10 Aug 2015, 12:45 — 6 min read
The ability to measure, monitor and gauge the actual experience a customer undergoes is now a business imperative and a great way to lay the foundation for sustainable competitive differentiators. Retail CEOs often bemoan the fact that despite elaborate mystery shopping programme in place, they aren’t able to understand the reason for customer attrition. As organizations continue to grapple with getting a fix on what really drives customer behavior, it is becoming increasingly apparent that traditional methods like the C-sat survey or mystery shopping have their own limitations.
Customer by proxy?
Mystery shoppers, by definition, tend to be people who have the time and the inclination to shop (Narvaez, 2006). In that sense, they are not ‘real’ customers. Real customers like to be heard. Hearing them by proxy is just not the same thing. It may seem like the real thing, but is not. Real customers have specific objectives when they interact with an organization. They have a specific ‘need’ that drives them to perform certain actions. This need has to be catered to and satisfied well by the organization. Real customers have real stress points. A mother of bawling twins, who is battling time and hunger would have vastly different experience expectations from lunch at a restaurant as opposed to a mystery shopper who perhaps has neither the pressure nor any decision driver other than fulfilling the assignment on hand. It is nearly impossible to simulate such pressure, thus for a mystery shopper the customer journey is not representative of that of a real-life consumer.
Mystery shopping and C-Sat are ‘operational’ in focus.They seek to find out things like: Have customers been greeted well? How much time did they have to wait before being served? They are not designed to measure how the customer fares on the experience journey, which touch points enhance that experience and which act as detractors. Organisations offer a brand promise to their customers. Implicit in it is also the promise of experience. If experience has to be benchmarked, it has to be based on the stated brand promise; customer stated and unstated needs and competitor current and future offerings. A good experience gauging mechanism will take these into account. Mystery shopping or customer satisfaction scoring being operational in focus are not designed to measure this.
The bias effect studies
By Stead & Zinkhan (1986) and Zinkhan and Stoiadin (1984) found that in a department store setting, men tend to get service priority over women, and style of dress and gender interact to influence service priority. In another study, waiters and waitresses, preferred serving men and saw women customers as less friendly and harder to serve, but customers saw waitresses as more friendly than waiters (Hall, 1993). Given, the variety of bias that affects raters and the people being rated, the probability that the mystery shopping programme represents the entire customer base seems low.
It’s about perceptions
According to an article titled “Want to perfect your company’s service?” published in the Harvard Business Review, “In any service encounter—from a simple pizza pickup to a complex, long-term consulting engagement—perception is reality. That is, what really matters is how the customer interprets the encounter”. Managing perceptions is critical in an environment where loyalty to a brand or even to a product is short-lived. A sub-par experience is most likely to be forgiven for a brand that is adept at managing perceptions. To do so, deep insight is required into the customer, not something that standard methodologies of customer satisfaction or mystery shopping bring to the table. Understanding how a customer interpreted her encounters at each touch point she came in contact with is the key.
Additionally, segmenting customers on the basis of mere demography or psychography is old hat. Today, within the same demography, you would have customers with vastly varying experiential needs. Mapping such wide ranging experiential needs is critical if specific, customized customer journeys have to be designed. This is only possible if the experience for distinct experimental segments are audited, scored and mapped. To get deeper insights into experiences customer truly value, organizations need to choose the right tools.
As competition intensifies and markets get increasingly borderless, functional differentiation can only take you so far; it is customer experience that will differentiate. Shouldn’t this then be what smart marketers and their organizations need to capture, work upon, improve and redesign if required? Designing, executing and tracking differentiated customer experiences are critical competencies that organizations therefore must develop and hone.
Organizations need to start capturing the emotions, thoughts and actions of a customer. Getting that kind of insight into the experience is best addressed by a Customer Experience Audit, the output of which would be an Experience score. In addition to keeping a count, it provides detailed insights into the experiences that are important to the customer and your performance against these important experiential attributes. It is a true measure of how well you are able to give your customers experience that matter to them.
Article Source: STOrai Magazine