Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Telephone Mystery Shopping At Work

Employees and supervisors can hear the tone of the conversations

Lake Sunapee Bank ($670 million, Newport, New Hampshire) has taken its existing mystery shopping program up a notch, says Angie Deschenes, VP/Retail Banking.
“We’ve done in-person and telephone mystery shops for years, but new technology recently became available so that we could conduct recorded telephone mystery shops.”
The recorded mystery shops have allowed the bank to take a candid look at how employees sound on the phone.

Recordings help staff hear how they can improve

The bank’s recorded telephone shopping program began about two months ago in an effort to boost the usefulness of every shop.
“In some cases we had a discrepancy of how the shop went between the shopper and the employee,” she says.
Plus, the recorded mystery shops help employees judge their own performance.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to know how you sound on the phone,” says Deschenes.
“Maybe you need to be more energetic or sound more confident. The recorded mystery shop allows us to closely examine how we sound and learn from the shop.”
She says the bank contracts with Customer Perspectives (Hooksett, New Hampshire) for a certain number of shops per branch per year.
“I don’t know when the shops will occur, but we receive an e-mailed report from Customer Perspectives with details of the shop and each recorded phone conversation.”
Prior to launching the recorded phone mystery shops, the bank explained to employees why it was introducing this technology and then got each employee’s permission.
“Everyone signed a waiver. We explained that we would not share their shop with others and that it would be a one-on-one educational experience with their own supervisor.
“We wanted the employees to know that this would be strictly for training and reflection purposes and to help them deliver the best customer service possible.”
A typical waiver signed by employees is shown on the following page.

Recorded shops also help bank evaluate shoppers

Deschenes says another benefit of the recorded shops is that she can evaluate the techniques used by the vendor’s mystery shopper.
“I can determine if the shopper is savvy and understands financial products,” she says. “Knowing this allows me to request the same shopper to return.”
She adds that the recordings also provide an opportunity to review the shopper’s initial pitch.
“If I see that one shopper seems to be delivering the same scenario over and over again we can identify it and change that.”
Once she has reviewed a shop she forwards the conversation to the shopped employee’s supervisor.
“The supervisor reviews the shop and then schedules a one-on-one meeting with the employee to review the shop together.
“We’ve found that people are uncomfortable hearing their own voice but once they get past the initial shock, the employee has the opportunity to self critique.
“During the one-on-one meeting, the supervisor might ask the employee what he or she liked or didn’t like about the shop,” says Deschenes.
“We want the employee to be the one to critique and then the supervisor can help with any changes or solutions.”

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sales Increase With Surveys

Everyone talks a good game about trying to satisfy customers, but few business owners actually check whether they're hitting the mark.
There's a simple solution to that, of course. Start asking.
When conducted thoughtfully, and with appropriate follow-up, customer surveys can be your single most effective tool for growing sales and turning prospects and one-time buyers into loyal, repeat customers.
Perhaps you already know this and have done some surveying. If you aren't getting enough good feedback to make evaluations, you still need help.
See these tips below on how to produce meaningful customer surveys and then leverage the results to improve your business.

Why survey customers?
Most of the time, when customers become dissatisfied, they don't stick around long enough to complain. They vote with their feet and disappear. But if you learn something's going wrong and, better yet, can correct it, you have a chance to retain and improve the satisfaction level of a customer. More importantly, you can make sure the same mistake isn't repeated.
A recent analysis by Fred Reichheld, a Bain & Co. consultant and author of Loyalty Rules, found that even a 5% increase in customer retention rates results in a 25% to 95% increase in profits (depending on the business). It definitely pays off to keep customers happy enough to return.
The many other reasons to conduct satisfaction surveys, according to Jeff Miller, director of client relations at Kohn Communications, a Los Angeles executive coaching firm, include:
  • Your customers get an opportunity to think and talk about what you do for them, which underscores and articulates your value.
  • Small annoyances are aired and don't snowball into the kinds of problems that erode relationships.
  • You get a chance to identify your competitive differences and strengths in the marketplace.
  • Compared to other marketing efforts, such as parties, gifts, lunches and the like, customer surveys are extremely cost-effective and efficient.
Here are three steps to create effective customer surveys...

1. Choose the right timing for surveys. Do your homework here. Consid er how often your customers use your products and gauge your surveys accordingly. Restaurants, for example, often have comment cards at their tables or included with the bill. But let's say you run an event-planning business. Most clients will hire you once or twice a year or even every few years. So a monthly survey or a weekly e-mailed customer satisfaction form makes little sense. Instead, you want to tap your client's reactions directly after each event, and perhaps follow up six months later to reinforce the impression and keep the relationship active. In that case, you might include postage-paid survey postcards with the materials you give clients for events.

2. Ask the right questions. This is crucial. Take some time to think through the wording and goals of your survey. "Give customers open-ended questions," says Briana Marrah, senior account manager at Parker LePla, a Seattle marketing company." Ask questions that help you identify what customers value about you." Mike Avino did just that when he decided to mail surveys to prospects and clients as a marketing strategy. Avino owns a construction company in Long Island, N.Y., with about 15 employees and more than $4 million in annual revenues. He once did most of his business for the federal government, but in 2003 that dried up. So he decided to send out a questionnaire to try to drum up new clients. After doing research online, Avino sent a 20-item questionnaire, along with a self-addressed stamped reply envelope, to the top 25 architects in Long Island. He asked them to identify the greatest challenges about working with contractors, what problems architects most often encountered with contractors, what they liked and didn't like about construction companies, and more.He netted five responses. He followed those up with phone calls and, eventually, one-to-one meetings and lunches. Next, Avino expanded his list to a few hundred top architects in the New York metro area and, most recently, to a regional mailing for 600."We keep a database of potential clients in both Microsoft Access and Excel," he says. "We've used Publisher to create follow-on postcards. We also used Publisher to design our logo, letterhead, biz cards and brochure." Avino says he's consistently getting a 15% to 20% response. And it's very positive. "We're getting some really good info from our questionnaires and it's been a boon to marketing." Plus, he's landed a contract to pave roads in a local condominium community.

3. Plan the right follow-up. There's no point in mounting a survey if you don't follow through. Whether your survey was done via phone, e-mail or surface mail, you should call and personally thank each customer who responded. "Tell them how much you appreciate their efforts and time," says Kohn Communications' Miller. "Make sure you also tell them that you've heard their concerns and are making changes." And be prepared for results you may least expect. For example, Miller tells about an accountant who specialized in serving manufacturing companies. The accountant particularly prided himself on being knowledgeable about the industry and up-to-speed about his clients' problems and challenges. Yet results from a survey he sent out said otherwise. Clients loved him personally, but a whopping 90% thought he wasn't as knowledgeable as he should be about their business." And that question wasn't even on the survey," Miller says." Clients had to write it in." What was the upshot? The accountant joined a high-profile trade organization and began regularly showing up at events. He registered for a few industry seminars and classes. He also wrote some articles and got those published in trade journals that his clients read and respected. Soon enough, his survey feedback was terrific. Many owners avoid surveys because they worry it will turn up bad news. But if you get bad survey results, the good news is that you usually have something tangible that you can fix. If you keep losing customers, however, you'll eventually go out of business altogether.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

10 Steps to Perfect Customer Service

1.                  Know who is boss. You are in business to service customer needs, and you can only do that if you know what it is your customers want. When you truly listen to your customers, they let you know what they want and how you can provide good service. Never forget that the customer pays our salary and makes your job possible.
2.                  Be a good listener. Take the time to identify customer needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the customer is really saying. Listen to their words, tone of voice, body language, and most importantly, how they feel. Beware of making assumptions - thinking you intuitively know what the customer wants. Do you know what three things are most important to your customer? Effective listening and undivided attention are particularly important on the show floor where there is a great danger of preoccupation - looking around to see to whom else we could be selling to.
3.                  Identify and anticipate needs. Customers don't buy products or services. They buy good feelings and solutions to problems. Most customer needs are emotional rather than logical. The more you know your customers, the better you become at anticipating their needs. Communicate regularly so that you are aware of problems or upcoming needs.
4.                  Make customers feel important and appreciated. Treat them as individuals. Always use their name and find ways to compliment them, but be sincere. People value sincerity. It creates good feeling and trust. Think about ways to generate good feelings about doing business with you. Customers are very sensitive and know whether or not you really care about them. Thank them every time you get a chance. On the show floor be sure that your body language conveys sincerity. Your words and actions should be congruent.
5.                  Help customers understand your systems. Your organization may have the world's best systems for getting things done, but if customers don't understand them, they can get confused, impatient and angry. Take time to explain how your systems work and how they simplify transactions. Be careful that your systems don't reduce the human element of your organization.
6.                  Appreciate the power of "Yes". Always look for ways to help your customers. When they have a request (as long as it is reasonable) tell them that you can do it. Figure out how afterwards. Look for ways to make doing business with you easy. Always do what you say you are going to do.
7.                  Know how to apologize. When something goes wrong, apologize. It's easy and customers like it. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always win. Deal with problems immediately and let customers know what you have done. Make it simple for customers to complain. Value their complaints. As much as we dislike it, it gives us an opportunity to improve. Even if customers are having a bad day, go out of your way to make them feel comfortable.
8.                  Give more than expected. Since the future of all companies lies in keeping customers happy, think of ways to elevate yourself above the competition. Consider the following:
·                               What can you give customers that they cannot get elsewhere?
·                               What can you do to follow-up and thank people even when they don't buy?
·                               What can you give customers that is totally unexpected?
9.                  Get regular feedback. Encourage and welcome suggestions about how you could improve. There are several ways in which you can find out what customers think and feel about your services.
·                               Listen carefully to what they say.
·                               Check back regularly to see how things are going.
·                               Provide a method that invites constructive criticism, comments and suggestions.
10.              Treat employees well. Employees are your internal customers and need a regular dose of appreciation. Thank them and find ways to let them know how important they are. Treat your employees with respect and chances are they will have a higher regard for customers. Appreciation stems from the top. Treating customers and employees well is equally important.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Quick Stats About Mystery Shopping

According to Nation's Restaurant News, 70 percent to 80 percent of fast-food restaurants employ mystery shoppers. McDonald's has employed mystery shoppers since 2002, and 13,600 U.S. locations employ mystery shoppers to make one visit per month, per store. In exchange for a free meal, mystery shoppers take note of the front counter and drive-through, the speed of service, the accuracy of the order, and the cleanliness of the restaurant. They evaluate three menu items (a sandwich, fries and a drink) and the friendliness of the staff. When the shoppers get home, they fill out online reports and e-mail them to the companies.

Statistics have shown that as much as 90% of customers who are unhappy will not say anything directly to the service but default immediately to competition. Repeat business is perhaps one of the most important aspects to a thriving company and therefore mystery shopping helps to examine this.

A US government study shows that consumer research shows that one unhappy customer will tell 8-10 people of their bad experience.  Each of those 10 people, statistics show, will tell 5 more customers about the original bad experience. This means that 60 potential customers are actively turned away when one customer is not cared for by your employees.

Additionally after price the greatest factor between competitors is customer service. Mystery shopping helps monitor that service. Statistically speaking 69% of customers will leave a business due to poor customer service. Therefore, customer service is an incredibly important factor for businesses to measure.