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Archive for September 18, 2014

Mystery Shopping Cures “Growing Pains”


We’ve had the pleasure of working with companies of all sizes in many industries. Often, when speaking to potential clients, one theme we hear revolves around “growing pains” as companies expand. During the initial growth, if it’s slow enough, it can be managed easily by visits from management and support as needed. However, as growth continues, or if it happens quickly, it can be much more difficult to ensure operations run smoothly and are consistent across locations.


This is perhaps the best time to utilize a mystery shopping program – when you’re at the point of expanding your presence. By using a mystery shopping program, companies reap many benefits:


1. Especially when expansion goes nationwide, programs give insight to ensure that things are running smoothly as new locations are opened.


2. Implementing mystery shopping can be cost effective. When expansion occurs, the task of monitoring new locations often times falls to District or Regional Managers, who are required to travel from one location to the next. This can be very costly; employing a mystery shopping program is less expensive and can be very effective in assisting upper management with new location maintenance.


3. Brand consistency is maintained. By incorporating the right observations, companies can be assured that new locations are maintaining a consistent brand presence, whether this means uniform compliance, store signage and messaging, or operational expectations.


4. Snapshots provided by mystery shopping reports can quickly indicate challenges and issues that can be resolved before they get out of control. This measure is extremely helpful to ensure that new locations are successful and support your mission to expand while keeping “growing pains” to a minimum.


Below are some tips for companies who are in the process of expanding and would like to use mystery shopping programs to monitor progress:


1. Plan ahead: start by initiating a program on your “core” locations, ideally prior to expansion. Develop a program that evaluates the core operating procedures and expectations to gauge performance at this level. Identify any challenges or opportunities for improvement prior to expansion.


2. As new locations open, implement the same program to ensure the new locations mirror the core group in terms of performance and expectations. When do you start shopping the new locations? We’ve had clients who prefer to give the new locations a couple of weeks up to a month to “work out the kinks” before incorporating mystery shopping, while others prefer to start right away. Whatever you decide, ensure that the schedule is followed so new locations can be evaluated as soon as possible to ensure success.


3. Because expansion is costly, and adding the expense of mystery shopping can be one more thing to add to the plate, consider a schedule that complements your goals. While a regular program is ideal, it may be best to focus on new locations that may show signs of struggling.

In this instance, programming can look something like this:

* Schedule monthly shops at “core” locations to get a continual snapshot of performance

* As new locations open, schedule weekly shops for the first month to gauge performance; after the initial month, if there are no issues that are apparent, change this schedule to monthly shopping.

* When any locations show potential issues, increase shopping frequency for a short period of time to determine if the issues are isolated or a symptom of a larger problem that needs attention or additional training. This can be achieved by dispatching an additional shop for any location that receives a performance score of 79% or below, for example.


While growing pains can be expected during any expansion, keeping them to a minimum is a challenge. Incorporate tools and services to alleviate these growing pains in the most cost effective manner possible – you’ll be happy you did in the long run.



Online Customer Service Myths


There is a trend that is much needed involving online self-service. This includes offering live chat or other interactive means for consumers to get the help they need without having to call or email a company. Because we live in a multifaceted customer service world, its a necessity to companies who need to streamline operations while offering consumers the best experience possible.


Below is an infographic on the top online customer service myths, which was created by Synthetix, a multi-channel customer service company based out of Cambridge, England. They took a look at popular myths and offered some interesting insight. Since consumers readily share the fact that the expect the same level of service no matter what channel they’re using, this is a timely study to enforce the need for companies to rethink their online customer service strategy.


Some key takeaways include:


  • Online customer service frees up agents: this study shows that when companies offer self-service channels on their site, it can reduce the number of calls by 25% and the number of emails by 50%. While this may seem like it will reduce the need for live agents, it is actually the opposite. These results show that by adding self-serve or online chat to handle the more common inquiries and situations, it frees up agents to handle more complex customer needs, while reducing overall wait time to speak to someone or get an email response. The great news is that customers are getting what they need more quickly and efficiently in these instances.


  • Live chat can fill the gaps in your website: this study revealed that 72% of respondents turn to a company’s website for information, while only 52.4% get the information they need. As almost half will abandon their cart if they cannot find the answers they are looking for, incorporating self-service options and/or live chat can go a long way in helping where your web content cannot.


  • Live chat can save a sale: consumers in the middle of an online purchase may go elsewhere if they are having trouble and need assistance right away; unfortunately, consumers expect immediate assistance, and if they are in the middle of making a purchase, they may not want to wait for a response via email or telephone. 38% of respondents in this study state that live chat has saved the purchase for them – had it not been available, they may have abadonded their purchase.


You can view the infographic below to see more results (click on the infographic to open a larger version of the image), but the key takeaways show that if your company has not focused on live chat and other self-service options for your consumers, you may be missing out.






Making Customer Service Fun


Routine customer interactions can be, well, boring. From calling to inquire about a bill, to making an online purchase, or even taking a flight, these everyday routines can be overlooked.

These are great opportunities for companies to make a boring, routine experience memorable. For example, Southwest Flight Attendants are known for making the pre-flight talk fun:




Zappos, who is known for great service with a twist, encourages their employees to have some fun and be themselves. They are also empowered to follow the customer’s lead to make it a great experience, even if it means talking to the customer in the third person:


zappos funny

Just two small examples of how businesses can make the mundane fun, for both customers and employees.


Have you encountered any “fun” customer service experiences? If so, please feel free to share in the comments below!