Can Mystery Shopping Customer Raise Service levels?

In this cut throat world of high competition, how does a service organization maintain its service quality?

Mystery shopperBeyond doubt, it is the service level which drive’s the ultimate bottom line of any organization i.e. profits. Is the organization delivering the promise, after enabling the promise through internal marketing and setting the promise through external marketing?

The feedback forms that we fill in when we fly that glitzy airline, or shop in a supermarket store are good examples of the efforts service organization put in to maintain the service quality cycle. Customer Feedback forms sent to exclusive and privileged customers (for example, by leading hotel chains) are yet another method to judge the delivery of promise.

I would like to share my personal experience of working as a Customer Service Manager in Multinational Express Logistics & Freight Company in Chennai Depot, India, few years ago.

When I joined the organization, I was pleasantly introduced to a Quality Auditing and Monitoring system for Customer Service in Place for the first time. What was this? Mystery Shopping; carried out by an independent centralized agency. When you hear this term what comes to your mind? A shopping bag with some mysterious products? No, it was a process with the objective to improve the internal customers i.e. the employee customer service awareness.

The aim was to provide my organization, through the tool of questionnaires and detailed narratives, an unbiased opinion of how they are perceived by the customer. The idea was also to get more realistic picture of how the customers perceive the company.

Let’s look at the result in first quarter. The mystery shopping scores of Customer Satisfaction Index for my depot was the lowest; about 55% in the country, when I joined the organization, whereas the desired level was 95%. And here we were competing with the top depot which scored about 94 % consistently.

It was like looking into a mirror and I was reminded of the saying “Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is fairest of them all”. In our case, the mirror came up with the ugly picture of our service delivery and reflected the bottle of woes our poor customers were facing day in day out! Call handling – poor, low product knowledge, lack of empathy, lack of ownership. All but the final nail in the coffin destined towards graveyard of poor customer service.

On the other of end of the spectrum of monitoring the customer service levels, was the Customer Service Feedback form sent out by the Centralized Marketing department to all the Top A category customers. This gave us a very rosy picture of our service quality levels with only few areas of concern!

We were in a catch 22 situation, do we listen to the voice of our privileged customer who give us feedback annually or to the independent monitoring agency who are auditing our services (without our being aware of the same) over a period. The fact that this was part of the ISO standardization process, made our task simple.

I realized that we had a situation, wherein my customer service depot had to listen to the voice of the Mystery Shopping Agency and confirm to the national standards of call handling. Immediately fire-fighting measures were undertaken – namely Skills specific training, Motivation, Product updates to all the new recruits. And a refresher course for the senior customer care specialists including me.

Was there a turnaround? Yes, our depots Mystery Shopping average score went up to 91% in the next quarter and consistent average of 90+ % in the subsequent quarters. This was also reflected in our spectacular growth of the Premium Products target achievement which was the bread & butter of our customer service department. The weekly customer call complaint log also reduced.

We were well on our way towards excellence in Customer Service and Satisfaction Index of our customers. All courtesy of the magic of “Mystery shopping”.

I am true a “True Raving Fan” to quote Dr. Ken Blanchard, of this amazing tool. Are you?

About the Author

Lip Das is Personality Development & Management Trainer of The Air Hostess Academy, New Delhi, India.

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