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Case Study: Mystery Shopping Reveals Disconnect in Referral Program


Ann Michaels & Associates recently conducted a study to show representation for companies who relay on referral services to gain new business. As an online and telephone referral service, customers are able to contact the referral company to disclose their needs. From there, the referral company pairs them with the best match based on their specific situation.


The study revolved around the online portion of the business, as referral members were concerned about their representation based on the fact that business generated from this company was down quite significantly. The client set out to pinpoint how customers were being referred and how the process works for potential customers.


Starting at the referral service’s website, mystery shoppers were deployed to pose as potential customers that would best align with the client’s services. Being instructed to enter specific criteria, the shoppers went through the referral process, and took screen shots of every page they encountered. Additionally, when their options for companies was offered, they took a screen shot for the client to investigate further.


The client found several areas in which their brand was not being represented accurately or sufficiently, which was likely the cause for lower lead generation. These issues included:


1. Despite the fact that shoppers provided information indicating that the client was the most relevant fit for their needs, they were often times not one of the suggested companies, or if they were, they were consistently one of the last offerings on a long list of company options.


2. Their pricing structure was not listed correctly on the page with potential companies to hire; in fact, they were listed at a higher rate than many of the competitors, despite the fact that they have made their pricing structure clear with the referring vendor at the onset of their relationship.


3. Only when their company was selected as a vendor did potential customers see more accurate (and many times, lower) pricing.


4. In general, shoppers found that the process was a bit difficult, with many steps that were not clear or easy to understand in order to get to the referral section. Shoppers consistently indicated that, as a true customer, they would have become frustrated and aborted the process before finding a company to work with.


At the conclusion of the project, the client had enough documentation, especially with regard to screen shots of the experience, to talk with the referral vendor to address some of the issues. A repeat project conducted after promises of resolving the client’s issue yielded much better results.


By providing screen shots directly in the mystery shopping reports. the client was able to easily identify issues that prohibited new business while getting a good understanding of what potential customers experience.


As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Or, in this case study, it’s worth not missing any more business opportunities.