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How Mystery Shopping can Improve the Customer Experience

mystery shopping

We’re all familiar with the term Mystery Shopper. So why don’t more businesses rely on them? Most companies incorporate surveys, ratings and reviews, but actually hiring mystery shoppers can reveal underlying problems affecting the customer experience. Additionally, Video Mystery Shopping is now available at a more affordable rate and is a valuable tool when evaluating the in store customer experience.

Mystery shopping is a strategy used to study the customer experience by actually interacting with a brand and evaluating it from a customer’s viewpoint. While mystery shopping used to be implemented by businesses to monitor employee behavior, it is now used to for numerous factors ranging from how friendly employees are towards guests to how long it takes for customers to be helped. These tactics are beneficial, however, there are many more other contact points to consider.

Think more Mystery Experience, less Mystery Shop

An effective mystery shopping approach needs to encompass the entire range of experiences customers might have, not just at the checkout counter. Why? Because a recent Episerver survey of more than 1,000 consumers found that 92% visited a retail website for the first time for reasons other than to make purchases. Consumers are researching products and services, looking for contact information, and even searching for inspiration.


An effective mystery shopping program needs to evaluate a consistent customer experience across all channels and departments, whether shopping in-store, browsing a mobile app or contacting customer service via phone.


The Pros and Cons of Technology


Rapid advancements in technology enable businesses to improve their customer experience. For example, live chats with actual employees can quickly resolve customer service questions or filter complaints. However, the employee must show empathy and put themselves in the shoes of the customer. Emotion is hard to convey via chat versus having an actual phone conversation and the businesses that thrive will empathize with their customers along every step of the way.


Branding, Merchandising and Customer Service Are Becoming More Meaningful


Customers want strong impressions from brands, and many are delivering. 44% of businesses offer unconditional free shipping, a factor that customers critically value, while only 2% of brands don’t have any free shipping promotions whatsoever.

Merchandising is also improving, with 86% of brands highlighting products with “what’s new” features, 54% using themed/seasonal promotions, and 22% offering loyalty programs.

Brands are also prioritizing excellent customer service by providing several options for shoppers to reach out. Call centers remain the most efficient way for shoppers to solve problems and ask questions, with an average engagement time of 4.60 minutes. Live chat is available at four out of 10 global brands, and 14% offer customer help through Twitter. Some brands were able to resolve customer concerns on Twitter within minutes.

Customers Want In-Store Tech, But Not All Brands Are Keeping Up


In-store technology gives consumers and sales associates a huge realm of flexibility and reach. With tablets, kiosks and other digital screens, associates can quickly check inventory across stores, place orders for delivery, and more.

However, 83% of store-based brands access inventory information through the register, which can be more time consuming for shoppers than using dedicated devices like tablets.

For the handful of stores that use technology (17%), only 40% of those brands used tablets and digital screens in-store.

It’s critical to integrate technology into physical locations to create seamless transitions across channels for customers. Brands that can master both digital and one-on-one interaction will give consumers greater convenience, choice and satisfaction.


Some brands are learning the hard way that no matter how much they invest in a better customer experience, a single mishap can have disastrous consequences. With customers more empowered than ever to share their feelings on social media, one negative experience can spark the outrage of thousands online.


With stakes as high as they are, no brand can risk the fallout of a poor customer experience strategy. The simple but critical fact is that good customer experience can only come from an intimate understanding of what it’s actually like to be a customer.


Data Rich, Insight Poor

Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful

Most companies would say they are data-driven. Do you agree? You gather as much data as possible in order to make strategically based decisions regarding marketing, branding, budget, and new product ideas. Because more data equals more insights, right? Not necessarily. Don’t waste time on the wrong numbers. To prevent a data overload, you’ll have to hone in on the 1% of data that actually matters.


Remove the Noise

Your first instinct may be to take every data point you can find and cram it into one page. Have you ever googled sales metrics finding articles like “100 sales metrics everyone should track.” How can you focus on what’s important with all of the unnecessary information? Keep it simple! To quote the designer John Maeda, “simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.”  Including data just because it exists will cause you to place emphasis on what may not benefit you.


How to Pick the Metrics that Matter

Look for the vital signs…just as in health care there are vitals that indicate the health of critical functions in the human body. One of your “vitals” might be monthly revenue. You should always track the pulse of your vitals in case they dip, but don’t expect them to give you actionable insights. Vitals alone will not give you a correct diagnosis.

Spend most of your time on the metrics that answer a business question, or are going to invoke a change in behavior (e.g. what types of deals should we focus on?). Reflect on which metrics drove productive conversations and which ones resulted in awkward silences, those can be scrapped.

Metrics come in Pairs.

It’s all about balance. You can measure the performance of a team with just two complementary metrics. For example, you could have one for quantity and one for quality. For a sales agent, it may be agent productivity versus customer satisfaction rating. To encourage the right behavior, pair the leads created number with win rate.


Get to Know your Clients Really Well

Jonah Disend is CEO and founder of Redscout, a branding and product development company with clients like Gatorade and Domino’s that he founded in his New York apartment in 2000. He describes traditional advertising as “yell about what we’re doing and hope someone is interested.”

His approach to brands—which he applied to Domino’s core product, its pizza, and to Gatorade when he helped launch the G series—is to ask “How do you behave differently, do different things, make different products or services?” “Then use marketing to amplify. Instead of trying to convince the consumers you’re different, actually be different. The marketing goes so much further.”


Insight is what really matters. And what is that exactly? Disend says, “If I tell you an insight you will feel it. Physiologically you will feel it. If it’s not an insight you won’t feel it.”



When your Customers are Talking

It’s Time to Listen  

The single biggest complaint of customers is that salespeople talk too much and don’t listen enough. Poor salespeople dominate the talking, while successful salespeople dominate the listening.


It’s possible for you to talk too much, but it’s rarely possible to listen too much.


When salespeople are excellent listeners, prospects and customers feel comfortable and secure with them. They buy more readily and more often.


Why Salespeople Stop Listening

Salespeople have a lot to say because they’ve developed so much expertise. However, the fastest way to irritate a prospect is by talking too much and listening too little. Furthermore, salespeople have listened to the customer’s side so often, they can predict what the customer will say. Result: They learn less about customers’ changing needs than an effective listener would uncover.


Benefits of Good Listening

Listening builds trust. The best salespeople are concerned with customer needs and help them purchase products or services in a cost-effective way.

Listening lowers resistance. It reduces tension and defensiveness on the part of customers who realize they aren’t going to be pushed into making a purchase.


Listening is Not Hearing

Listening is different from hearing. Hearing is what people do when a bore starts talking. Listening is an active activity in which salespeople pay genuine attention to what customers or prospects say.





Here are some tips that help promote active listening:

  1. Show that you’re listening by giving short verbal feedback phrases like, “I see” or “Go on.” Nod your head. Use body language to show the customer you’re interested in what’s being said.
  2. Don’t interrupt. Ideally, the only time you should break up the customer’s conversation stream is if you need clarification on what’s being said.
  3. Avoid distractions. Focus your attention on the prospect or customer in a calm, relaxed atmosphere.
  4. Restate. This is repeating verbatim all or part of what a customer has said while placing emphasis on one part of it. The main purpose of restating is to get prospects to give more information and to let them know you are listening. Additional information can be the difference in making a sale or not.
  5. Ask pertinent questions.If you understand correctly, the customer will agree. If not, he or she will have a chance to clarify.
  6. Summarize. Active listening involves mentally summarizing points that have been made. Try to state these brief summaries at key moments in your presentations. Summarizing also lets you take charge of the direction of the conversation.
  7. Try to avoid arguing.A good listener is there to find out what the customer thinks and where she or he is coming from. If the customer wants to hear your opinion, he or she will ask. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to remain silent, especially if a customer is venting.
  8. Empathy is key. The way we do this is by mirroring one another’s behavior and language. Use the same words your customers do, in the way they use them, so they are assured you really understand their problems.
  9. Simplifying terms for self-service. If you want to help customers help themselves, don’t be fancy with the language. Drop the brand voice and mimic your customer’s approach.
  10. And the best advice of all…Remember the golden rule of listening. It’s possible to say too much. It’s rarely possible to listen too much.