Identifying the Problems in Your Cross-Channel Customer Experience

Borrowing the “Mystery Shopper” Model from Retail

December 10, 2009

We recommend taking a cue from retailers—employ “mystery shoppers” who give your customer experience people and processes a thorough test drive! Besides identifying potential customer experience landmines, your company gains a more complete understanding of your customers’ needs and expectations as well as an appreciation for what works and what doesn’t, and a dedication to making it better for everyone.


Why Is This Important to Customers?

Customers can never make up their minds! Should I call the company? Should I go to the store? Should I try online? How about one from column A and two from column B? Even though customers are notoriously fickle about which channel they choose to interact with you, they expect a great—and consistent—experience no matter where they end up. When their expectations aren’t met, they just might mosey over to the competition!

Why Is This Important to Your Company?

If you aren’t consistent, and you aren’t providing a great (yet channel appropriate) experience, poof—they’re gone. You need to seriously look at all the ways customers might interact with your business and do your best to keep them happy.

What Are Your Next Steps?

We recommend taking a cue from retailers—employ “mystery shoppers” who give your customer experience people and processes a thorough test drive!


In November, I recounted a customer service disaster story with the telephone support channel 1 and created a “Do’s and Don’ts list” to help make it easy to help your customers avoid IVR hell. But poor customer service isn’t restricted to just telephone support. There are potentially horrible experiences waiting to happen on all the channels through which your customers do business with you.


Most companies do their best to provide good customer service through all their channels—phone, in person, Web, etc. But there are always situations where customers get lost or frustrated, often turning from a self-service channel to an assisted-service representative to help them find their way; or starting on the phone, but, after a 20 minute wait, going to the Web site and floundering there; or arranging something online only to discover when they arrived at the store, the information wasn’t passed along or even accurate.

So what can you do to ensure that your company is providing excellent and seamless customer service no matter how a customer comes at you and your brand? Test it all out!


I recommend that you take a tip from the retail industry and test out how well customers are being served.

RETAILERS USE MYSTERY SHOPPERS. Retail has employed mystery shoppers—independent “consultants” who visit the physical store and run a predetermined scenario, such as:

  • Purchase a hard-to-find product
  • Attempt to return a product with no receipt
  • Open a credit line within five minutes
  • Exchange damaged merchandise
  • Ask a million questions of a busy salesperson

The list of potential scenarios goes on and on. And note that most of these are challenging scenarios, but not unreasonable or even unusual.

Store locations (and sales associates) are evaluated on how well the customer was treated and how successfully he reached his goal. Often, there is financial reward for good customer service (an employee bonus for a four star rating from a mystery shopper), or else there is some sort of penalty (a store’s rating can slip with corporate for low mystery shopper scores).

By actually having someone attempt these challenging retail scenarios, companies can easily see how well employees are trained, how appropriate policies are to real-life situations, etc.

CONTACT CENTERS MONITOR CALLS. Contact center supervisors and customer experience executives routinely monitor customer calls to contact center employees in order to improve quality and coach employees.

MORE CHALLENGING FOR CROSS CHANNEL. But, when you are dealing with multiple channels, the challenges are amplified. You are now testing different types of employees who are trained to provide support in different ways—ways appropriate to the channel they represent (for example, speaking clearly isn’t a requirement for chat; looking someone in the eye doesn’t apply to the phone; etc.). Also, you have to test out what information has been captured on the original channel and ensure that it is available to other channels.

Too often, I fear, those companies that do test out their customer experience do it one channel at a time. So here are some new do’s and don’ts for cross channel mystery shopping.

The Customer Lifecycle

The Customer Lifecycle

© 2009 Patricia Seybold Group, Inc.

Illustration. Be sure to test drive the customer experience as customers navigate the steps of the Customer Lifecycle.


Test Cross-Channel Scenarios

It is important that the scenarios be realistic and challenging, so:

  • Do test drive scenarios that cross at least two contiguous lifecycle stages (select and buy; buy and use; use and maintain/break/fix; manage/renew, renew/plan, plan/explore). Test drive scenarios that touch all of your most customer-critical customer lifecycle stages.
  • Don’t only test drive “revenue generating” scenarios or stages. All lifecycle stages are important to customers.
  • Do get suggestions for scenarios from your front-line troops: your contact center, your online chat CSRs, and your incident report database.
  • Don’t make up something outlandish or that has never been tried before; keep it real.
  • Do test drive standard problems and questions. You need to make sure these are being handled consistently and accurately.
  • Don’t assume that the easy issues are being handled in the best way. You need to periodically test them out.
  • Do make sure that most scenarios include escalation, both within a channel (e.g., to the contact center supervisor) and to another channel (e.g., from chat to contact center).
  • Don’t neglect the “oh, by the way,” questions that invariably arise once you have handled the original question or issue a customer had (such as, by the way, what is the balance on my account and can I set up automatic payments?).

Here are some sample scenarios to try...


1) See “ Do's and Don'ts of Phone Support: Making It Easy to Navigate Through IVR Hell! ” by Ronni Marshak, November 5, 2009.

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