When you call an airline and try to rebook a flight, minutes can seem like hours. When you are calling in advance of a natural disaster while the Weather Channel is spinning apocalyptic predictions and the news ticker is scrolling by saying that the three major airports you can fly into are closing, those minutes can seem like days.
Those perceptions turn into realities that you tell your friends and family. Or maybe you tweet and Yelp! about your experience. You exaggerate the facts. You’re human. It happens.
This past weekend there were thousands of airline passengers who experienced this scenario with Hurricane Irene. And many recounted their perceived experience as fact to anyone who would listen.
Too often, businesses make the assumption that installing a mystery shopping program will guarantee increased customer satisfaction and sales growth. In reality, retailers play a large part in the process and bad choices may lead to ineffective results.
Pulling the plug on a mystery shopping program because scores plateau temporarily is one of the most common mistakes retailers make. Ensure you don’t fall into this trap.
Below are some some guidelines on what you can do as a retailer to make sure your mystery shopping program works to its maximum benefit.
Social media offers retailers a direct connection to consumers. When this connection is present, an open line of communication is formed between a business and their customers. Both can benefit from this relationship, but should there be lines drawn regarding what can appropriately occur on social media? Take assessing customer experience, for example.
Using social media for this purpose can have both pros and cons.
Pros of Using Social Media for Customer Experience Feedback
- Social media encourages individuals to be open and voice their opinions
- When one consumer voices an opinion in a public forum, others are apt to jump in
- Word of mouth created by consumers may cause businesses to share best practices
- Consumers can ask questions and reach out to consumers and get an assessment from real shoppers
- When negative experiences are shared, retailers have the opportunity to publicly resolve the issue
The retail mythology world loves to tell this story.
A women goes into Nordstrom to return snow tires and they take them back without a receipt. Right now, you are probably not questioning the “without a receipt” part. But you are probably scratching your head over the snow tire part.
I didn’t think Nordstrom sold snow tires
You are right, they don’t. But they took them back anyway.
Now, I’m not sure if the story is true or when it began, but this is pretty extraordinary. The snow tires and woman may be fictitious, but the return policy at Nordstrom is true. Stories like this make me feel comfortable that if anything goes wrong with anything I buy at Nordstrom, it will be taken care of without a hassle.
That is what I call service without boundaries. No doubt, it is good for business. But more often than not, these scenarios backfire because most store associates are not empowered to provide service without boundaries.
Mystery shopping seems like a dream job for many. Getting paid to shop – doesn’t get much better, does it?
There is some truth there, but only when you link up with the right mystery shopping company. You hear the bad press on businesses getting taken by the less than reputable mystery shopping firms; but it can happen to those that work for them as well. Before signing on the dotted line to become a mystery shopper, ask the company the following questions:
If you’re looking for ideas on how to increase your brand awareness on social media, there are a number of ways you can go wrong. Instead of focusing on those, we’ll focus on helping you do it the right way! Below we’ve outlined some suggestions to get you started. You can learn more about the power of social media in retail by reading David Rich’s latest post, or you can catch his talk at the 5th Annual Food Industry Summit.
- Mention exciting promotions using social media – particularly during tough economic times, consumers are more focused than ever on finding a bargain. Social media takes coupon clipping to all new levels! If you’ve got a promotion coming up in store or online, post it on Facebook or Twitter. You can even create exclusive coupon codes for individuals that follow you or like your business page. This will keep existing customers in the loop and help draw in all new ones.
I will be speaking at the fifth annual Food Industry Summit next week at Saint Joseph’s University on using social media for brands and retailers. I wanted to give you a quick glimpse into my presentaion ahead of the conference.
Ultimately, social media is about relevance and respect. Brands want it as well and social media allows them to grab their fair share in a voice that speaks to their customers the way they want to be heard.
That is power.
That is power for the generic cereal that gets relegated to the bottom shelf. That is power to traditionally seasonal products like @BrucesYams that people may forget about except during Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. That is power for almost any other brand that struggles to get noticed with one facing in a crowded category.
If you hire a mystery shopping service that simply decides to point out what went wrong with their experience in your retail store, how far is that really going to get you? As a business owner or manager you may find yourself feeling as though nothing is going right, but you’ve got no idea how to move forward from there. You need to ensure that the assessment will include actionable quality metrics that can help you make positive changes in the following areas:
- What would have created greater sales potential - a mystery shopper can tell you what might have increased their desire to buy your products or services. That could mean pushing a different product with an upsell, for example.
One of the Most Frequently Asked Questions that I hear about setting up a mystery shopping program deals with frequency of shops. Should we choose once a day, once a week, once a month, or once a quarter? My answer is always the same: it depends on your program goals and your budget. Let’s face it- all retailers want to meet or even exceed their goals, but not all have the budget to support daily or even weekly programs. So while my standard answer to the Most Frequently Asked Question may sound overly broad, it actually based on what I like to call the principle of Maximization vs. Optimization.
Maximization vs. Optimization is based on a very sound mystery shopping formula:
When budgets are limited, it is generally better to shop fewer stores on a more frequent basis than all stores less frequently. You may, for example, decide it is more important to shop your top 30 best-performing stores. Or you may want to establish different frequencies, or rotate your stores and districts. There are an infinite variety of ways to create the program that works best for you, but the bottom line is to remember that there are enough variations possible to allow you to get the most out of your program without sacrificing the crucial data you need to meet your program goals. When it comes down to whether you should conduct your program quarterly, monthly, weekly or daily, there are other factors to consider: