Over the past month, we've explored "How to Go From Free to Fee," helping those in the death care industry understand the value of the services they provide, and to charge accordingly for those services.
Now, we're going to the next level... how to ensure the value and service you promise to your families is faithfully executed time and time again.
You’ve received calls for service at every hour imaginable, having to leave in the middle of a family event more often that you’d like to admit, to help another family through what is, undoubtedly, one of the worst days of their life. There is nothing more personal than your work.
Of course, you assume that passion is felt and echoed by every member of your staff. You’ve certainly overheard your team answer customer questions or supervised their provision of a service.
You’re usually quite pleased with their client interactions, and provide coaching to the team when you observe an interaction that wasn’t quite up to par. So, what happens when you’re not around? Can you be sure that your high standards are upheld? How do balance employee autonomy and trust with the consistent assurance that your service standards are being met? And how are these interactions perceived in the eyes of a prospective customer?
A surefire way to explore these interactions is through a “Secret Shopper” experience… or “Trust but Verify.” (as in.. "I trust you are amazing and performing expertly in every interaction. But, every now and then, I’m going to verify that you are doing so!")
Today, we are going to outline how you can glean amazing insights into your customer experience directly from the customer by implementing a Secret Shopper program in your firm.
Step One: Define Your Goals- What Are You Looking to Learn?
There is a multitude of reasons to begin a “secret shopper” program, and infinite insights to gain. Here are some points to consider:
What is your main purpose for mystery shopping?
What information do you want to find out that can’t be observed without being discreet?
How do you plan to use the information you discover?
Step Two: Scenarios
Not many people just ‘pop into’ their local funeral home to window shop. Often, they have very specific questions they’re looking to have answered. To start, focus on one or two of your most frequent prospect inquiries, then, design a scenario around that particular inquiry.
Identify your most common ‘prospect’ for the situation. Provide your “shopper” with a backstory of information including specific items/questions they are supposed to ask. This should include questions that help you gain insights into the customer experience.
Expect feedback on décor, ambiance, and overall staff interactions. Compare these results to your expectations for staff engagement and protocol.
For Example- A couple in their late 50’s early 60s looking to “plan ahead” so their children won’t have to worry about final expenses when the time comes. (Refer to your original goals to determine which questions will help you meet those goals).
Initial appearance/impression of the exterior of the building (if applicable)
Overall cleanliness & Visual Appeal
Employee behavior (What were the employees doing when the shopper enters the business.. Was there a greeter? Should there have been?)
Were they greeted warmly?
Was the Staff Team Member effectively determining customers’ reason they were in your business?
Was the Staff Team Member helping customers find solutions to their specific needs?
Were their questions answered?
What info were they provided?
How did the shopper feel during the interaction?
Was there an attempt by the employee to “go the extra mile” in helping the customer? Or an upsell opportunity?
Step Three: Bring the Team Onboard
Explain why you’re implementing this program. It’s important that your team know that this is not a punishment, or even an attempt to “spy” on them! Use this program to train, recognize and reward your staff for their efforts.
Include the “Secret Shopper” program as a huge training and personal development perk of your business!
New Hire Discussions
When you are screening potential employees, be sure to tell them about your mystery shopping program and how it works. If new hires know from the onset that they will be observed and evaluated by undercover shoppers, they’re more likely to adhere to policies and procedures and consistently meet your standards.
Training & Orientation
Whether you’re training entry-level staff or management, they should be well informed of the intricacies of your mystery shopping program. It’s only fair to let them review an actual report so they fully understand what is expected of them and more importantly, your standards of service.
Role-playing is an entertaining yet highly effective training tool, especially for small groups of employees who work closely together and understand each other’s job duties. Using comments and criticisms from mystery shopping reports to create scenarios and roles, simple solutions often emerge that improve performances across the board, including approaches for dealing with delicate customer service matters.
Keep It Going!
Since mystery shopper reports are all different and observations vary depending on seasons, time of day, traffic flow, and other extraneous factors, it’s important to include them in regular staff meetings. This also reminds your staff how important they are to giving your business a competitive edge.
Once your employees are familiar with the process, encourage them to shop the competition and report their findings!
Step Four: Select your “Shoppers”
It should go without saying that the person/persons you select to perform these ‘shops’ should not be someone well-known to your staff!
Enlist the help of a family member, close friend, or neighbor! Make sure that these ‘shoppers’ have a clear list of points they are there to evaluate discreetly… meaning, they need to fit the profile of the shopper scenario you’ve selected.
If you’re having difficulty finding someone to ‘shop’ your business, place a free ad on Facebook Marketplace or with your personal requirements, offering a small stipend for an honest report.
Step Five: Read, Reflect, React, Repeat
Digest the ‘shopper’ findings! Were there any surprises? What are the key takeaways from the report? And how can you use the feedback to shape a more positive customer experience?
Have you implemented a "Secret Shopper" program in your firm? We'd love to hear from you!
Drop us a line and share your insights as to how your team was able to use "Secret Shopper" feedback. Your insights could be included in our upcoming "Best Practices & Tips" article from your peers in the funeral industry.