04 March 2014

Is Your Secret Shopper Really That Secret?

We get it—you want to know how your employees are treating your customers. And not only is that a good thing, it’s imperative that you’re interested! We recently shared that customers are 11 times more likely to call to complain than they are to use the internet, which makes the experience your business provides over the phone your best opportunity to delight—or easiest opportunity to fail.

For many business owners, secret shoppers (or mystery shoppers) have been a routine part of learning more about the customer experiences their employees provide. In theory, secret shopping is great: a hired secret shopper calls your company pretending to be interested in a product or facing a problem; that secret shopper records his or her entire experience over the phone with customer service representatives; and then the secret shopper gives you that information. Slam dunk, right? Not exactly. Here’s why:

Your secret shopper is usually not a secret to your employees.

Most secret shoppers call from locations that aren’t local or in the area of your product/service. This is a dead giveaway of a secret shopper to the CSR, and she will immediately be able to “do the right thing.” Unfortunately, this may or may not be how your employee treats every call received. And you don’t have any way of knowing.

Secret shoppers don’t reflect the reality of your business’s customer experience.

In his article The Truth About Mystery Shopping, Sean Jordan says this about his company’s struggle with the secret shopper technique:

“The problem is not in the data that’s collected, of course, because these are all important things to know if you are trying to improve the consistency of a store’s service quality. The problem is in how the information is dealt with. (…) Mystery shops didn’t always reflect the reality of what was going on in my store, and were just as prone to outlier behavior as any single sampling technique might be. (To understand what I mean here, imagine that you’re blind and you’re reaching into a fish bowl filled with 500 jellybeans and 10 pieces of gravel. If you grab one of those pieces of gravel, you might make the erroneous assumption that the entire bowl is filled with rocks, even though the odds were high that you’d grab a jellybean.)”

The data that secret shoppers give doesn’t work hard enough.

Even if a CSR doesn’t recognize a secret shopper, a single conversation can’t tell you enough about the overall experience your employees are providing. It can skew your data in a bad light or a good one, and the implications of that false data could cost you in retention, training, and, ultimately, your bottom line. Of course, knowing something is better than knowing nothing.

The kicker is, you have an opportunity to know everything. But it’s not through secret shoppers.

A better option to secret shoppers? Call recording and evaluation.

Let’s face it, a trained customer service representative can spot a secret shopper from a mile away. That person can provide an exemplary experience in that call, knowing it will be recorded and reported, and then slack off on every single other call he answers. It’s not something you want to believe about your employees, but is it something you can risk not knowing? Call recording is always “on” whether your employees are or not, giving you an accurate and holistic picture of your operation as well as precise accounting for each individual.

With call evaluation, you can use your information all of the time. Quantitative, real-time data gives you reliable, fact-based evidence you can use to correct customer service issues, train employees and recognize those who are going beyond their job descriptions. You don’t have to worry about the bias of the secret shopper or the fake scenarios either. Real life interactions with real customers tell the stories of your customers exactly as they existed.

Another benefit? It’s an economical solution that can pay for itself. You won’t keep customers waiting (and potentially lose them!) while your employees handle fake calls. You won’t have to spend money to hire shoppers repeatedly to get a better (but still not great) idea of your customer interactions. And you will be able to pinpoint areas of improvement that can add up to a more robust bottom line.

Sound too good to be true? Start recording your customer calls and hear for yourself the benefits of call recording vs. a secret shopper. Don’t let another day go by with mediocre data. Give us a call or contact us about how we can help. We’d love to join you on your journey to satisfy customers.