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The Game of Telephone: The Case For Recorded Mystery Shops

customer service

Traditional mystery shopping took a twist when recorded evaluations were introduced, both video & audio. When they first emerged, they were useful for several reasons, some of which include the increased accuracy of reporting and ability to use the recordings for training purposes.

As this type of evaluation took shape, a new use emerged for B2B companies and those with more complex business services. 

Remember the game of telephone, where someone starts by whispering a message in a person’s ear, and that person shares the message with the next person, and so on, until it gets to the last person in the chain? When the last person shares the message, it is often very different from the original message.

On a similar note, have you ever said or emailed something that was not taken as you intended?

This is where recorded evaluations come into play – to ensure messaging and information shared with prospective customers is clear, accurate, and taken as intended.

Let’s face it – you know your industry, products, and services like the back of your hand. Sometimes explaining them using jargon or terms that are every day use for you may not be clear to others. While some may understand, others may not and make their own interpretations. Or it could be something as simple as a prospective customer coming from a different perspective, taking a response to their question differently than you intended.

Benefits of Recorded Evaluations

A company that uses recorded evaluations shared this type of experience. Their business is a financial lending institution. There are a lot of regulations and information around the services they offer, so it is vital that they are not only sharing the right information, but making sure prospective clients understand what is being said.

During a recent evaluation, a shopper was instructed to ask a series of questions to better understand the company’s services. In the narrative detail, the shopper described the sales representative’s response to two specific questions. The client then listened to the recording of the interaction, because the way the shopper described the response was not quite what the sales representative said, but after listening, it was better understood how the shopper could interpret the response in the way he did.

This led the company to revisit how they explain certain aspects of their services; they realized, in reading the shopper’s interpretation of the response and comparing it to the conversation that they were not conveying the information in a way to make it clear and understood as it needed to be.

What’s important to note is that neither side did anything “wrong” – the sales representative did not provide incorrect information, and the shopper did not report the details of the interaction incorrectly; instead, it was a case of information being explained from one perspective and understood from a similar, yet slightly different perspective.

Recorded evaluations were extremely useful in this case for the company to listen to with a critical ear and compare to how the recipient interpreted the responses. Over time they were able to identify areas of messaging that needed to be updated to make their presentation and explanations better.

This is just another use case for recorded evaluations. They can be used for simple operational evaluations but enhanced by including components to evaluate messaging, communication, and improving the potential customer sales cycle. Just something to consider when your company is looking to evaluate the customer experience through mystery shopping services.

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5 Steps to Gain Competitive Intelligence For Your Business

Customer Service

Competitive intelligence for B2B companies is an overlooked method of research because of its complexity. It all begins with questions.

What are your competitors up to? For most small to medium sized businesses, this is difficult to keep up with. It may be something you think about only when you learn you lost a sale to a competitor. Or, when you take a look at their website to see what is new. That easily leads to questions about pricing, etc. Most B2B companies do not post pricing on their website. You either need to sign up for a demo or submit a request for a meeting through their site. There are many ways to gain this kind of B2B competitor intelligence covertly. B2B Mystery Shopping is a great way to begin.

B2B Mystery Shopping

You may be wondering what in the world is B2B mystery shopping? Traditionally, mystery shopping is used for restaurants, retail, banks and even medical offices. Business to Business or B2B mystery shopping is an excellent way to gain market intelligence for your business as well as get a good snapshot at your internal customer experience.

B2B Mystery Shopping Case Study

Let me explain by giving you some details of a recent B2B competitive intelligence study we did for a client. We were hired to reach out to our client’s competitor and initiate interest in their services. The very first step in this process is to find an evaluator in our data base that closely matches an actual customer. We interview the evaluator to be sure they are not involved with the client or the client’s competitor in any way.

Once selected, the evaluator gets briefed on the objective of the shop with exact requirements of what marketing collateral we require they capture. If a demo is needed, screen shots may be part of the report, so the client can see a step by step process.

B2B Mystery Shopping
Narrative from the report

From the narrative example above you can see that it took from November 7th – November 13th to receive an answer. It took so long that our evaluator asked if he should abandon the initiative altogether. We pressed on, and finally received the information the client was looking for.

Steps to Begin

  • Test your own process first. Mystery shop your company to evaluate any internal issues you may have that you were unaware of. This gives you a fair point of reference and you are better able to benchmark against your competitors.
  • Price is important but so is marketing. What type of information are they including in their marketing materials that are better than yours?
  • Take it a further step and conduct an audit on their Google keywords and their social media reach.
  • Listen to the buzz around your competitors in social media. Check out the review sites.
Social Media Competitive Intelligence
Example of an Ongoing Social Media Competitive Intelligence Report

One bad review online, one lost email, or an unreturned phone call message that was never returned can break any business. It gets a little trickier when you are a B2B company.

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Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket.

eggs in one basket

Why not?

If you carry them carefully they may not break. But one little bump in the road could ruin everything.

We use this expression for multiple reasons. Perhaps your stock broker has used it as a pitch for the importance of financial diversification . Financial Diversification is explained this way

In finance, diversification is the process of allocating capital in a way that reduces the exposure to any one particular asset or risk. A common path towards diversification is to reduce risk or volatility by investing in a variety of assets. Wikipedia

That sounds like solid advice and it is. It is the “just in case” things go sour reasoning. Shouldn’t this advice be used in other areas of our business life?

When it comes to business, we sometimes fall short. Sometimes it is because of budget, sometimes it is just lack of trust, and sometimes it is not wanting to leap out of the comfort zone. You know, the one we all feel is tried and true. When it comes to marketing and market research we like to stick with what we know will work. We know what we can expect, and that brings us comfort. B2B email marketing may get a solid 15% open rate every time. We like that and so does the boss. So we use it but won’t necessarily keep up with a social media platform because the “likes” don’t add up fast enough.

Do we ever wonder, “what if?” What if we did something different? I am not talking about placing all of our efforts and resources to one new thing. Rather, try it enough to test it. As much as I love the research industry and marketing, this is perhaps one of my challenges. Let’s use some real examples of what I am talking about.

Facebook

When I opened my profile this morning, this was right at the top of my news feed. It surprised me, actually. Isn’t all the data in the world held right within the walls of this social platform? (kidding) Why would they ask for my opinion in a short survey? There may be multiple answers that we will never know. Here is my theory:

  1. With all of this AI and algorithm capability they own, they still need to reach out to the human behind the data.
  2. They know not to place all their eggs in one basket.
  3. Research of all kinds should always be used whenever possible. Each discipline tells you something different and when you put it all together, it often times reveals things management were un aware of.
  4. People are becoming tired of “liking” everything. Many are becoming much more selective. They still read the posts, but don’t always click that like button. This is exactly what the survey was about. It went through post by post (just a few) that was recently in my news feed. Next the survey asked if I saw it in my feed and how much did I find it useful or important. Most were posts that I didn’t hit the like button for.

Feedback Surveys

Years ago, feedback surveys replaced a lot of mystery shopping as a way to gauge the customer experience. Many even went as far as to develop their own surveys through free online platforms.

Now, almost a decade later, some brands are returning to mystery shopping because people have become unresponsive to all the surveys out there. There is either little to no data or the data is on one side of the scale (customers who love everything about your brand) to the other (very unhappy customers). Most customers fall in between.

Smart retailers are looking to evaluate what the customer experiences when they come into one of their locations. They are turning back to mystery shopping again. District Managers are exhausted trying to get to every location and are many times spread too thin. Things may happen differently at a store when they are present. So, the question is being asked once again, “How do we know what is happening at the store level when managers are not present?”

Additionally, incorporating online reviews into the mix, by location ,would be a great addition. Technology is now in place to do just that and to include it all in one reporting dashboard.

In conclusion, as Marketers and Researchers, we need to always stay fresh and be open to new methodologies when diving into consumer data. Try adding one new tactic to your marketing strategy this year. This may be a great 2020 resolution for us all!

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