Small Business Owners: How do you analyze customer satisfaction?

Ensuring your current customer base is happy provides the foundation for the strongest marketing program a small business can have: referrals & reviews.

Whether you operate a brick and mortar retail shop or business to business service, customer satisfaction and retention should be your number one priority. The previous statement is certainly not earth-shattering news, but how many of you TRULY know what experience your customers are receiving at the hands of your employees? Surveys, if you can get them filled out, can lend a partial view and should be a part of your checks-and-balances system, but we always recommend that our clients run a 'Secret Shopper' program. While there are many companies around offering these services, we tend to reserve use of those services for large chains that require more frequent evaluation. RECRUIT For smaller operations, we suggest simply asking a friend, family member or colleague that is not familiar to your staff. Offer your products or services or gift certificates to their favorite restaurant in return for their honest assessment.

PREPARE In order to ensure a proper assessment of your service levels, prepare a checklist for your Shopper. Outline questions they should ask, steps they should take, even instruct them to be "difficult". Determine a series of rating based questions about their experience (scale of 1-5) and include a "Yes or No" segment ("Did the employee answer the phone within 3 rings?") Look for samples online and make it relevant to your business. SHARE RESULTS Following the evaluation, sit down with the employee(s) involved in the Shopper's experience and review the feedback. If the review had negative results, unless the offenses were unforgivable, work on a correction plan, have them sign the review and let them know they will be "shopped" again within the next 90 days. This approach keeps them on their toes and establishes good habits that will, hopefully, stick. If the review was overwhelmingly positive, go out of your way to reward the employee and ensure all employees are made aware of their good review and the subsequent reward. This tactic instantly motivates your staff to act as if every customer is a "Shopper".

BE CONSISTENTLY INCONSISTENT Once you determine to run a Secret Shopper program, stick with it. That being said, make sure your program is all over the board. When under the microscope, you'll be surprised how quickly your staff become experts at patterns and timing. Also never use the same Shopper twice. Sit down and map out your SS program for an entire year. Book your Shoppers in advance then outline departments and services you need reviewed in order to provide a full portrait of your Customer Service levels. TARGET NEW EMPLOYEES Much like dating, when you bring on a new employee, they are usually at their best through the interview process and in your presence during the first weeks of employ. We don't need to tell you the damage that can be done in a short time by a service-impaired new employee. With each new staffer, schedule a Shopper within the first 30 days (after a training period, of course) in order to evaluate. If there is a problem, you will find out before any true damage can be done. If run properly, a Secret Shopper program will lend invaluable insight into the service levels of your company.

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