An element of almost every retailer’s marketing strategy today is devoted to convincing potential customers that their stores offer more friendly, efficient and personalized service than its competitors. But do your customer contact personnel really live up to this image? Or might they be inadvertently undermining every advertising dollar you spend?
Clearly, your marketing dollars are ill spent if you fail to upgrade the capabilities of your customer contact personnel. Advertising promotes interested prospects, but these do not become or remain customers if your store provides inadequate service.
Since management has neither the luxury nor the anonymity to regularly observe the actual performance of customer service personnel, how can you be sure they are routinely conveying the appropriate image to their customers? After all, your marketing strategy is only as good as your personnel are!
Many retailers attempt to upgrade quality service via training programs but fail to include a system of information feedback. If an investment in employee performance is crucial to your success, only a continuous, systematic evaluation of your training efforts will protect that investment.
Objective measurement of the quality of your service delivery, as well as your training efforts, is as difficult as it is vital. Although sales statistics are useful, there are too many variables to isolate quality of service. Customer surveys are also informative, but they can be both costly and time consuming. The alternative – “shopping” – is a unique and relatively objective tool of measurement that is remarkably free of these constraints.
In “shopping”, (sometimes called “mystery shopping”), trained and supervised “shoppers” actually engage in typical transactions with customer contact personnel and then rate specific attributes from a customer’s perspective. These include such traits as:
• friendliness • attitude • courtesy • product knowledge • appearance • sales ability
The ratings are done in a manner that allows easy comparisons between employees, shifts, locations, and periods of time. This provides important data about the effectiveness of your employee selection and training, thus giving you a built-in, objective and systematic feedback loop.
Comprehensive shopping audits can help you determine the effectiveness of your internal marketing strategies so that you may upgrade them, thereby enhancing your image, your service, and your market share. You will, in effect, be minimizing human “turn-offs” and thereby keeping the promises of satisfaction implicit in your service offering.
by Judith Ann Hess, Customer Perspectives