That’s Just The Way It Is

Bruce Hornsby famously sang, “That’s just the way it is. Some things will never change.” A younger generation of readers will recall those lyrics as they were sampled by 2pac some years ago, and the words are no less relevant now.

Dr. Chip Bell, an expert consultant on customer loyalty, has said that after a person is employed for about ninety days, he becomes blind to the details that his customers see. This accurately defines one primary function of mystery shoppers, but it also points out a risk that even mystery shoppers face.

When we become comfortable with our surroundings and the processes we go through, we fail to see where there is room for improvement. Businesses may miss simple ways in which they can improve the overall customer experience. That is one reason they will engage the services of a mystery shopping provider. Mystery shoppers can offer a fresh perspective and discover ways that the customer’s experience can be improved.

But be careful: many mystery shoppers take on a great number of assignments and repeat similar “shops” often. The risk with this approach is that they will simply complete assignment quickly without giving the full experience their undivided and focused attention. One way to prevent this and ensure a focused, meaningful evaluation every time is to frequently rotate mystery shoppers. IntelliShop’s Field Staff Coordinators (or Schedulers) strive to send a fresh pair of eyes almost every time a mystery shopper is sent on an assignment, especially when locations are visited frequently such as multiple times each month.

Thieves In Florida Provide A Better Customer Experience

An article in this week's Time Magazine describes how thieves are using more sophisticated techniques and technology for identity theft.  They steal ATM account numbers and PIN codes, then create new ATM cards and withdraw thousands of dollars from customers' accounts in a short amount of time.  Amazing, next-level thievery that we should all be careful to prevent (hint: use one hand to hide the other while entering your PIN).

The thing from this article that stuck with me, though, is that one set of thieves actually included a nice-looking, easy-to-read diagram of instructions for people on how to use their card in that ATM; the author said the bank's original facade didn't include those instructions.

What does it say about that bank's customer focus and experience that a ring of identity thieves provided the bank's customers with better information on how to use the ATM than the bank did?

Jump Start 2011 Sales & Staff Motivation

Want an easy way to jump-start your sales in 2011, while at the same time helping your associates and managers avoid or get out of the post-holiday blahs?  Run an upsell contest and reward your star performers.  Studies have shown that uspell contests measured using active mystery shopping programs can improve upsell percentages as much as 50% in a very short period of time. 

Whether you have stores, restaurants, branches, call centers, or other types of locations, you can use such programs to jump start sales this year, and also get your frontline people fired up and motivated.  Customer traffic is generally down in the January-March period, so not only is each customer more valuable now, but frontline associates and managers have more time to discuss each customer’s needs and offer additional products and services that they will find valuable; a greater share of the additional dollars they spend goes to profit because you have no additional sales & marketing or other overhead costs to obtain those.

Here are a few simple rules to improve your upselling success:

  • Make it of value to the customer, not generic and forced.  Very simple example: in a quick-serve restaurant setting, if a customer orders a salad, low-cal dressing and bottle of water, chances are they don’t want fries with that!  In a bank, someone interested in free checking may not want to know they can earn 0.3% on a $25,000 minimum CD, but they might want to know you have started offering “Christmas Club” savings plans again.  Conversion rates and customer loyalty will increase when customers believe they are being offered something of value, not just being asked to hand over more money.
  • Make it fun.  In most parts of the country, not only are we dealing with post-holiday syndrome (when is that drug coming out?!), but we’re also dealing with really depressing weather for the foreseeable future.  Create an upselling contest that promotes your locations to compete with each other, and you’ll build your company’s teamwork and culture while building sales.
  • Share the wealth.  Offer incentives to everyone at the winning location(s), not just one person.  Incentives don’t have to be budget-busters; the recognition itself is huge.  This will improve teamwork, bring out best practices from peer-to-peer, and improve your sales early in 2011!
  • Measure it. A mystery shopping company experienced in these programs can provide valuable coaching on how to develop and implement a program, measure its effectiveness, provide daily feedback on performance, analysis for where and how to improve, and consultation on how to make it stick for the long-term.

Customer Service Opportunities Are Everywhere

How many opportunities for providing good customer service are there in one simple store visit?  My wife Lori visited the local store of a national warehouse chain today, one she goes to often, and that she usually has a good experience at.  Today…not so much.  Among the things she wanted to buy (in addition to some garden hose, a 52” flat-screen TV, and a donkey cage – you really can get everything at these places!), was a rotisserie chicken for dinner; people around here rave about this store’s rotisserie chickens.

When she saw there were none in the case (opportunity 1: keep an eye on stock levels!), she found an associate and asked if they knew if they might have any (opportunity 2: associates should always watch for customers in need of assistance).

After looking at the empty case Lori had just pointed out, the associate’s reply was: “Well I guess we don’t have any more” (opportunity # 3: if you’re not going to go look for some, or ask someone else if they know, at least sound empathetic and apologize for being out of stock.  Next level: offer something else, to keep the sale).

Lori then pointed to a sign that read, “If we’re out of rotisserie chicken your next one is free”, and asked how she could get the free one.  She was told…wait for it… “we don’t do that anymore”.  (opportunity 4: don’t be obstinate with customers - where did she think she came up with this one?).  Lori turned the sign around so the associate could see it.  By this time a second associate had appeared to “assist”.  

The response (from the second associate)?  “Well, you’ll have to go up front and fill out a bunch of paperwork” (opportunity 5: make it easy for customers, especially in a service-recovery situation like this).  Nice assist.  I’m always amazed that so many people and companies miss this last point: you have to make it easy for customers to do business with you.  Customers have many options today, they are spending less, and they have less patience for poor service.  If you don’t make it easy, they have choices, and they will exercise them.  If they like the “other guy”, you may never see them again.

So, what may have seemed a simple store visit turned into a disaster, with at least five missed opportunities to provide a good customer experience.  Doing something for the customer during any one of these may have turned this situation around.  Handling all five with grace may have resulted in a great customer experience.  Customers are usually reasonable, but this many missed opportunities in one visit will absolutely cause them to take their business elsewhere.  The lesson here is: there are many opportunities for great customer experiences every day, every visit; take full advantage of each of them.

Cupid’s Arrow Cuts Through Recession

Perrysburg, OH Ron Welty, President of IntelliShop, a customer experience measurement firm, has announced the firm's participation in the Benchmark Collaborative's Valentine's Day consumer survey. The Benchmark Collaborative survey results indicated that even with the economic woes facing our nation, Americans are still eager to play Cupid this Valentine's Day. The survey asked 1397 consumers in the U.S. about their spending intentions for the coming week. The study, conducted February 6-10, indicated that approximately two-thirds of Americans within various income brackets intend to spend the same amount or more then they spent on Valentine’s Day gifts last year. The survey also revealed that, predictably, dining out and candy are the top gifts this year. Not so predictably, just about as many people plan to give books compared to the traditional gift of flowers.  Complete results are available by contacting IntelliShop, at or 877.894.6349.

“We are thrilled to be part of the Benchmark Collaborative and even more pleased to have some good news to report to our clients. This tough economy makes restaurant and retail customers less forgiving, so the customer experience is more important than ever. We are advising clients to prepare to intensify their efforts to provide stellar customer experiences during the next few days. If customer traffic is lighter than in prior years, customer retention will be key."

About IntelliShop

IntelliShop is a customer experience measurement firm specializing in mystery shopping services, customer satisfaction surveys and onsite audits for retail, automotive, banking, and food service businesses. Formed in 1999, IntelliShop conducts mystery shops in the U.S., Canada, Central America and the Middle East using its over 200,000 independently contracted mystery shoppers. The firm is a member of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA), and Ron Welty, President, is in his sixth year serving on its Board of Directors.  IntelliShop is accredited by the Better Business Bureau of Toledo.  Learn more about IntelliShop at

About The Benchmark Collaborative

With offices in Chicago, Perrysburg, Las Vegas, Boston, Cary NC, St. Louis, Bangalore India and Bern Switzerland, and alliances with mystery shopping companies throughout the world, the Benchmark Collaborative provides clients with proven mystery shopping and customer experience measurement solutions through its four highly respected partner companies. Clients receive the highly attentive service and spirit found in entrepreneurial companies, while at the same time saving significant time administering their programs and finding it much easier to access and more accurately analyze their results. The partner companies in The Benchmark Collaborative serve clients in over 25 industries, including all sectors of business-to-consumer and many business-to-business clients. Learn more by visiting