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Be the Customer: See Yourself as Your Customers Do

By Cathy Stucker
Posted Saturday, February 12, 2005

What do your customers experience when they interact with your business? As a mystery shopper, I help businesses see themselves through the eyes of their customers by posing as a typical customer and evaluating their service, quality and cleanliness. Was it easy to find what I needed? Were the employees polite and helpful? Was everything neat and clean? Was I thanked for my business? What happened when I made a return?

Whether your business is an international retailer or a small one-person shop, what you don't know about your customers' perceptions of your quality and service can hurt you. Put yourself in your customers' shoes and test your business. Depending on the characteristics of your business, you may conduct the evaluation of your business yourself, enlist the help of a few friends, or hire a mystery shopping company to implement a formal, ongoing program. You might be surprised (pleasantly or not) by what you learn.

Call your office. How long does it take to get an answer? Is there a professional greeting? What do you hear when you are put on hold? Go through the voice menus. Are any of them dead ends? How long does it take to get to a human, or at least a place where you can leave a message?

Call your order line and place an order. How long does it take to get the item? Was it packaged well and did it arrive safely? What else was in the package (e.g., a catalog, thank you note, extra gift)? Inquire about returning an item. Is the service you receive as good as that you got when you ordered? Does the customer service person try to save the sale by offering alternatives to meet your needs?

Walk through your retail location. Is merchandise attractively presented? Is everything clearly priced? Are the aisles clear so you can walk comfortably? Can a shopping cart fit? Is the rest room clean and stocked with supplies?

Go to your web site and place an order. Does your site load quickly? Is it easy to find specific products? Does the order form work? What communication does a customer receive when they place an order (e.g., an email confirmation)? Submit a question via email and see what response you receive. Are the links on your web site (internal and external) working? You also want to know if proper sales techniques are being followed. Although a customer will never complain because your staff didn�t attempt to upsell them, your bottom line can suffer when this important step is missed. Plus, helping customers get everything they need in one stop can increase their satisfaction and loyalty. Are sales people recommending additional products and telling customers about optional services, such as a maintenance agreement? If they are not, your business is losing revenue and profit.

When you see yourself as your customers do, you can identify problems that may be costing you sales. Make it easy to do business with you and watch your profits increase!

About the Author
Copyright Cathy Stucker. As the Idea Lady, Cathy Stucker helps entrepreneurs and professionals attract customers and make themselves famous. Get free marketing tips at (http://www.IdeaLady.com/). To learn about mystery shopping, see (http://www.IdeaLady.com/shopping.htm).