How Mystery Shopper Research contributes to the Customer Experience

In this short article I share how Mystery Shopper Research contributes to the Customer Experience by looking at the first dimension of Customer Experience.

It’s great to see everybody studying Customer journeys

Customer journey review has a powerful impact on the decisions you make around serving Customers.

And Mystery Shopper researchers have been studying Customer journeys for years.

Let’s see where Mystery Shopper fits into the Customer Experience.

There are 3 dimensions to the Customer experience

An article on Customer Experience triggered this article on Mystery Shopper research.

Bruce Temkin wrote that there are three dimensions to consider when studying a Customer experience –

  1. The actual experience – what really happened
  2. The Customer’s perception of the experience – how the Customer perceived the experience
  3. The Customer’s reaction to the experience – what the Customer does after the experience

The achievement of the perfect Customer experience occurred at Dimension #2 – the Customer’s perception of the experience.

And that makes absolute sense.  Because as we know, perception = reality.

Dimension #3 – the Customer’s reaction to the experience – is where the Return on Investment lies.

Reactions like brand advocacy, telling X number of other people and posting positive reviews on social media.

“The perfect Customer experience is a set of interactions that consistently exceed the needs and expectations of a Customer…

While the outcome of delivering great customer experiences will hopefully turn many Customers into advocates, I don’t think an experience is any less great if a Customer keeps her satisfaction to herself.”

I think Mystery Shopper is a brilliant tool to assess Dimension #1 – the actual Customer experience – or what really happened.

So what really happened?

Mystery Shopper tells you what ‘really happens’.  Not what you hope will happen or not what you think happens.

Because what really happens drives the Customer’s perception of what happened.

You can measure simple compliance aspects – the plasma screens were working, the flowers were fresh, the name tags were worn, the live chat session was picked up quickly.

Or you can evaluate more complex behaviours – empathy was demonstrated, the upsell attempt was well executed, the ambience was warm.

You can evaluate simple journeys – like buying a mattress.

Or more complex journeys like making an insurance claim.

If things work the way you designed them to work, you generate better Customer emotion, perception and memory.

The Customer Experience Mystery Shopper Program – are you on track?

But things don’t always work the way you think they do

Sometimes, the actual experience doesn’t work the way senior management thinks it does.

For example, the calls didn’t get picked up, the emails were not replied to, the service quality was not up to standard.

Or to get digital, the FAQ system didn’t load, the ecommerce process failed, the online submission got stuck, the IVR sent the call to the wrong queue.

Too often assumptions are made about ‘how well’ things are actually working.

I remember a very memorable Mystery Shopper program where not a single email was replied to within a 2 week despite a 3 day turnaround promise.

Sometimes the bad news is hidden out of fear

It’s a bad scenario – but it happens a lot.

Internal Employees ensure that data is ‘scrubbed’ before it is presented to senior management.

That’s because, the fear of senior management reprisal is so strong that the cultural belief is that it’s better to mask bad results than deal with the senior fallout.

Not a great recipe for Customer Experience.

Three examples of what was ‘really happening out there’ which ended up surprising everyone

In this last section we share three  examples of what we uncovered with Mystery Shopper research:

A software company

We were conducting Mystery Shopper Research on the email touchpoint of a global tech company. We were writing emails in Chinese to test their China operations team.

After 3 days we had not received a single reply. This was strange because the promised turnaround time was 24 hours.

We alerted the Client who then alerted their internal Operations folks.

It turned out that because of an incorrect setting in the webserver, the Chinese language emails had been inadvertently forwarded to the U.S.

And the U.S. team had not actioned on their side to ask why they were receiving these emails in Chinese.

A Telecoms company

We were conducting a review of Customer service enquiries for the prepaid services of a well known mobile company. We had been instructed to press a certain sequence of options on the IVR menu.

All options ‘read out’ correctly as we pressed each button but when we reached the last option the phone line was automatically disconnected.

We reported this to the Client within two days of discovery but the intelligence wasn’t action-ed.

A couple of months later, we were presenting the results to the Board.  When we shared the finding about the IVR, a very senior person at the table told us that this was impossible and such a thing would never happen at their company.

A member of the audience grabbed the high tech speakerphone on the conference table, pressed the sequence we had cited and oops – the call was disconnected.

Of course the room went silent so we diplomatically pulled the attention back to the presentation at hand.

Now that was a stressful moment.

A beer company

We were engaged to test the promotional capabilities of brand ambassadors for a European beer brand.

If the brand ambassador mentioned just one or two ‘promotional’ phrases to the Customer s part of the Guest ordering a beer, they received an on-the-spot gift voucher as a reward.

At the start of the program, the Client was convinced that their top-down training and campaign mechanics had been widely disseminated across the Team.

But early into the program, the scores on sharing the promotional messaging came in significantly lower than expected.

This finding triggered innovative discussions on how to better get the brand message out to the Team.

We were impressed because this was the right way to receive the message – not allocate blame – but find solutions.

Follow-up Mystery Shopper work validated that the new innovations had worked.

In closing

Here I’ve shared just 3 simple examples of how professional Mystery Shopper research can be used to validate Dimension #1 – what really happened with the Customer experience.

Armed with accurate Dimension #1 intelligence, the organization can ensure that it has put everything into place that it needs and wants to create a particular experience for its Customers.

From there, VOC programs, VOE programs, Unsolicited Feedback and Ethnographic Research can take over for Dimension #2 – the Customer’s perception of the experience.

And of course, from there, we hope that the Customer will bring us ROI through the actions taken after the experience such as referring us to others.

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