The first time I lifted a programme from the B2C world and implemented it in a B2B environment must have been about 15 years ago while managing Marketing and Channel Management Europe, Middle East and Africa at Avaya. At that time, the chosen programme – Secret Shopper or Mystery Shopping – was quite expensive, and there was a significant internal sales job needed to convince the rest of management and selected channel partners to participate. Once done, the results helped us direct many of our sales, marketing and operational programmes with channel partners, eased the sales strategy switch from hardware based PBX sales to VOIP and helped us reach our goal of being #1 in the Gartner Magic Quadrant in three years.
About three years ago, we dusted off the programme and put it to good use seeing if companies are easily found by netnew buyers and whether or not those companies are capable of selling to those buyers once they are found and have interested the buyer. Since we’ve started, the programme has been gaining momentum and we’ve shopped hundreds of companies globally in multiple languages. Secret Shopping has been positively viewed by most and we’ve identified customer acquisition, customer lifecycle management, buying abandonment, sales operations and performance and customer experience benchmarks that include the identification and classification of common pitfalls along the buying experience, triggers for enabling the creation of the optimal customer experience, and an extensive collection of best practices, which companies can use to deploy excellent customer experience standards. We’ve even launched a Certification programme.
The Secret Shopper Programme is a sales impact tool for B2B companies who want to ensure they are offering the highest level of quality customer experience. According to the renowned industry research leader Forrester, there is a clear correlation between superior customer experience and superior revenue growth. Companies run this programme when they are highly innovative, have new or evolving sales teams and/or when new services are launched.
Here are five things we’ve learned. Some may sound simple, but they came up time and time again …
- Companies see real value in offering excellent customer experiences to buyers. Unfortunately, buyers do not agree that their buying experiences are as wonderful as companies think they are. From our research, only about 10% of buyer experiences meet their satisfaction levels – and with good reason. Companies are moving quickly these days to remain competitive, onboard new programmes and solutions and keep in step with today’s demanding buyers. It is not surprising that there are challenges along the way. Highly competitive companies are being shopped on a regular basis to keep their finger on the buyer’s journey pulse and make agile changes that turn buyers to customers and keep customers coming back for more.
- Can I find you? Many companies are looking to fill their pipelines and coffers with new buyers however many are not taking into consideration that ‘To buy from you, I need to find you.’ That means, Persona identification, Clear Offers, SEO, data access and outbound marketing all have to work – and work well. Offers need to be clear and articulated in a way that the expected buyer understands, find intriguing and can easily find with a Google search.
- If I find you, can you sell to me? Once found, many companies lose the sale at the switchboard, presales, or proposal stage for various reasons during the buyer’s journey. Does the number you post on your website go to the right sales person? Is your switchboard offering value or just shuffling calls? Are voicemails being processed and answered? How long does it take? Do your sales people lead the buyers’ journey or is the buyer expected to do it themselves? These are important questions to benchmark and understand how you are performing.
- Do you know the buyer/customer journey that is taken to close a deal at your company? Innovative companies we’ve worked with are setting an ideal journey and using Secret Shopper to stress test it. By introducing additional feedback channels for buyers, these companies are making ongoing improvements and clearly out-pacing the competition. I’d rather buy from one of these companies. Wouldn’t you?
Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences as well.