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Mystery Shopping News - Customer Service TV Talks


Money Talks TV by Gina Germani

Have you ever been in the grocery check-out bagging your own stuff while two or three store clerks stand not too far away talking loudly about taking their upcoming 10-minute break or when their shifts end for the day?

Or worse, they’re having a critical discussion with the clerk who’s ringing you up about the last customer who just seconds before left the store? You might smile at them while they make snide remarks about that customer, but you're actually vowing loudly in your head that you’ll never go back. And, no doubt, so do a lot of other customers.

Losing Winn-Dixie
Case in point: Winn-Dixie supermarkets.

Several months ago, I made that vow I'd never go back to Winn-Dixie. I was going to switch to Publix just a couple blocks away. It's an older, more cramped and physically unappealing grocery store. But the experience as a customer is a 180-degree difference. A clerk in every aisle to answer your questions or guide you to the product you’re trying to find. Store workers who don't stand idly about chatting while watching you do their job. If they’re not smiling when you approach them, they’re smiling when you leave them.

Publix doesn't necessarily have a better selection or even better prices than Winn-Dixie. But I feel a whole lot better spending $150 in Publix than I do at Winn-Dixie. And apparently, so do other former Winn-Dixie customers.

In preparation for this TV news story on customer service and secret shopping, I did some comparative research on Winn-Dixie and Publix, among other stores with markedly different customer service philosophies. Sure enough Winn-Dixie’s bottom line suffers huge.

In fact, if I were an employee at W-D, I wouldn’t be smiling at customers either. The store chain has announced it will lay off 10,000 of its workers over the next year and will close or sell 156 of its 1,073 stores in 12 states. Sales are $12 billion with a recent net loss of $77 million.

Oddly enough, W-D's head honchos blame their failure on competition largely from Wal-Mart Superstores and, in part from, you guessed it, Publix.

Publix Wins with Customer Satisfaction
Now, take the smaller Publix supermarket chain with only 801 stores in five states. Its sales last year were $4 billion above W-D at $16 billion. Publix has also been honored as one of Fortune’s "100 Best Companies to Work for in America."

Publix is also rated six points higher than the industry standard in the American Customer Satisfaction Index, and Winn-Dixie continues its slide as one of the lower-rated in that index.

Does W-D see a correlation between waning customer service and waning profits? Spokespeople say no, but they’re "aware of the possibility."

Cheaper to Keep 'Em
Similarly, consider why Lowe’s home improvement stores have walloped Home Depot in the last couple of years. Again refer to the ACSI. In several media reports, Lowe’s cites customer service philosophy as its winning edge, while Home Depot has been focusing on self-checkout gizmos and inventory management, rather, it appears, than focusing on the quaint idea of customer loyalty.

But this is not about picking on Home Depot or Winn-Dixie, although it is rather satisfying to some degree. This is about how businesses lose profits when they lose people. While there may be some debate among marketing researchers about the correlation between satisfied customers and company sales, there seems to be overwhelming agreement that it is a whole lot less expensive to keep existing customers happy than it is to try to bring new ones in.

According to Victor Hunter, author of Business to Business Marketing: Creating a Community of Customers, it can be 30 to 40 times more expensive to acquire new customers than it is to manage existing customers. A 5% increase in overall customer retention equates to a 25% to 55% increase in the profitability of a business.

The Only Edge You Might Have
Mike Albert, president and founder of Satisfaction Services Inc., a mystery shopping service, agrees that offering a good customer experience is golden.

"If our clients understand that or execute that in the process of giving you their product or service, then they don’t have to spend money to advertise to remind you that they’re there so you’ll go back again," Albert says.

It’s the perception that a customer has about a business that can help foster customer loyalty or retention, Albert says. Today, he says, businesses have prime locations, which naturally, and conveniently, attract customers. These businesses might all have the same products and same services at the same prices.

"So, the only edge you might have over your competitors is customer perception," Albert points out. "If you, as a customer, felt good about having lunch at XYZ, well, you’re going to remember XYZ restaurant the next time you’re hungry."

Satisfaction Services has been in business more than 10 years providing service evaluations and solutions to its clients all over the world, both large and small. The philosophy is positive reinforcement, Albert says, by recognizing the people who are doing things right, not focusing on what a company is doing wrong.

Mystery Shopping is No Free Lunch
Part of the process of identifying what is right in a business may involve mystery or secret shoppers.
Albert’s company is among many service evaluation companies that recruit consumers as mystery shoppers to patronize stores or service locations of a client company’s business and then report to people like Albert with a summary of the experience.

Yes, you do get paid for your time and you do get reimbursed for your expenses. Sometimes you might get to keep whatever product, i.e., clothing or other goods, it is you buy during the shopping experience. Sometimes you don’t. Evaluation services’ terms and conditions vary, and they vary from job to job. But will you make loads of money "getting paid to shop" as some advertising gimmicks on the Internet claim? No.

Secret shopping evaluator services have clients in all aspects of business, from hospitals to hotels and restaurants to amusement parks.

"You can actually lease a car for a month or two and they’ll pay for all the expenses of that," Borrelli says.

So, if you’d like to get your two cents in about how a business does its business, then you might consider becoming a mystery shopper. But again, it’s no free lunch. An agency like Satisfaction Services expects you to turn in a comprehensive evaluation that requires what Albert describes as a "re-live of the experience."

"Being a critic,” he says, “is not part of it."

Still interested? If so, Satisfaction Services Inc. asks you to fill out this form. Folks wanting to sign up should be aware that if you call Satisfaction Services for information or to sign up, you'll only be directed back to their website.

Bottom line? Public relations and customer satisfaction are not just warm and fuzzy terms used in business to sugar coat a company's standard line. They are big business— either for the good or bad. It’s the business’s choice. Money Talks a publication of J & G Productions, Inc.

Press Release : News, Articles about Customer Service : Mystery Shopping Motivational Speaker Mike Albert : Mystery Shopping Franchise Opportunity


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Some of the Services we offer as a leading Mystery Shopping Company: Secret Shoppers - Mystery Diners - IVR - Telephone Surveys - Guest Surveys - Exit Surveys - Comment Cards and Customer Satisfaction Programs - Guest Service Checks - Secret Shopper Programs


Customer Service Speaker Mike Albert founder Mystery Shopping Satisfaction Services

Loyal customers are built from great customer service. Learn from your customers perspective, your guests perception of your services delivered through our mystery shopping services.
Mike Albert, founder, Satisfaction Services Inc. The Mystery Shopping company is a keynote speaker on the guest experience.


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