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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 info@intelli-shop.com 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 www.intelli-shop.com

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 www.benchmarkco.com.

IntelliShop & MSPA Help Shut Down Mystery Shopper Scam Attempts

Marketers of Mystery Shopper Scam Settle with FTC; Agree to Pay $850,000

Federal Trade Commission

Note: Ron Welty, President of IntelliShop, serves on the Board of Directors for the Mystery Shopping Providers Association ("MSPA").  The MSPA was instrumental in working with the FTC on this case

An operation that lured consumers with promises that they could earn big money as trained and certified "mystery shoppers " has agreed to pay $850,000 to settle charges of deceptive marketing and contempt.

Mystery shoppers are paid to shop or dine out and then provide reports about the experience. In March 2007, the Federal Trade Commission charged eight defendants -- the three companies Mystery Shop Link, LLC; Tangent Group, LLC; Harp Marketing Services, Inc.; and five individuals -- with violating the FTC Act in connection with a nationwide mystery shopping employment scam.

According to the FTC, the defendants claimed that MysteryShopLink.com was hiring mystery shoppers in local areas nationwide. The company ran help wanted ads in newspapers, and on radio and TV. Consumers who responded to the ads reached the defendants' telemarketers, who represented that MysteryShopLink.com had large numbers of available jobs and not enough shoppers to fill them. In exchange for a $99 fee, consumers were promised enough work to earn a steady full-time or part-time income as mystery shoppers. Instead, consumers received a worthless certification and access to postings for mystery shopping jobs controlled by other companies. Consumers had to apply for these mostly low-paying jobs, and had no advantage over anyone else who found the postings elsewhere on the Internet for free. Most consumers got no jobs and earned no money.

The FTC also charged five of the eight defendants -- Mystery Shop Link, LLC, Tangent Group, LLC, and Robin Larry Murphy, Andrew Holman, and Kenneth Johnson -- with contempt. The contempt charge alleged that Murphy violated the terms of a consent judgment in a prior telemarketing fraud case involving false promises of government jobs. The 1997 consent judgment barred Murphy from making material misrepresentations of fact while telemarketing, and required him to post a $100,000 bond. In addition to seeking contempt sanctions against Murphy, the FTC also alleged that co-defendants Mystery Shop Link, LLC, Tangent Group, LLC, Andrew Holman, and Kenneth Johnson were in contempt of the previous order because they all participated in running MysteryShopLink.com despite knowing about the prior consent judgment against Murphy.

The settlements announced today were reached with two separate groups of defendants. The first includes defendants Mystery Shop Link, LLC, Tangent Group, LLC, and their principals, Robin Larry Murphy, Andrew Holman, and Kenneth Johnson. This settlement resolves both the new case filed in 2007 and the contempt action. Under the settlement, the FTC will collect the proceeds of Murphy's $100,000 bond. The settlement also includes a $17.8 million judgment, which is suspended based on the defendants' inability to pay. The full judgment will be imposed if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition. This settlement prohibits all the defendants from making misrepresentations in the future. As a repeat offender, Murphy is permanently banned from telemarketing, except for non-deceptive sales to businesses of telecommunications equipment.
The second settlement includes defendants Harp Marketing Services, Inc., and its principals, Aiden Reddin and Marc Gurney. Harp Marketing was the primary outside telemarketing firm that handled consumer calls, and thus sales, for Mystery Shop Link. This settlement requires Harp and its owners to pay $750,000 in redress and prohibits them from making misrepresentations in the future. The Harp settlement also includes a suspended judgment of $6.8 million, the total amount of Mystery Shop Link sales made by Harp's telemarketers. The full amount of this judgment will be imposed if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.

Both settlements prohibit the defendants from collecting payments from Mystery Shop Link customers, and from transferring or benefitting from information about those customers. Both also contain record-keeping and reporting provisions to assist the FTC in monitoring the defendants' compliance.

The Commission vote authorizing the filing of the stipulated final orders in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division, Los Angeles, was 4-0. The orders were lodged on December 2, 2008.

NOTE: These stipulated final orders are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. A stipulated final order requires approval by the court and has the force of law when signed by the judge.

Copies of the complaint and stipulated final orders are available from the FTC's Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC's online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,500 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC's Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.

ABC’s Good Morning America Promotes Mystery Shopping to Consumers

ABC's Good Morning America recently profiled the mystery shopping industry as a legitimate way for consumers to earn extra money.  Mystery shopping, auditing and merchandising can be fun and provide consumers and their families with extra cash, goods and services, while at the same time helping companies provide their customers with a good experience.  Click here to see this story.

IntelliShop is widely recognized as a leading provider of customer experience improvement solutions and more than 150,000 consumers have placed their trust in us to be mystery shoppers, auditors and merchandisers.  If you are interested in shopping for us, please click here.