No Roses on Valentine’s Day

We have a little flower shop here in Perrysburg.  It's a block from my house, and I buy a lot of flowers and other stuff there.  For the past several years on Valentine's Day, I walk in and buy a dozen roses for my lovely wife Lori.  This year, when I arrived mid-afternoon and asked for a dozen roses, I was told by the lady who's always there, "We're all out" (I think she may own it; she's usually there when I go in, but she's never tried to build any relationship with me, so I'm not really sure.  That may be a future discussion).  
It was mid-afternoon.  No smile.  No apology.  Not a tone of empathy.  No attempt to sell me anything else.  I was dumbfounded and did a quick mental recap: Valentine's Day - check.  Mid-afternoon, not during the after-work "rush" many businesses get from frantic, forgetful husbands, when I might expect to find them out of things - check.  I was trying to spend money at a local business where I'm a regular customer - check.  Another trip into a place I often find myself: Bizarro Service Land.  Maybe I notice more because I own a mystery shopping business.  Maybe it's just that some people don't see the obvious when it's right in front of them.  
Now, I'm open to the possibility that the flower business may be tough (find me one that isn't!).  Flowers are fickle, and don't always stay alive as long as you expect.  It's probably tough to predict walk-in business (but not impossible).  But, what's the true cost of running out of flowers on one of the top sales days of the year?  It's such short-sighted, non-customer-focused thinking that I still can't believe it.
If not the biggest, Valentine's Day is certainly in the top three sales days for flower shops, right?  Shouldn't owners want to sell us as much as possible on those days?  Aren't roses still Numero Uno on Valentine's Day?  By far?  Don't they worry about things like: "If I don't have enough, and my customers have to go to a competitor today, will they ever come back?"  Don't they think one day past today?  Isn't a service business supposed to, at some point, service their customers?  In my book, this means that your customers' needs come first, not yours.  THAT is what solidifies customers to long-term loyalty.
Couldn't they get tons of free word-of-mouth advertising by selling the excess very cheaply, or even just giving it away, to the last few customers that day?  What if they advertised a "Twice As Nice, Day After Valentine's Sale" and offered roses at 25% of the cost on Valentine's Day (only for the excess)?  
If they can't be happy, appreciative and customer-focused on Valentine's Day, when can they?  Don't small shopkeepers need to think this way in order to avoid extinction?  Get out of the box.  Differentiate.  Serve.

Ron Welty elected Vice President of Mystery Shopping Providers Association Board of Directors

Perrysburg, OH– Ron Welty, president of IntelliShop, a national mystery shopping and customer experience measurement firm, has been elected vice president of the board of directors for the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA). The MSPA is the largest professional trade association dedicated to improving service quality, with over 400 member companies worldwide.

“I am really honored to continue my service on the MSPA board of directors, and to be elected vice president,” said Welty. “This is an exciting year for MSPA.  Business for our member companies is bouncing back very strongly, with clients seeking every advantage in measuring and improving their customer experiences.  I’m committed to helping spread the word so that even more clients will know the value that a mystery shopping program can bring to them, and why they should select an MSPA member for those programs.”

IntelliShop has been a member of the MSPA since 2000 and Welty has served on its Board of Directors for six years. The MSPA board of directors and its officers are elected annually by the full MSPA membership. The four officer positions – president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary – are also elected annually by the membership. For more information, visit

ABOUT INTELLISHOP: IntelliShop is a national mystery shopping and customer experience measurement firm dedicated to helping clients understand and improve what happens at the moment-of-truth with their customers. IntelliShop offers mystery shopping evaluations, video mystery shopping, customer satisfaction research, analytics and consultation, brand audits, and employee incentive programs. IntelliShop selects from a panel of more than 410,000 evaluators to help companies measure and improve their customer experiences onsite, on the phone, and on the web.  For more information, call 877-894-6349 or visit

ABOUT THE MSPA: The MSPA is the largest professional trade association dedicated to improving service quality using anonymous resources. With over 400 member companies worldwide, its diverse membership includes companies that specialize in providing mystery shopping services, as well as market research and merchandising companies, private investigation firms, and training organizations. MSPA member companies work with their clients to establish mechanisms to measure and improve levels of service.  For more information visit

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.