Sometimes in the business world, it's so easy to get caught up in the daily operations of the business that we lose the ability to see our company from the customer's perspective. This can be detrimental as we may "think" things are performing well, but meanwhile we are trying to figure out what caused the dip in sales for the last three months.

Keeping a daily focus on the brand from the customers' point of view is not always easy, so many companies turn to mystery shoppers. This role comes with many names (secret shopper, service evaluator, research marketer), but basically, it is a person who enters the business and rates the customer experience from the moment they walk into the store until the moment they walk out of it. Sometimes these people are financially compensated; sometimes they get reimbursed for the purchase, for an exchange of a report of what transpired.

This evaluation can contain a gold mine of data. It could say how the customer sees the store visually to whether or not the cash-out process is efficient. Businesses think about these types of things when opening a business but can lose sight of them later in the cycle. It is assumed if it was perfect in the beginning, it more than likely continues to be and it doesn't need your attention now so you can focus on the new challenges that arise each day.

The truth is, it's human nature to find quicker ways of doing things. That doesn't necessarily mean people will be breaking from policy but it could. It could mean, in that employee's mind, is that their way is better and is "close enough" to what they were taught. Having a set of impartial eyes view the experience from start to finish, let's you know where the gaps have started to form that is away from your original vision.

Some companies have gotten away from mystery shoppers because they feel social media has given people the platform to lodge complaints and make companies aware of issues with no cost to the company involved. While this may be true, according to Forbes Magazine, 26% of unhappy customers just leave your business and never come back after just one bad experience. You could lose that one-quarter of your customers! 92% would leave after three or less negative customer service experiences. 67% said they would actively dissuade people from the brand and 42% will share that negative experience on social media.

On the flip side, the same survey stated 80% would recommend your company to friends and family if they have a positive customer service experience. Imagine an 80% increase in your sales! 68% said they would pay more at a company that offers superior customer service. Of that 68%, 8% said they would pay as much as 20% more over the competitors' prices if the customer service was the best experience imaginable. Did you catch that? They said they would pay 20% more than at your competition! Isn't it worth the investment, to have your team delivering that "World-Class" customer service experience, each and every time?

The key to the success of a mystery shopper program is the "shoppers" cannot have any investment in the company. You won't get an unbiased and objective opinion of the experience. Going to an external company that specializes in customer experiences is key to getting a true snapshot of what the experience looks like from the customer's point of view.

Now you have the results, but what should you do with them? The thing I caution you about is not to view these results as a negative. The report is meant to show you the areas to improve upon and be a fast, accurate way to increase your brand loyalty and sales. This type of program can be a learning experience for everyone, from the front-line team to the CEO. Use the feedback as a way to engage your team and your customers so that everyone has the best experience at your place of business as possible. Your bottom line will thank you.