At conferences, I’m often asked about mystery shopping, and it got me thinking: there are a lot of misunderstandings about what mystery shopping can and can’t do.
Some see mystery shopping as a simple check-in; others see it as too artificial for an accurate customer service evaluation. Many executives assume they get the same insights from reviews, social media, and direct customer feedback.
Others think it’s all about consumer retail, such as clothes shopping at the mall. They are wrong. Mystery shopping has tremendous value for B2B as well as B2C, and is vital to a thoughtful and well-vetted customer service evaluation.
Obviously mystery shoppers are NOT real customers, and don’t always reflect your average customer—whether that’s a machine parts distributor or a fashion-forward teen. What mystery shopping offers is a high-precision tool to improve customer service in your most vulnerable areas. In addition, it’s highly customizable for different goals. And because it examines what actually happens, it enables you to track actionable customer experience metrics.
Here’s how to use mystery shopping to improve customer service:
1) Use mystery shopping to conduct a thorough, airtight customer service evaluation.
Designed and performed well, mystery shopping ensures that nothing slips through the cracks. It can test almost anything, plus track specific customer experience metrics, such as how associates:
+ Solve problems
+ Explain information
+ Represent your brand
+ Handle different personas (e.g. skeptical, confident, or angry customers)
Testing many things at once is an efficient way to target weak spots, focus on goals, and measure frontline performance against precise criteria.
2) Use mystery shopping for the most accurate apples-to-apples comparison with your competition.
You don’t exist in a vacuum; competitors are always part of the equation, but it’s hard to get an accurate comparison. Customer satisfaction surveys reveal how customers perceive you but they don’t measure concrete differences between you and your competition.
Mystery shopping looks at actual performance, using the same criteria to evaluate you and your competitors for an objective comparison. For example, for an investment strategies client, we used a high net worth persona to call nine of our client’s competitors asking similar questions about market volatility. This enabled us to show our client best practices from the field for handling this specific type of question.
3) Use mystery shopping to test your most difficult situations.
Most of your customer interactions are probably fairly cut-and-dry, with little risk involved. But for every fifty interactions, you might have one critical opportunity to keep or lose a customer. Mystery shopping is the best way to test how your frontline handles these high-risk interactions.
For example, for a client in healthcare, we designed a scenario in which a parent called in with her child having an asthma attack—a rare event, but critical to our client’s brand when it did occur. If you simply listen to twenty-five calls, it’s unlikely you’ll run across high-risk situations like these. Mystery shopping hones in on the moments when your brand and customer loyalty are most vulnerable.
In short, mystery shopping takes the mystery out of customer service. It ensures the most comprehensive customer service evaluation, accurately compares you with competitors, and tests high-risk situations. Done well, it provides actionable customer experience metrics, and uncovers clear steps to improve customer service.
Mystery shopping incorporates Interaction Thinking™, because it recognizes the fact that customer interactions are comprised of many nuanced details and elements. When designed to capture this complexity, mystery shopping pinpoints where you need to make the greatest headway. So, to improve customer service efficiently, incorporate expert mystery shopping into your current customer service evaluation program. You’ll have clear, actionable insights on where to improve most, and the concrete next steps to get you there.