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Why customer satisfaction surveys and mystery shopping data must be merged

13th Oct 2015
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A recent customer satisfaction survey into the UK’s top supermarkets named Waitrose as favourite, thanks to its exceptional service, quality, diversity and availability of foods.

The survey also showed that there was only a few percentage points difference between Waitrose, Marks and Spencer and ALDI. Providing the right customer experience and differentiating in this highly competitive market is vital to increasing satisfaction and driving loyalty.

**For the Composite Loyalty Index rankings, Market Force Information asked participants to rate their satisfaction with their most recent grocery shopping experience and their likelihood to refer that grocer to others. The results were averaged to rank each brand.


Find what matters to the customer

As the on-site experience becomes more and more of a differentiator and consumers become increasingly demanding, forward-thinking companies seek to provide the perfect customer experience — not just to attract and retain customers, but also to generate a measurable financial return.

Many factors affect the customer experience — including price, location, product availability, appearance, and competitive offerings. For supermarkets, our survey specifically found that in-store cashier courtesy, store cleanliness, ability to find products, checkout speed, availability of items and specialty department services were significant to the experience. 

mystery shopping

How do retailers begin to measure the on-site experience that drives loyalty, POP decisions and brand equity? It requires two very different and yet very complimentary data streams: Direct customer feedback data obtained from real customers and operational behaviour data collected by mystery shoppers.

Customer satisfaction surveys: Find what makes customers tick

Direct customer satisfaction data is collected from real customers via web and interactive voice response (IVR) surveys, as well as outbound telephone and email interviews. Questionnaires usually assess two areas: Perceptions of specific items or service areas (such as the fresh produce department in a supermarket or the overall speed of checkout) and perceptions of the overall experience (including likelihood for customers to repeat that experience). We refer to this first group of specific micro-experiences as Customer Experience Touchpoints.

The goal of any customer satisfaction survey is to determine what matters to customers. How do their perceptions of their experience drive loyalty, referral, and sales? What is important within each of the major touchpoints? For example, our survey into supermarkets shows that one in three shoppers reported that brands did not execute well on any of the six drivers; but when they do on all six, satisfaction improves dramatically (by 89 per cent).  In addition, when supermarkets deliver across all six attributes, shoppers are almost three times more likely to recommend it to others. That’s a huge increase and one that supermarkets and other retailers need to pay attention to in today’s market conditions.

However as Forrester’s CMO, Victor Milligan, recently pointed out at the Digital Marketing and Transformation Exchange, organisations need to bring in experience-oriented measures otherwise they risk making poor investment decisions on how to drive customer experience.

Combining customer satisfaction data with mystery shopper data though can provide a very thorough picture and understanding of where investments need to be made via specific customer touchpoints. Customer satisfaction data prioritises what key touchpoints matter to customers. Mystery shopping data identifies the behaviours that create customer perceptions.

Mystery shopping: Identify specific behaviours that drive customer perceptions

Once the customer satisfaction survey has measured what matters to customers, mystery shoppers, particularly those who already shop with that brand, can allow the retailer to measure specific, observable behaviours and attributes that create customer perceptions. Are perceptions of friendliness tied to whether the employee asked if the shopper needed help finding something or asked if they needed help packing their bags? The mystery shopper has the ability to objectively assess very specific behaviours, as opposed to perceptions, within each Customer Experience Touchpoint.

Like customer satisfaction data, mystery shopping lacks one key element — in this case, what matters most to customers.  If you continue to receive only the mystery shopping data, you will have a set of scores for every behaviour or circumstance observed within the store: A list of 30+ items you can improve. The corporation may be quite clear about what should improve for brand compliance or revenue generation. But how will you know which behaviours truly improve the customer experience? How will you drive not only improved scores, but also improved sales metrics?

That is why mystery shopping and customer satisfaction survey data are most effective when integrated into one model — the first giving shape to the second. The two must be combined to get the most value from each, driving visible improvement where it matters to customers on-site and where it matters to the supermarket chain — their financial metrics.

To effectively combine the two, you need a working model that gives the company a measurable ROI on the data streams themselves and on the on-site efforts of operations group. The process of integrating these three measures allows companies to understand (1) what matters most to their customers, (2) where they have operational deficiencies against those expectations and, most importantly, (3) what specific financial ROI could be derived by prioritised and targeted improvements.

A new industry trend

Some supermarket brands continue to have siloed information. Mystery shopping has focused on compliance with corporate standards and is owned by operations. Customer satisfaction data has focused on the customer’s point of view and is owned by marketing.

To be an industry leader, mystery shopping questionnaires should focus on three areas: compliance, revenue generation, and customer satisfaction and the two data streams combined to create an actionable story. This unique customer intelligence is required by multi-location businesses such as supermarkets to truly delight their customers and drive financial performance. 

Cheryl Flink is chief strategy officer for Market Force Information.

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