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.