Archive for April 14, 2016

Tips for Learning About Your Competitors

 

There are newer methodologies available to assist you in learning more about your competitors. This can be difficult to do traditionally, and can be costly and time consuming. Below are some ideas for capturing key insights about your competitors and staying in front of them when it comes to customer service, product offerings, and other key points of the customer journey.

 

Mystery shopping: if you’re employing a mystery shopping company for your business, why not open it up to measure your competitors? Many businesses have taken advantage of this with positive results.

What it will tell you: mystery shopping the competitor can be useful in learning more about customer service levels and procedures, how sales associates present information about products similar to what you carry, and view the customer experience through a set of objective eyes. A narrative based report will give you the “meat and potatoes” of the experience, giving you insight without ever stepping foot in a competitor’s location.

How it’s done: some companies will use the same report that they use for their business to have shoppers report on competitor locations. Because most mystery shopping programs are customized to measure your company’s specific standards, this is not always beneficial. Your mystery shopping provider can create a more generalized survey with standard key customer service standards to be used for this purpose. With this approach and a narrative detailing the shopper’s experience, you can learn quite a bit about your competition.

 

Social media monitoring: many social sites are open, but Twitter is the best for easy following of others. While the more bold companies will choose to directly follow the competition, others turn to social media monitoring for this purpose. By using a robust monitoring program, companies can monitor online conversations about their own company and competitors quickly and easily, capturing all online conversations that are related.

What it will tell you: a successful monitoring program can give you invaluable information, including:

  • Finding out if a competitor is having financial troubles, or on the flip side, expanding faster than you first thought.
  • Learning more about their customer base. In many cases, when customers are engaging with a brand, it’s very easy to identify them on social sites and start following/engaging with them, especially if it’s a dissatisfied customer of your competitor. It’s an easy way to turn the tables and gain some new customers.
  • Find out your competitor’s “pain points.” Customers are very vocal and often times more honest when engaging with friends and family on social media. Find out what customers are dissatisfied with from your competitor and gauge your marketing message to address these.
  • Learn about promotions and events. Is your competitor doing something “outside the box” with regard to events and/or promotions? Was it something you were considering yourself but weren’t sure of the reception it would receive? Especially with events, location based social monitoring can give you insight into customer perceptions and success – by essentially creating a social “fence” around the event location, you can capture social media content from the area, even if the user doesn’t use a hashtag for the event or reference it in the caption directly. This is a newer technology that can bring a lot of real time insight for your company or your competitor.

How it’s done: by using a service provider that is familiar with the ins and outs of social media monitoring, you can set up a regularly monitored program. Just identify the competitors you would like to monitor and you’re done. You will receive weekly reports that include all collected conversations, including user names and handles of those talking about the competition, allowing you to add them to your own social networks. Using the analytics system will allow you to dive further into the data collected, finding themes and areas for further investigation.

Location based monitoring can be used for events once your service provider knows the dates, locations, and time frames for the event. The data will be captured in a similar manner to social media monitoring, but will be provided at the end of the event. This program also provides analytics to dig deeper into the content collected.

 

Keeping tabs on the competition is nothing new, but technology and new uses for old methodologies can make it much easier than it was in the past. Hopefully these tips will give some food for thought on scoping out your competition.

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How Loyalty Programs Pay Off

 

It seems that most businesses offer a loyalty program to their customers; the effectiveness of such a program can go a long way if it’s done right.

The folks at Invesp put out a great infographic that shows the reasons consumers will join a loyalty program and how it will benefit a company in the long run. It’s interesting to note that 57.4% of respondents say that they join a loyalty program to save money, and 69% will choose a retailer based on their loyalty program. That’s some powerful pull!

Another interesting fact: 67% of respondents say that surprise gifts are an important part of loyalty programs. I can personally attest to this one – I joined a gas station loyalty program to save money of course. After a certain level I get three cents off per gallon every time I visit.

I thought things were great when they would offer “flash sales” randomly – I would receive an email notifying me that for the next 24 hours I could get ten cents off per gallon, and sometimes I wouldn’t know before hitting the pump. My kids are truly embarrassed when this happens because I am the crazy lady doing the happy dance at the gas pump. It’s definitely the little things in life!

However, they recently upped the ante, and now I’m a VERY loyal customer. I subscribe to the company’s text messaging and they will send a message when gas prices are about to increase. Fair enough. The last time I went to the gas station, I noticed that my per gallon price dropped well more than a flash sale would, so I had to ask the attendant. I learned that they offer a 24 hour guarantee to card holders; if gas prices increase, the station will honor the last lowest price within the first 24 hours of the price increase. I’m a customer for life!

Once you get the customers to see the value of your loyalty program, the benefits start to roll in. Some of the most noteworthy from the Invesp infographic:

  • 83% indicate that consumers will continue to do business when they are loyalty program members
  • 49% will spend more once they become loyalty program members
  • The average repeat customer will spend 67% more in months 31-36 than they did in the first six months of doing business with a company

It’s easy to see the value of loyalty programs for both the customer and the business; take a look at the full infographic below for some more interesting statistics.

 

loyalty infograph

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Mystery Shopping Tests Compliance Issues

 

Compliance issues, or failure to adhere to compliance standards, can make or break a business. This is especially vital in the financial industry, whether it is banking, loans, mortgages, or tax preparation. With the laws becoming more stringent, it is vital to ensure that staff are providing accurate information, the proper disclosures, and are as transparent as they need to be to ensure compliance.

Mystery shopping has helped in monitoring and measuring compliance among staff in this industry. Starting a program can be beneficial and will help businesses learn more about what consumers are being told, and be sure that employees are compliant with the law. Below are some examples:

 

  • Personal and “payday” loans: this type of loan has been in the news in recent years, as they have been hit with insanely high interest rates and some policies that are not clear to consumers when they use these services. A mystery shopping exercise can be initiated in which shoppers apply for these types of loans, whether in person or online, and document what they are told about the loan process, the repayment system, and interest rates. Additionally, they can attach documentation, such as required disclosures (Truth in Lending as an example) that need to be given to each consumer, as proof that this step was done. If there is a time where a shopper does not receive these disclosures, it is an immediate red flag to the company.
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  • Auto insurance: this is another area for compliance issues. A recent study revealed that approximately half of consumers shopping for auto insurance do not disclose all relevant information during the application process. If there are “typical” aspects consumers tend to omit, a simple mystery shopping exercise can reveal which staff take the additional steps to ensure there are no omissions or find additional information and which just “let it go.”
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  • Liquor and tobacco: while not in the financial industry, this is another aspect that can harm a business if compliance is not strictly followed. Starting a program in which mystery shoppers in the appropriate age group (18-27) will purchase alcohol or tobacco products to evaluate if staff request identification, inspect the identification, or if they simply override the system.

Utilizing a mystery shopping program to proactively monitor compliance issues can save a lot of headaches and trouble down the road. Mystery shopping is traditionally thought of in the retail and restaurant industries, but it can be useful for more complex programs as well.

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