The Optimize Program exercise accelerates sales
Microsoft’s Optimize Program is a Secret Shopper service that reveals exactly how a prospective customer experiences a business offering. It uses a 160 point assessment of the customer journey and employs a very carefully constructed persona. Secret Shopper is the vehicle for a granular, detailed inspection of how calls, emails, website visits and sales proposals are perceived by a typical customer. It means inviting a trusted and competent third party to carry out a no-holds barred systematic analysis of how a chain of technologies, services and people all appear to the outside world.
Getting good value out of sharp observations
Innovative businesses stay ahead by embracing the very latest thinking. That requires a degree of courage. After all, the best ideas often demand the biggest changes. So getting a clear and honest assessment of how a sales process works in practice sounded like a great deal for Open Line a growing European business.
Open Line is a Dutch cloud services business with customers across the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK. These customers all have one thing in common. They need a cloud services provider they can trust. Confidentiality matters enormously to Open Line. More than a quarter of its customers come from the healthcare sector where client confidentiality is at the core of their service. So Open Line must have both a product offering and a mode of operation that leaves no room for doubt.
This was a great project. And the Secret Shopper title is certainly correct. The person who handled most of the incoming communications from the Secret Shopper never noticed anything unusual!
Emile Stam, Marketing and Communications Manager at Open Line, recalls the decision to call in the Secret Shopper with some amusement. “This was a great project. And the Secret Shopper title is certainly correct. The person who handled most of the incoming communications from the Secret Shopper never noticed anything unusual!”
Apart from living up to its name, what did the Secret Shopper teach Open Line? “It brought about major changes and minor changes. But some of the little observations had a big impact. For instance, one of the things we were concerned about was the ability of customers to find their way to us over the Internet.” Open Line needed a hook, one simple phrase that would guide a potential customer right to the company. Secret Shopper spelt out the right words. These were ‘cloud-focused hybrid provider’, a term that captures people who are searching around the whole technology ecosystem of the cloud.
Changing the way a business is heard
But this simple phrase was just the start. Secret Shopper demonstrated to Stam that Open Line’s entire website was starting off on the wrong foot. It was a highly technical introduction to the company and that was not working for many visitors. “Secret Shopper gave us a new tone of voice” he says.
The objective external assessment of the Secret Shopper led to Open Line maximising the value of its product offering. Microsoft Azure Services, the new and growing family of secure cloud services that Open Line sells, is a tempting proposition for potential customers. Bundling Azure Stack into a trial offer was one of the attractive additions to Open Line’s catalogue that grew straight out of the Secret Shopper initiative.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for Stam was the reaction of his own colleagues to the announcement that a Secret Shopper had been working right under their noses.
“To be honest, I had expected a few people to be angry that we had brought in a Secret Shopper. There is a lot of work involved in putting a customer proposal together and people might not be happy to find out all of that work was only for a fictional customer.” In the event, his colleagues were fine with the whole exercise. The positive results meant a lot more to them than any regret at working for a carefully constructed prospect that did not really exist!