I’ve just arrived back in the UK after the MSPA’s annual conference. For me, it’s a great opportunity to see how our industry is evolving and maintaining relevance. Taking a look at the big themes, it’s clear mystery shopping is becoming more central to, and a powerful barometer of, the entire customer experience. Maybe this is why we are now searching for new value and validation more than ever. Key ideas, and potential responses, revolved around several issues:
As the industry grows, we’re seeing increasing commoditisation: the proliferation of ‘tick-box mystery shopping at far too cheap a price’. The race to the bottom undermines the power of what we do and gives customers in the end, little of real value. To respond we can:
The ‘moment in time’ snapshot view is increasingly being made part of (in savvy brands) experiential, ‘deep dive’ MS activity. This is inherently holistic –across the entire customer experience from first to last contact. This reflects a move to true omnichannel experiences, and reasserts (if we needed to) that customer experience is key to competitive advantage. To respond we need to:
In a time when the ‘customer journey’ is more complex, nonlinear, ‘one to one’ - and therefore impossible to ‘map’, Mystery shopping is increasingly wide-ranging in its application. But in today’s complex omnichannel environments, you need more tools: MS is only one measure of experience. How to use this?
We all want to align to what the end customer needs and cares about. In a time of the ‘conscious customer’ this is increasingly about aligning to more profound cares and the world customers want to live in. Customers demand value, but they also measure values and they certainly want to know that a brand is living those values. So, we in turn must help our customers drive their values front and centre. Partly because it’s right, but also – as we can see from the strength of Unilever’s sustainable brands in 2016-2017 – it can have real impact. Reacting to this is about:
It’s easy to understand the fear of error (and error-acknowledgement) in service. But error-avoidance is a bad strategy long-term. Mistakes happen; the best approach is to acknowledge it, and respond with small, fast, practical changes. In a world of transparency, real-time data, fast-moving change and fast-changing customers, this is more efficient at evolving service culture than big, cumbersome transformations.
This ‘growth mindset’ approach is heavily drawn from Lean methodologies, based on constant iterative change in manufacturing as key to efficiency, and combines this with the concepts of mindfulness (resonating with the point above). The effect of adopting growth mindset approaches, however, has implications across every aspect of service and complex interactions (it’s increasingly being used in education). The results are provable improvements: in identifying the real value; in collaboration; in workplace satisfaction; in personal and professional development and identifying the key people who will grow your business (Google, Twitter); in perceived responsiveness and satisfaction from customers; and faster routes to cumulative success (Amazon, Microsoft). When those four companies are adopting a strategy, it would be foolish to dismiss it.
Taking a look at these themes, from the most tactical (fighting against commoditisation) to the most strategic (evangelising a growth mindset), we can see that they are all about defining our industry as it enters a more mature phase and becomes more critical to customer and business strategy. I hope we can all learn from those ideas. In my own work, I’m struck by how our company has taken those lessons to heart from day one – everything we do is about making our world a happier one not only for us and for our customers, but for our customers’ customers. We focus on driving constant learning, achieving step change in service one assessment at a time. Why? Because every improvement and development – and every act of kindness – that we can drive has a positive impact on every life it touches.
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