousands of mystery shoppers located throughout North America and all over the world, which means we can deploy a campaign quickly and give you more time to crunch numbers and develop a killer strategy.
  • Cost-effective: Because Measure CP has an extensive network of shoppers local to just about any market, we can provide services at a better cost than if you tried to create a campaign from scratch on your own.
  • Standardized: First, Measure CP’s team of experts will help you develop a standardized survey instrument that captures all of the data you will need to collect. From there, our expert shoppers will perform the shops in such a way that they will not be distinguishable from actual shoppers. This will give you purity in the data that is collected, as the associates audited will have no idea they are being evaluated.
  • State-of-the-art: If your data collection involves using audio or video, you can rest assured knowing the quality will be crystal clear. Measure CP’s equipment is defense-grade, meaning it’s the best on the market. You will have an objective sample of the customer experience that will give you the best possible picture of how you or the competition treat customers.

If you are looking to improve your market share and aren’t exactly sure where the opportunities are, why not contact Measure CP for a consultation? Moving up even one position in your vertical would likely cover the investment of the initial market research in terms of increased sales and market share.

Photo credit: Caio (Pexels, Creative Commons 0)

Mystery Shopping Programs

Evaluating Contact Centers Over the Phone

Mystery shopping has a variety of purposes outside of traditional retail shops.  Automotive after sales mystery shops offer a valuable look “under the hood” of a company’s service operation…but only if the right partner is providing the mystery shopping service.  Just as there are all kinds of car salesmen, there are many kinds of mystery shopping providers out there, making a variety of claims about how they can help you improve the customer experience.

mystery shopping

At Measure CP, we’ve done enough automotive after sales mystery shops to know what to look for in a prospective vendor.  Here are five questions to ask before you let any mystery shopping company on your lot:

#1: Can you match my demographics? Shopper pools for nearly every mystery shopping provider skew heavily towards females.  If you are looking for a predominantly male shopper pool for your after sales mystery shopping program, dig in on this question. If a mystery shopping provider is unable deliver on your demographic, then move on to the next candidate.

Also, when exploring the question of demographics, find out how the prospective mystery shopping provider handles alternates.  Do they have a deep bench of qualified shoppers to take the place of anyone who may quit (quitters are called flakes in the business) in the middle of the program?  Because we are dealing with people, flakes happen, and the best mystery shopping providers plan for them.

#2: Do you handle everything in-house?  Does the prospective mystery shopping provider handle scheduling, editing, and video in-house, or are they at the mercy of a third-party vendor?  This question is vital because with every step that is covered by a vendor, your prospective partner has that much less control over the operation, which can cause crippling delays when the inevitable glitch occurs.

Have the prospect walk you through each step of the operation.  How does project management work?  How does scheduling work?  How do shoppers report their results?  How does editing/QC work?  What is at stake here is the overall quality of the solution.  Each vendor means another communication handoff, which jeopardizes the ability of a mystery shopping provider to respond quickly to problems.  At Measure CP, we do everything in-house, maintaining control over every facet of the program.

#3: Do you have automotive experience?  Automotive after sales mystery shopping programs are very complex operations that can literally span the continent.  Having an untested partner at the controls is a risky proposition.

Have a prospective mystery shopping provider walk you through their automotive experience, and look specifically at how they certify shoppers and onboard vehicles.  If they have never performed automotive after sales shops, see if they have done ANY after sales shopping programs.  Measure CP has developed a detailed checklist for clients that helps anticipate bureaucratic red tape that can bring a program to a stand still.

#4: Are you a national or regional operation?  If your program will include an audit of dealerships spanning the entire country (not to mention international locations), you want to make sure your prospective partner is skilled at dealing with a program of this scale.

A regional mystery shopping provider may be just fine for handling a particular portion of the country, but if they are not well versed in something as basic as video recoding laws, for example, it could end up costing you a lot of money in fines and lawsuits.  Smaller mystery shopping providers tend to rely on third party vendors for overflow work, which could also affect the quality of their solution for you.  Measure CP’s experts know the automotive industry, and will help you avoid costly pitfalls.

#5: How do you communicate?  Communication is perhaps the most vital critical success factor in an automotive after sales mystery shopping program.

Because these programs are so complex, things never go exactly as planned.  This is where effective communication is key.  Is the prospective mystery shopping provider pro-active?  Do they hold onto information too long?  Do they shoot from the hip and do things on their own without consulting you?  These are only a few questions to ask, and they provide a perfect platform to setting expectations at the outset of the program, rather than having to learn the hard way.

For the utmost confidence, choose a mystery shopping provider that can confidently answer all of the questions outlined above.  It is imperative that you have experience on your side and get the detailed checklist of critical success factors needed to allow you to provide your customers with the best service.  Contact Measure CP today and speak to one of our automotive specialists about your next after sales mystery shopping program.

Mystery Shopping Programs

Evaluating Contact Centers Over the Phone

Mystery shopping is essentially a mirror which reflects the reality of front-line customer interaction and how the company brand is interpreted by the customer. For small to medium-sized businesses especially, building a brand can be difficult and takes a lot of time. There are many things that play into building a brand – everything from your logo to your signage to your employees’ uniforms. There’s even more to consider when you think about how your brand image is created and interpreted in the minds of your customers. A mystery shopping program can help you determine if your brand is being projected correctly.

Mystery shopping programs can help you discover a variety of things that would be incredibly difficult to find out on your own. For example, let’s say that your business has multiple. Building a strong brand image requires there to be consistency between all your locations in the appearance of your stores and in the attitudes of your staff. It may be difficult for you to determine if this is the case if you are working on your own. Deploying a mystery shopping program can provide the unbiased experts you need to ensure your high standards are being met company-wide.

For example, a mystery shopping program can examine questions such as: Do the locations of your business look consistent from store to store? When a customer walks into one location then visits another at a later date, are they greeted with a welcoming, professional attitude each time? Do your employees across all locations dress in the appropriate uniforms and attire, and do they follow the same rules of decorum expected of all staff? A mystery shopping program can identify the answers to all of these questions, and more. And perhaps more importantly, a mystery shopping program will use questions like these, and a plethora of other questions, to determine if your brand standards are being met aesthetically in your stores as well as in the attitude of your staff.

Mystery shopping can help reinforce a company's brand image.If you are interested in measuring your brand image over time, consider employing a mystery shopping program on a yearly basis. The first step in this process would be to work with your mystery shopping program to identify what is successful about your business and what areas need work in order to increase sales. Then, on a yearly basis moving forward, the same things would be analyzed in order to measure improvement. As your mystery shopping program helps you build your brand, your sales will build as well.

A primary benefit of working with a mystery shopping program is that mystery shoppers see what you are not able to, and experience your company from the customer perspective. In order to build and protect your brand image, it is important to communicate with customers in the ways that work best for them. Mystery shopping can help you find ways to engage your target audience so that you can keep existing customers and find new audiences too.

Mystery Shopping Programs

Evaluating Contact Centers Over the Phone

A brand audit can help companies of all types and sizes better communicate with their customers. Especially when a company experiences rapid growth, “good enough” takes the place of “perfect” in terms of getting something out the door. If this is the case for your company, perhaps it is time for a brand audit.

A brand audit looks at your company’s outgoing communications, with a critical eye to detail. Whether you realize it or not, the communication going out to the public or to vendors cover a huge range, and absolutely every piece plays a role in communicating your brand. A brand audit examines everything your company creates: proposals, press releases, the company website, sales flyers, and more. The brand audit then finds answers to questions such as: Are all outgoing communications effectively communicating the company’s brand image? Is the logo modern, and does your company tagline communicate the organization’s value proposition? A brand audit can help you answer all these questions.

The purpose of a brand audit is to determine if the message your company is sending to employees, vendors, and customers is the right message, and if it is being communicated effectively. Brand audits also take a look at compliance issues within your particular industry, ensuring that your company is meeting standard benchmarks and following industry guidelines where appropriate. The primary goal of a brand audit is to help your organization communicate with customers consistently and effectively – which in turn will help your company create scalable growth.

Brand AuditThat is why performing a brand audit is not just for big companies. Small to medium sized businesses have the most to gain from performing a brand audit. If your organization is experiencing rapid growth, and if you hope to keep growing at the same or even a faster rate, a brand audit may be a crucial aspect of your marketing plan. In order to ensure your organization is getting the best return on investment possible from your marketing and communications efforts, it is of utmost importance that all aspects of the brand are in alignment. If your brochures, advertisements, and website fail to give customers the same impression, this can truly impede opportunities for growth and brand recognition. Performing a brand audit ensures that your organization can move forward with a consistent, modern approach that increases customer loyalty and expands awareness of your brand.

Large companies may perform brand audits from time to time to ensure that globally, there is consistency in how the brand is communicated. Language translations, advertising standards worldwide, and trends that change from country to country can all impact a brand’s consistency and effectiveness. Brand audits ensure that large-scale marketing problems are kept under control. Small to medium sized companies face similar issues to a large organization, but on a different scale. Perhaps dealing with global trends in advertising isn’t an issue yet for your organization – but as your organization grows, issues like this may not be far off. Performing a brand audit in the early stages of your company’s growth ensures that your company reaches customers as effectively as possible as you expand your brand.

Mystery Shopping Programs

Evaluating Contact Centers Over the Phone

Mystery shops can help a business better understand and develop their brand image consistency, customer perspective, employee effectiveness, and so much more. Does your business have multiple locations, or franchises? One challenge that multiple-location businesses have is maintaining quality and brand standards at a precise level.

Employing a mystery shopping program gives business owners and operators an unbiased perspective on their business regarding brand consistency, quality control and the level of workplace professionalism.

Mystery shops inspect what your business is doing and how it is operating for customers. What do you need to be aware of as a business owner or operator? If your business has multiple locations or franchise opportunities, mystery shops should be an integral part of your quality control program.

There’s no way for a business owner or operator to be at every location at once, especially if the locations of your business are in different cities or states. Mystery shops audit the quality and consistency of each of your business locations, providing clear insight into how your brand is being presented to customers by your employees, signage, website, and more.

Mystery Shops help businesses develop brand consistencyMystery shops can confirm whether the dollars your business is spending in advertising, sales, and operations are transferring to a measurable return on investment.

Mystery shops can either be done openly or covertly, and provide a clear picture of how your business is being presented in each of your locations, as well as online and over the phone. Brand consistency is crucial to the customer perspective of your business, and a positive customer perspective is crucial to long term success.

Secret shops can find any inconsistencies that may exist between store locations, and as a part of working with MeasureCP, you will receive detailed recommendations on how to make those inconsistencies disappear for good. Don’t spend your valuable time waiting – contact MeasureCP today and find out what our mystery shoppers can tell you about the consistency and quality of your brand.

Mystery Shopping Programs

Evaluating Contact Centers Over the Phone

A mystery shopper can provide crucial pieces of information and insight that you may not be able to obtain any other way, especially in the retail or service industry. If you are not familiar with mystery shopping, the basic premise is that a mystery shopper would use your company’s services just like any other customer – that goes for in-store shopping, website browsing, or even shopping over the phone – and the mystery shopper would then provide feedback on their shopping experience.

MeasureCP’s mystery shoppers help businesses understand what is happening inside the walls of their own company. Mystery shoppers do what you as a manager cannot do – they “inspect what you expect” and report back on their findings, providing you with unbiased feedback that you may not be able to obtain on your own.

When management surveys employee behavior, they often get a biased view on customer/employee interactions. That is because employees are always on their best behavior around managers, so it is impossible to see what is happening when management is not close by. Additionally, some customers may be dissatisfied with an aspect of your business or their shopping experience, but speaking with management is not necessarily a comfortable experience for many customers.

Want to know what your store looks like through your customers' eyes? Hire some mystery shoppers.

Want to know what your store looks like through your customers’ eyes? Hire a mystery shopper.

A mystery shopper can solve problems like these by providing a subtle, unbiased perspective of the customer experience provided by your business.

A mystery shopper plays a crucial role in evaluating your company’s customer service, brand experience, and the overall consumer experience the customers in your business receive. If you find yourself wondering questions such as: Is our staff properly trained to interact professionally with customers? Are our employees acting as our brand ambassadors? – then MeasureCP’s mystery shopper program could be the right solution for your business.

Measure CP’s  mystery shoppers include traditional in-person mystery shoppers, telephone mystery shoppers, and even website mystery shoppers. The results from our mystery shoppers’ experiences are logged into your client portal, and you can access easy reporting tools that will help you clean up and interpret the data. Plus, MeasureCP’s team of customer service specialists will help you determine next steps, so your data becomes actionable and helps your company hone your customer service skills.

You may think you understand your customers’ perspectives, but hiring a mystery shopper to gain a deeper understanding of the customer experience at your business may reveal new and useful information. If you need to know what your customers are thinking, a mystery shopper may be the perfect solution for your business.

Photo credit: Konglimahs (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)

Mystery Shopping Programs

Evaluating Contact Centers Over the Phone

While both brand audits and mystery shops help a company or corporation expose its weaknesses and strengths, the holes in its operations and the areas that need improvement, a brand audit asks a shopper to go deeper.

As a brand auditor, you will be asked to delve into more than just the setting, cleanliness and customer-employee interaction; you will be given a checklist, which will prompt you to evaluate and analyze everything from the appearance of the logo and marketing collateral within the store to the positioning, perception and reputation of the brand out in the field to the employee interactions and knowledge to the basics of compliance rules and more.  Now, that does not mean you are under qualified or that it will be too difficult for you. It simply means you will be asked to go above and beyond a typical mystery shop, while performing a brand audit.

Brand audits versus mystery shopsBrand audits look further into the marketing elements, brand structure and differentiators, the brand’s personality, and position inside and outside the storefront.  On the other hand, a mystery shopper is asked to look more at the topical, physical aspects. Some examples are customer service, overall environment, tidiness and sanitation of the store, and clients’ responses to their experience in general.

The following are some of the basic differences between brand audits and mystery shops:

Overt or Covert

Unlike mystery shops, brand audits can be either overt or covert.  Brand auditors will usually go into the store, office, hotel, gym or restaurant and make themselves known to the employees and managers before they continue on with their audit.  There is a possibility that the auditor will be undercover and equipped with microphones and video cameras just as a mystery shopper is during his or her shop.

The Checklist

Brand audits require auditors to look at a whole array of specific items; on the other hand, mystery shoppers are asked to evaluate their experience across the board with the employees, services, and atmosphere. The checklist will guide the auditor through the process, so nothing is left untouched.

Dive In Deeper

Mystery shoppers typically report on their experience, while brand auditors look at marketing strategy and budgeting, brand positioning in and out of store, the personality of the brand, what makes this brand unique and different, how the logo looks, and the particular qualities of the brand.  All of these components are listed in the checklist, so auditors have no need to worry about missing some aspect of their brand audits.  In addition to the marketing and positioning of the brand, brand auditors may be asked to perform compliance audits, which include age compliance in relation to the selling of tobacco and alcohol, marketing messaging compliance and fair housing compliance.

Despite the differences and the deeper level of analysis required by brand audits, together mystery shops and brand audits can help a company make necessary changes and build its strengths.

 

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If anyone needs a brand audit, it is the hospitality industry. For large, upscale hotel chains, there are so many places where the hotel’s brand is visible, it is difficult for the marketing department and hotel staff to keep track of it all.

For example, a downtown hotel near a city’s shopping district or convention center is sure to draw a lot of traffic, especially at peak times. But what are visitors to the hotel seeing when they enter the building? What about in the rooms?

Inside the building is usually not an issue: hotels are very good about making sure everything is properly labeled and branded throughout the building. If there is one thing hotels know, it is how to brand themselves inside.

Galt House in Louisville, KY

Galt House in Louisville, KY

But what about throughout the city? There are posters and flyers, ads in local magazines, logos on menus of nearby restaurants, coupons, and more online marketing collateral than most people are aware of. They need to know where their brand is being used, possibly without permission. This is where a brand audit can help.

Hotels can work with a mystery shopping agency that provides brand audit services as a way to monitor all the places where their brand is being used or misused. A mystery shopper can attend a conference, visit different restaurants, and even monitor online mentions on behalf of the central office. Rather than having an already-overworked marketing staff try to do their own brand audit, which needs to be an ongoing venture, they can work with the mystery shopping agency to do regular checks on their behalf.

What about in smaller cities, where the hotels are often independently-owned franchises? This is a little more difficult, since many larger chains have hundreds, if not thousands, of franchisees in the world. A brand audit would be next to impossible for the staff to perform.

Again, this is where the mystery shopping agency can help. They have shoppers throughout the world who can perform a brand audit on all the properties, ensuring all the branding is being used properly.

A brand audit is usually done publicly, unlike regular mystery shopping, which is a secret. The shopper is anonymous, and does not make himself or herself known to the staff. But in a brand audit, the shopper can show up, checklist in hand, and check off the different categories to make sure the franchisee is following all the requirements and using the marketing collateral properly. A brand audit can also cover the different in-town and online properties in the surrounding area, and can often be done as part of the same package.

Hotels need to protect their own brand image, to make sure that their franchisees are displaying the proper information, and that the company name and logo are being used properly outside of the hotel. A brand audit can help the marketing department ensure everything is in order.

Photo credit: CC Chapman (Flickr, Creative Commons)

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Corporations should make brand protection an integral part of their sports sponsorship packages, not only as a way to make sure their brand integrity is maintained, but to ensure the teams and events being sponsored are meeting their obligations of the sponsorship contract.

Large corporations will often be involved in several sports sponsorships, as well as many high dollar sponsorship packages. Consider what goes into sponsoring an NFL team, a motor sports team, or even an entire sporting event. Often hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent per year on a single team or event.

A London Underground train decorated to promot...

A London Underground train decorated to promote London’s Olympic bid. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For example, anyone who watches the Indianapolis 500 this weekend will notice several things related to sponsorships:

  • Everything has a name — the Izod IndyCar series, for example.
  • There are sponsor names on a driver’s car and his or her firesuit. Some spots on the car and suit have more value than others — side pods on the car, and larger sponsor patches up near the driver’s face, as well as the driver’s hat.
  • The drivers will use the name of the sponsors and their cars, like James Hinchcliffe referring to “the number 27 GoDaddy car” in interviews.

While teams will do everything they can to honor their sponsorship agreement, the companies still need brand protection to make sure that the agreement is followed exactly. An agency that specializes in brand protection can monitor whether a team has placed their logos in the correct places, is using them properly, and not overusing them or misusing them.

A brand protection agency can also police a sporting event to make sure that sponsor messages aren’t being overused or misused. In fact, the 2012 London Olympics actually hand “brand police” provide sponsor and brand protection, by making sure someone wasn’t misusing the Olympics name, or sneaking in sponsorship messages when they weren’t allowed.

The brand protection agency can even provide auditing documents when the event is over, or on regular intervals of the contract, to help ensure all aspects of the contract are being properly followed.

Corporate sports sponsorship is an important marketing investment. To be sure companies are getting their return on investment, they need to work with an agency to make sure everything is being done properly. A brand protection agency can provide the necessary documentation and support to help corporations know their obligations are being met.

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English: Samsung S5600 mobile phone.

English: Samsung S5600 mobile phone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Using mobile feedback as a marketing and customer experience management tool gives business owners an edge on those owners that are still relying on satisfaction cards handed out at the end of a meal or visit to a store, or worse, not measuring customer satisfaction at all.

Mobile feedback gives business owners immediate feedback, because customers receive surveys on their mobile phones as soon as they request them (they can be requested by texting a short code to a specific number). These surveys are typically four questions long, and recipients usually answer them as soon as they receive them.

This does three things for the business owner: First, it gives them immediate feedback on each question — no waiting for survey cards to be dropped off. Second, the results are instantly tabulated. Since each survey is calculated by computer, trends can be spotted before they become a serious problem. Third, mobile feedback surveys have a higher response rate than survey cards, because people are continually using their phones, so they will think nothing of answering a short survey.

So what can businesses do with this mobile feedback?

For one thing, they can identify problem areas. For example, a restaurant’s mobile feedback survey can include data about their server. The manager notices that one server continues to get very high marks, so she puts her on the busiest shifts, knowing she will provide better satisfaction. Meanwhile, she also notices that a veteran server continues to get lower marks, which lowers the customer’s overall satisfaction. She can move him to a less busy shift, provide additional training, or just let him go, since his poor attitude could be a liability to the restaurant.

Businesses can also focus on a specific area for a short amount of time. A gas station is running a seasonal special, such as a 30% discount on a car wash for every fill-up. A mobile feedback survey can let the gas station manager know about the quality of the car wash, how well received the offer was, and whether people will continue to come back to the gas station as a result.

Mobile feedback surveys can even help businesses promote themselves. A common question on most mobile feedback surveys is to ask whether a customer would recommend the business to friends, but most businesses fail to take the next step.

So why not include a question asking them to do that, with a place to give their friend’s mobile number? Text a quick mobile coupon to the friend and a message saying they have been invited by the customer to visit. Businesses can increase their traffic without any additional costs, with the help of their customers.

Mobile feedback is more than just a customer satisfaction tool. They are used for specific problem areas, like staff friendliness and quality of special offers, as well as additional marketing at a lower cost and better response rate than card surveys.

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Understanding customer perspective can be the make-it-or-break-it factor in your customer experience management plan. But only if you have the most accurate, truest understanding of the real customer perspective.

Focus groups are not able to completely provide that perspective. While focus groups are effective, and can give market researchers an insight into their customer mindset, they do not always provide the most complete picture.

It has been our experience that there are panelists — professional focus group members, really — who get rewarded, incented, or paid to be a part of a focus group and professional survey taker for large market research companies.

Broadwater Focus Group

This isn’t actually the kind of focus group we’re referring to. We’re sure they’re nice people. Broadwater Focus Group (Photo credit: Nebraska Library Commission)

While focus groups can work, because you can do some demographic slicing and dicing to get people who meet certain profiles, these people are on a panel for a single reason: to get paid.

They get paid for a few hours of their time to sit in a room with other people, and discuss and debate every subtle nuance of a company’s marketing campaign, product offering, or service enhancements, sometimes getting into details that regular customers will never see or consider. This is a skewed version of the customer perspective.

We’re not saying focus groups are bad, but they shouldn’t be the only thing in a market researcher’s arsenal. There’s also social media (you can measure sentiment analysis with social media monitoring tools), mobile feedback and text surveys (hear from the greatest number of actual customers to get the most statistically-accurate customer perspective), and even mystery shopping (get unbiased feedback from people who live the customer perspective, and know what to look for).

If you want to get a clear picture of your customer perspective, focus groups are fine to use, but should not be the only tool in the toolbox There are at least three other viable forms of customer market research that can also give you a glimpse into the minds of your customers. Take full advantage of all of them.

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Mystery Shopping Programs

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Mystery shoppers work for a great many service industries and fields. One area where mystery shoppers can provide valuable feedback and information is the airline industry. Airlines are often in need of more feedback beyond regular customer complaints and measuring take off and landing times. Here are a few reasons why airlines should consider working with mystery shoppers on a more regular basis.

1. Mystery Shoppers Can Provide Unbiased Feedback About Staff Performance

Too often, the only time airlines hear from customers is when the customers have a complaint. So the airlines know all too well when people are not happy. But those complaints are not always accurate. People tend to inflate their outrage if they think it will help them get better service, or if they want to hurt an airline’s reputation. And what about all those times people were perfectly happy with their travel, and said nothing?

Mystery shoppers can give an unbiased look at a trip through the eyes of a traveler and let the airlines know what a trip was really like. They can report on flight attendant performance, cleanliness of the facilities, and whether in-flight calls for assistance were answered.

2. Mystery Shoppers Can Check On Competitors

Picture of a TAM Flight Attendant working.

Picture of a TAM Flight Attendant working. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Airlines can check out the competition with the help of mystery shoppers. By working with a mystery shopping agency, they can send shoppers to other airlines to see how they are performing. They can see how the airlines do in different service areas, and either seek to match or even improve on what the competition is doing. This lets airlines remain competitive, while still ensuring their own passengers are satisfied.

3. Mystery Shoppers Can Ensure Airline Staff Follow Proper Procedures

There is an old saying in the mystery shopping industry that “when the cat is away, the mice will play.” In other words, when management is around, the staff is on their best behavior. But a mystery shopper is not known, and so they can gather more accurate information. Are staff doing the appropriate walkthroughs? Are they serving beverages and snacks? Are the pilots providing periodic updates? While the FAA places inspectors on flights to find more of the detailed and industry-specific information, there may be some airline-specific requirements that mystery shoppers are able to observe.

Working with a mystery shopping agency is an important way for airlines to know they are doing the best work possible: they get unbiased feedback, they can see how the competition is doing, and they can ensure that all airline staff are following the company rules and even governmental regulations.

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Mystery Shopping Programs

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Brand protection and anti-counterfeiting are necessary for luxury brands that often fall prey to fakes and knockoffs being sold by street vendors, illegal websites, and from boxes that mysteriously “fell off a truck.”

The problem is, these knockoffs are being sold as the real deal, which ultimately dilutes the value of the luxury brand. Brand protection is something these companies — Rolex, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, and many others — take very seriously. They pride themselves on the quality and relative scarcity of the product, which is how they can demand higher prices.

Counterfeit designer shirts on display. This is where brand protection can help brands protect their intellectual property and designs, as well as their brand name.

English: Counterfeit designer shirts on display at a flea market. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But if counterfeit versions of their products are being sold at a fraction of the price, and are shoddily made, this can also ruin the reputation and image of the real brands, since counterfeiters are often trying to pass their knockoffs as the real thing.

While it’s illegal to sell counterfeit products, some of the knockoff products are becoming so good and convincing, some stores are even convinced of their authenticity. Rather than being sold at a fraction of the price, these goods are being sold to stores as the real thing. The problem is, they discover the products weren’t real in the first place.

Other times, there may be less-than-reputable store owners who are knowingly selling knockoffs — a recent case in Illinois saw the arrest of two women selling knockoff purses on a website.

Many luxury good manufacturers are hiring mystery shopping agencies like Measure CP for brand protection. They hire us to send mystery shoppers to the various stores and websites to check out the products and make sure they’re the real ones. The brand protection efforts help them identify counterfeiters and companies that sell them. It helps them keep the counterfeit goods from cutting into their sales margins and diluting their brand.

Brand protection is necessary for manufacturers whose products are sold all over the world, where it’s difficult to keep track of where they end up. By using mystery shoppers for brand protection, they can better control their reputation and their image.

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Mystery shopping auditors vastly outperform monitoring software used for grading call centers, something that can often mean the difference between happy and unhappy customers.

These days, thanks to fast computers and voice recognition software, call grading for call centers is usually done via keyword monitoring software. The software listens for certain keywords and flags them as positive or negative interactions between the call center staffer and the caller. Positive keywords lead to a positive score, and negative keywords result in a negative score.

Awesome, right?

Yeah, right.

State Farm call center employees processing damage claims.That phrase — “yeah, right” — is often called the “two positives that equal a negative,” and it illustrates the problem with keyword monitoring software. If I say it to you sarcastically, you understand my meaning: that things are not awesome. My tone of voice conveys my true feelings, and you can easily pick up on them.

But, a computer can’t do that. All it hears are “yeah” and “right,” and it believes that I truly do think things are awesome.

Two positive words lead to a positive call grade, even if the caller went away unhappy, firing that last bit of snark before hanging up.

This is where mystery shopping can outperform keyword monitoring software. Unlike a computer, people can pick up on all the subtle nuances of human interaction — sarcasm, weird pauses, ironic statements, and the context of slang or idioms.

Software can’t “measure the vibe” of human conversation. But our mystery shopping auditors can.

We provide mystery shopping auditors who listen to recorded calls. They will listen for key issues in a call, listen for the overall tone of the conversation, and provide an accurate score on what the call center staff should actually receive.

This allows your call center managers to give a more accurate grade to call center employees, provide specific feedback about behaviors and strategy, have a meaningful conversation about recurring problems, and even provide additional training.

Working with a mystery shopping agency lets you get more accurate call grading for your staff and help you to keep your customers satisfied with fewer miscommunications and problem areas. Using mystery shopping for call grading can ultimately boost customer loyalty, which leads to higher sales and reduced lead generation costs.

Photo credit: State Farm (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Mystery Shopping Programs

Evaluating Contact Centers Over the Phone

Mystery shopping can be a beneficial way for airlines to gain objective feedback. Typically, airlines only hear from angry customers when a problem arises. When it comes to air travel, emotions run high. Whether people are flying for business or pleasure, many travelers find air travel to be a stressful experience. Airlines have to go above and beyond to please travelers in order to encourage brand loyalty.

Mystery shopping helps airlines understand their customers' perspective.Many people are familiar with the bad publicity that can occur when an angry traveler takes to social media to complain about their poor experience with an airline. In fact, a simple search on any social network of any major airline carrier’s name will produce a wide variety of consumer complaints being broadcast via the internet. These can be everything from written complaints to traveler’s actual pictures and videos of the problem. While these reviews shouldn’t be discredited, this may not be an accurate picture of what most passengers experience.

While airlines may be very well aware of their most frequent customer complaints — small seats, baggage fees — getting into the mind of the consumer is not as easy. One of the best ways for airlines to gain insight into their customers’ experience is through mystery shopping audits.

Airline mystery shopping is designed to give airline carriers insight into their customers’ experience through an unbiased, objective pair of eyes. Not only is mystery shopping a great way for airline carriers to find out exactly what their passengers experience, and what sort of customer service is being offered, but it allows them to identify strengths and weaknesses, which can help them avoid a future public relations problem.

Furthermore, mystery shopping is a great way to reward exceptional employees, which in itself provides an incentive for other airline employees to treat every customer as a potential mystery shopper. When conducting an airline shop, mystery shopping professionals will evaluate the level of customer service offered by all airline employees they interact with during their flight, including those at the airport as well as in-flight.

Additionally, they will evaluate the look and appearance of the aircraft’s interior, its cleanliness, the restroom facilities, and accessibility for disabled passengers. They can even evaluate the airline’s meal options and service.

The wealth of data received from an airline mystery shopping audit can help airlines determine areas of weakness and strength in their operations; identify how their agents react, and should react, in specific situations such as flight changes or unruly flyers; develop, refine or evaluate a training program; create an incentive program for employees; and, even develop new criteria for management performance and bonuses.

Mystery shopping is a better, more accurate indicator of how airlines are performing, as compared to focus groups, customer surveys, and social media complaints. For an airline looking for key performance indicators, consider working with a mystery shopping agency that can provide national or even international coverage.

Photo credit: Matt Hurst (Flickr, Creative Commons