July 17, 2018 /
Comments Off on Why I drove 1,500 miles for $200

Why I drove 1,500 miles for $200

Someone asked me a great question the other day.  What is the most ridiculous thing you have ever done for a customer?  I told her the following story.

Imagine this.  It is the day after Christmas (Boxing Day).  You have a client deadline due at the end of month.  It can’t get done the normal way.  Just can’t.  What do you do?

This once happened to me in my Mystery Shopping Business.  We had three Mystery Shops left to be done for a client with 900 stores.

The stores were 2,446 kilometres (1,519) miles away.  I now believe that what I did on that day, helped changed my business.

I rented a car, and drove for two days to get the Mystery Shops completed – then flew home.

This post is not to boast, but something interesting happened after I completed the mission.

Did the customer notice?  No.

Did we tell the customer the lengths we went to, in order to complete the assignments?  No.

So why do it?

At the time I did it simply because it ‘had to be done’.  But I think there is a better reason.

I didn’t realise at the time, but I was building culture.

Service is about meeting the Customers Expectations, very single time.  My staff in the office now know how important it is to do this.

They know it just ‘has to be done’.  They no there are no excuses.

If you are in a customer service leadership position (and that’s everyone), be occasionally extreme.

Don’t be extreme in exceeding expectations.  Be extreme in meeting them.  Culture will follow.

Have you had a similar experience?

(From my 2011 archives)

June 19, 2018 /
Comments Off on Mixing apples and oranges – NPS and Mystery Shopping

Mixing apples and oranges – NPS and Mystery Shopping

We all try to save money wherever we can. The problem is when we just go for the cheapest option and only get part of the story.

A dangerous new trend is to sacrifice Mystery Shopping for Net Promoter Scores. They do different things, and like apples and oranges, they are different but must live in the same fruit bowl.

Customer Insights

Net Promoter Scores (NPS) is a simple, cheap way to measure the Voice of the Customer (VOC). But just as Adam and Eve couldn’t resist the temptation of the juicy apple on the tree, nor should NPS be seen as the solution to everything.

NPS can tell you about customer sentiment and provide some wonderful real-life feedback from real customers. What could go wrong with getting customer insights?

Dave Griffin, our Head of VOC has built a implementing NPS. Dave sees it like this:

“Over the past decade I’ve seen too many NPS programs fail because clients overreached conclusions, or were drowned in unusable data. Both outcomes are possible but can avoided with good design and use of complimentary tools such as Mystery Shopping” 

NPS gives you a lot of data, but that data is limited (only one or two questions). So it can’t pinpoint operational problems, and it doesn’t inform you how to fix the problem. You need some operational insight.

Operational insights

The strength of Mystery Shopping is that it is deep, though you get fewer data. Mystery Shopping can tell you exactly what’s happening through the whole customer experience. It’s a great diagnostic tool by showing you exactly what to fix. e.g. staff are unpacking boxes and not serving customers.

Mystery Shopping can also measure things which are not important to the customer, but strategically important to the company. For example, a customer will not mark down your NPS score if your staff didn’t upsell a belt when selling trousers, but strategically this could be a core aspect of the store’s profitability.

Mystery Shopping is also strong in measuring asynchronous activities.

Synchronous – If the staff member is polite, you mark them positively, if they are rude, you mark them negatively.

Asynchronous – If you are offered a business class upgrade you mark the experience positively, but if you don’t receive the business class upgrade you don’t mark the experience negatively. Similarly, if you are upsold a probiotic to settle your belly when filling an antibiotic script, you rate the experience highly, but not negatively if there is no upsell. It’s the same for the upsell of a belt when you are buying pants.

Have your cake and eat it

Combine your operational and consumer insights by doing both.

Case Study 1 – Gym membership – a complete picture.

A gym franchise is concerned about sales and retention (like everyone). They are concerned about the sales conversion rates and concerned that customers are leaving more than they’d like.


Use Mystery Shopping to measure the phone sales process and the first visit/tour. Focus on whether staff are:

  • highlighting the power features (eg newest equipment)
  • collecting contact details on the phone
  • following up after the call/visit

Use NPS to measure the existing customer experience to plug retention.

What themes are emerging from the customer comments on negative scores? e.g. dirty, packed, uninterested staff.

Case Study 2- Homewares store – save budget

A homewares company had a budget of $4,000.00 per month for Mystery Shopping. But they wanted to shave costs and were concerned that Mystery Shopping didn’t tell the whole picture.

We advised them not to sacrifice all the Mystery Shopping budget for NPS. A lower targeted Mystery Shop program with lower volumes AND NPS was implemented for $3,000.00 per month, saving 25% of budget. Contact me if you want to know how. (Hint – we target the Mystery Shops based on locations with low NPS scores)

NPS and Mystery Shopping are as different as apples and oranges, but they can mix well together in a nice salad.

April 30, 2018 /
Comments Off on The State of Retail Lending in Australia 2018 – Infographic

The State of Retail Lending in Australia 2018 – Infographic

Australian financial institutions are under intense scrutiny as a result of the Banking Royal Commission.

There is an obvious important legal compliance element, but the story doesn’t end there. Customer experience audits are equally important.

We’ve put some of the legal and customer facing statistics together in the form of a customer journey.

Did you know that during the initial interview:

  • only 52% of customers are told about upfront fees,
  • 44% were offered a larger loan than requested, and only
  • 40% of customers are given a credit guide.

To find out more about the state of Banking, click on the image to download.

To discuss conducting a private study, please contact us click here.







March 20, 2018 /
Comments Off on Don’t ask stupid and inappropriate survey questions

Don’t ask stupid and inappropriate survey questions

You know the story. At the end of a call, the company asks you to hang on the line to answer a brief survey.

Makes sense right?

It’s almost free, it’s from a real customer, it’s immediate, and you can get a lot of data.

But nothing is free. Either you pay in dollars, or pay in bad data.

Often, these short (NPS style) surveys are embedded after the wrong interactions such as a request for an insurance certificate, a change of address, or a query about an invoice.

In those situations, is it really appropriate to ask whether you would recommend us to your friends or family?

Recommend only when appropriate

I’m not going to recommend an insurance company based on a minor query. Recommending something to family or friend is a big deal, it affects your reputation.

Who recommends insurance companies anyway? Who recommends airlines or coffee shops? Even if you do, what are you recommending?

Now we have to get this right. Everyone knows (or should know) you can’t judge based on a minor interaction. Let’s get real, survey questions are often asked to judge the service provided by the staff member. But when a customer is answering the survey, they are judging all the other stuff that happened in the encounter, stuff that the employee has no control over (including call wait time).

Insurance company example

You won’t recommend an insurance company based on how someone served you for a minor request. So why should the staff member be judged on the backend systems?  What if the customer got bounced around for 20 minutes on a call loop before getting to a wonderful efficient employee who gets scored zero because of the phone tag?

Airline example

You won’t recommend an airline based on the staff service. You might give your preference based on your own price or routes. You may even share horror stories or conversely, the warm glow after an upgrade. But stories and justification are different to recommendations. Imagine having a great crew on a short flight, but the check-in was a disaster due to a power outage, the flight delayed due to storms and your luggage lost? None of it is in the airline’s control, but the wonderful flight crew will probably still score closer to zero than ten.

Coffee shop example

Ah coffee shops.  You might think a coffee shop is the perfect place for recommendations, and it is, but the recommendation is not for the service. You might suggest someone visit a coffee shop because of the awesome coffee or quiet areas, or location, but almost never due to the service. A coffee shop with great coffee and ordinary service will outscore awesome service and bad coffee. Better still, great service and great coffee.

What’s right for your Brand?

So use surveys to measure the appropriate thing for the brand.

If the insurance company is all about being the ‘experts’ then ask about that. If you are a cut price provider trying to get people off the phones, ask about that. For example:

For the ‘expert brand’, “After the interaction, would you consider the staff experts in insurance?”, or

for the cut-price brand, “If you have this query in the future, would you try to resolve it online or call again?”

Make the questions appropriate and consistent with the situation and your strategy.

A cut-price airline might ask “Did the on-board staff have time to offer you a snack for purchase?”

A full service airline might ask “Did the on-board staff make you feel like a special customer?”. You may ask business class passengers whether they felt like they were being treated as a VIP.

A coffee shop may ask “How would you rate the quality of your coffee today?” and, “Apart from the coffee and food, how would you rate the service provided by staff today?”

You have to narrow in to WHAT you are trying to measure, and WHY you are measuring it. Sounds cliche, but one survey question cannot simplistically answer all questions for all organisations in all situations.

One size does not fit all. Never does, stop taking shortcuts.

March 05, 2018 /
Comments Off on Customer Survey Fraud

Customer Survey Fraud

There is a new way to collect customer service data. And it’s a scam. Be careful.

In many countries, you can now ask a simple question when the customer swipes their credit card.

“Would you recommend us to your friends or family?” Push 1-9.

Sounds perfect and cheap.

I recently came across this in a place called the Reject Shop when looking for fermentation bottles (another story).

I was in and out of the store in 2 minutes. Hardly enough time to form an opinion, or for anything interesting to happen. But, ignoring the ridiculousness of the question. Here’s the problem.

The staff member swiped my card, and IMMEDIATELY pushed 9 as the survey question popped up on the terminal.

I was looking for it but otherwise would never have seen it pop up. Guess what number the staff member pushed? Nine. Great job team!

The same happened to me when I bought a car. The Salesperson offered to complete the manufacturer survey on my behalf, in exchange for a free tank of fuel.

Don’t be conned. There are great alternatives, except they cost a little more than ‘free’.

Don’t base important business decisions on fraudulent data.

March 01, 2018 /
Comments Off on When to use customer feedback, and when not.

When to use customer feedback, and when not.

It’s tempting to ask for customer feedback and then make strategic decisions.  The problem is, you will probably make the wrong decisions.

A customer might still give a 10/10 for service although your staff were NOT wearing a name badge, they did NOT close the sale, they did NOT upsell, and they did NOT mention the loyalty program.

Profit driving activities are usually invisible to the customer, so they won’t tell you if they were missed.

The table below explains where customer feedback is appropriate, and when it’s not.

Don’t be myopic. Get the whole picture.


Complaints are uncontrollable,
and in fact, the number of complaints is a base measurement in itself,
regardless of their contents. However, rarely are complaints categorised or
even tracked over each customer contact point.


Complaints and customer
feedback forms are not regular because they are received at the discretion of
the customer.


Complaints tend to be subjective,
especially as a bad event can be over-exaggerated and taint the whole
relationship. Customers often get “on a roll” when they start complaining and
bring up as many trivial points as possible to “make a point.”


Complaints and feedback
forms tend to be specific about one event and do not address anything else
that happened.


Complaints and feedback
forms tend to be more verbose than binary. It’s difficult to measure words.


Complaints are directly
actionable when they reference an event. If a customer directly complains
about an employee, it is not difficult to address the issue with the employee


Complaints and feedback
cards are emotional and therefore open to exaggeration, compromising the
accuracy. For example, a wait time of two minutes can be “honestly”
remembered as five minutes.

Staff Interaction

Complaints and feedback
are an excellent way to capture the staff interaction as it pertains to a
particular event.


Complaints and feedback
can predict the future direction of sales in a limited way, but not the
quantity. Decreasing complaints may indicate sales will increase, and vice
versa. But they can’t predict by how much.


This form of data
collection is very unstructured and therefore can reveal surprisingly trends that
were unforeseen (e.g., a spike in complaints about a promotion not being

Consumer Insight

Complaints are usually
so mixed with emotion that the emotion buries any insights towards buying

Feedback forms can give
an indication of future customer behaviour if the questions are asked
directly and correctly. But the answers must be treated cautiously. Asking
whether you would be willing to buy in six months may sound like a valid
question, but it gives no assurance that it will actually happen.

Operational Insight

Complaints and feedback
give direct operational insights but only in pockets. They often don’t report
the 99% of operations that are happening quietly, and efficiently.

Real Customer

Feedback is provided by
real customers who have transacted with the brand.

Customer Conversation

Customer conversations
tend to be centred on the initial customer contact and a single response. The
conversations rarely go beyond those two events.

Brand Insight

Very little brand
insight is provided because the communication tends to be for a single pocket
of events for a small group of people. It does not provide any brand insight
to the majority of people who didn’t have problems.

Feedback forms may be
designed to give some brand feedback, but care should be taken in taking the
answers too seriously because customers may not share the truth about their

Right Context

Complaints are received
within the context of a real situation relative to the situation.

Feedback forms are
usually broad and not in the context of a real situation. However, modern
feedback loops through email and apps can now allow more immediacy and data
within the context of a real transaction.

Lifetime Measurement

These measurements are
not lifetime measurements and tend to be limited to a specific event.

July 18, 2017 /
Comments Off on How customer service accidentally gets low priority

How customer service accidentally gets low priority

Everyone goes on about giving “great service”. But it still doesn’t have the profile of other job roles, especially at executive level.

Look at these job roles on Linkedin.

No mention of Customer Service. Scroll further.

Nope — further?

Nope — surely it’s in alphabetical order. Must be on the next screen right?

Again No.

Linkedin and so many other companies just don’t look at Customer Service or Customer Experience as a profession. Legal is, Arts and Design is, even Support is a role. But Customers? No room for them or the role.

Oh yeh sure, everyone serves the customer or someone who does right? Sure, but that’s a cop out which minimises the role by implying that “Oh yeh, everyone does a that (read — a bit of that)”. IF everyone does it, no one is responsible.

If you want staff to take service seriously, then make is a serious cross divisional role.

July 17, 2017 /
Comments Off on Case study — 2 reasons your website might be broken.

Case study — 2 reasons your website might be broken.

Case study — 2 reasons your website might be broken.

If your website works, how can it be broken? Simple, it pushes people away for two reasons: 1) Frustration, and 2) Fear

Here is a real example of www.join.me, a Webinar hosting software platform. We see this often in our website Mystery Shops, and in this case I’m a real life customer.

Here is a typical website enquiry as it might happen.

1. Does it look modern?

You might look at the home page and decide, yep, it’s worth more than a two second look. Pass step 1.

How much does it cost?

Straight to it, because you might be comparing other companies.

All good, I can see it says “Pricing”.

So far so good.

But now the wheels fall off.

If you have a technical question, like I had, you look for either a chat, or an email — especially if it’s not urgent.

Hmm, you might notice the main menu doesn’t have a Contact Us. So scroll to the bottom.

Ok — a little clumsy but we’re getting there.

And it takes you to another page with things missing.

No I don’t want to call, I want to email. It’s not that urgent.

Now keep in mind, I live in Australia, so this usually turns me off because of cost, and time zone issues. But — click and see where it goes.

There are a few problems here.

The pricing was quoted in Australian dollars (feels local), but there is no Australian phone number.

And who knows what the time is in the US and Canada? I won’t call.

But I persevere and click on “Click here for more phone numbers”

Frustration is in full swing.

Oh here we go, an Australian number.

I still don’t really want to call, but hey, I’ll try.

Notice the subtle mistake here? The company is LogMeIn. I was enquiring about something Join Me. It’s a little confusing, but most people wouldn’t notice.

It’s just plain lazy. Clearly I was diverted to another corporate website and they are trying to be efficient. But it looks different, and the name is different. Very sloppy branding at best.

And predictably, I get offerred with 4 call options and an American voice. Clearly it’s not local but pretends to be. Would be better to tell me it’s a local number diverting to the US. But hey, I’m still patient.

The 4 options are 4 product names. I don’t even know which one is the one I’m calling about. I know nothing about this company or their products.

I work out it’s option 3 and get a voice saying the office is closed and to call back in business hours (despite it being 3:30pm in Sydney).


Now the fear

Remember I said there are two factors driving sales away? Frustration (tick) and Fear.


Yes Fear. I’m scared that if I sign up for this company, this is the terrible service I’ll get. I’m not going to risk it.

Yes the website works. But no it doesn’t.

It’s hard to switch off when you do this for a living. Just sharing what a fresh pair of eyes can find. And I’ve only skimmed the surface. Enough freebies for joinme.com (or whatever they are called).

If you want fresh eyes on your website through Mystery Shopping, contact me here

July 14, 2017 /
Comments Off on The Future of Customer Service 14 July 2017

The Future of Customer Service 14 July 2017

1. The power of Mobile

Google have released research showing that 89% if people are likely to recommend a brand after a positive brand experience. More here

Implication: Mobile is everything. All the data is pointing the same direction. Overinvest.

2. Augmented Reality is 5 minutes away for retailers

Facebook (through Instagram) recently introduced face filters to let people add all manner of things on their face, like glasses.

The glasses are superimposed on your head and they move with your head, like in the video. Sure there are fun applications for kids, but imaging the application for retailers. More here Augmented reality is a short step from retail

Implication: Keep an eye out for opportunities to use other Augmented Reality applications. Practive the technologies to know them, or you miss out.

3. Live prompting for Sales staff using A.I.

Israeli startup gong.io is has “a real-time processor that is listening to and “reading” all the audio from interactions as they take place. Then it uses language processing and speech recognition to make suggestions on the fly to help steer the conversation. There is also a secondary analytical service that processes the call, along with many others, to parse the conversation and figure out what is going on later for more detailed training and reports.”

Imagine having a trainer in the ear of sales staff every minute of the day, at no cost.

More here

Implication: Live on-the-spot training is being redefined to be even more granular.

July 14, 2017 /
Comments Off on Augmented reality is a short step from retail

Augmented reality is a short step from retail

Facebook (through Instagram) recently introduced face filters to let people add all manner of things on their face, like glasses.

The glasses are superimposed on your head and they move with your head, like in the video.

Sure there are fun applications for kids, but imaging the application for retailers.

You could superimpose different colour shapes and shades for:

Plastic surgery
Hair styles
Hair colour
Spray tans
Dental work

The list goes on.

Go further, imagine your new car in your driveway.
Imagine a new lounge in your house.
Imagine a complete formal outfit.

Sure the technology is not quite at the commercial application level yet, but it will follow quickly, because that’s where the money is.

Snapchat did this recently with location filters. Shortly after introducing local filters for free, Snapchat started selling them. As with most free products, there is also a paid version which will give you more flexibility and power.

So, how do you stay on top on these technologies?

1) Use them
2) Look at the “What’s new” pages
3) Imagine your product in that space
4) Do a youtube search to see how you can use it (even if you’re a luddite)
5) Start with experimentation.

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