Differentiating your offerings from your competitors is more crucial than ever as products and various services are increasing in similarity.
Excellent customer service is often underlooked even when it is often a direct element that influences sales conversion, customer satisfaction, and customer loyalty.
Great customer service comes from great customer understanding. Some would say it is the key for most businesses to prosper. In achieving this, businesses most commonly conduct consumer surveys, aiming to seek an understanding on what matters the most from their customer’s point of view. Despite the survey’s common practice and place in the industry, customer surveys alone do not reveal the more critical components of the experience that would ultimately impact the customer’s perceptions of the brand.
To gain a comprehensive understanding, it is important to examine every part in the end-to-end customer journey of your product. Such is gained by emphasizing the distinction between consumer surveys and mystery shopping programs. Conducting a plethora of consumer surveys and ignoring mystery shopping programs tend to cloak the actual service quality that is delivered at the store, providing businesses with an incomplete grasp of the problems present, resulting too many false positives that may skew future strategies.
Mystery shopping programs and consumer surveys measure variables on a different level. The latter provides insights on how your products and services can satisfy the customer’s needs and expectations. While the former focuses on how well a standard operations in place are implemented in various locations.
That said, a 360 degree view of the organization becomes increasingly essential for the modern day business. As data become more accessible, integrating a program that would complete your overall view of the business service delivery through clear consumer feedbacks can directly trigger more promising innovation, locate areas that needs improvement, and expose various sources of growth.
In completing the missing piece of data, mystery shopping programs can greatly help businesses to improve the quality of their customer service. When combined together, mystery shopping programs and consumer surveys give powerful insights to help a brand thoroughly understand which in-store experience matters the most to the customer, and where it should be improved upon both from the brand and customer’s perspective.
What is Mystery Shopping?
Mystery shopping is a methodology to identify and examine the service quality and the customer experience of the product or services your company is offering.
How does mystery shopping work?
As the name suggests, mystery shopping employs a mystery shopper. A mystery shopper is a person who will pose as a real customer intending to purchase or use your product. They will help you to observe and evaluate the overall experience as they engage with your company all across the customer journey. It provides you with unbiased insights into the procedures and processes operated in the delivery of the services.
How do you use mystery shopping?
Mystery shopping programs can be used for varying objectives depending on the needs of the client. From evaluating the compliance of standard operational procedures, customer experience, third party conformity, consistency of store performance, all the way to your competitor’s performance.
What are the rationales of Mystery Shopping?
Mystery shopping is a versatile tool in measuring the output quality of your business’ service. It is most commonly used by various industries from retail, consumer goods, tech, and hospitality industry.
6 Steps to Conduct Mystery Shopping Program
Source: Nicholas Mercurio and John Flesta (2019)
Types of Mystery Shopping programs:
No matter what the channels are, an exceptional customer service is critical for both offline or online settings
Mystery Shopping vs Consumer Survey in practice
A study* utilized mystery shopping program to assess the output quality of a business. The output quality is measured based on a mystery shopping report, while the perceived service value is measured based on a consumer survey report.
The study showed a positive correlation between output quality and perceived service value, which would indicate that a higher output quality will result in a higher perceived service value, and vice versa.
While the consumer survey report showed the consumer’s feedbacks and their experience expectations, the mystery shopping program completed the picture by providing insights on the product’s compliance condition, and whether they were performing to the desired qualities. This assures that the experience is always up to standards or even beyond the customer’s expectations.
*Source: Silvestro and Cross (2000)
As an example, we will be looking into a mystery shopping report of a coffee shop chain. The report result shows that store staff is not complying with the service standards set by the coffee shop’s management. It is identified that most of the staff are not greeting the customers, whilst also not repeating a customer’s order at the checkout counter. Both of which are standard procedures.
On the other hand, a consumer survey report of the coffee shop reveals that many customers think that the staffs are unprofessional. They are also found to be not fond of the staff’s attitude. Both of the feedbacks stated above managed to influence their satisfaction level towards the overall service.
The staff’s failure to comply with those standards set by the coffee shop chain (output quality) can drag down the overall customer satisfaction (perceived service value) which would indicate a correlation between output quality and perceived service value.
For that reason, while consumer surveys might explain about what is happening with the overall customer satisfaction, the mystery shopping report reveals the probable causes of the satisfaction score. By integrating both data, the coffee shop chain can identify various operational aspects that impact customers the most, and to what extent should the aspect be improved to achieve the desired business performance.
The needs to differentiate your offerings from your competitors by focusing in excellent customer service highlights the importance of both mystery shopping and consumer survey.
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