Mystery shopping has traditionally been thought of as a B2C instrument to measure customer service levels. However, this service is invaluable in the B2B industry as well.
In this industry, the stakes are higher - it is difficult to lose customers, but when those customers are large corporations, the impact of such a loss of greater significance.
In the B2C sector, consumers' purchases are driven by price along with good customer service. However, in the B2B sector, the relationship between company and vendor plays a more important role than solely price. For that reason, it is important to measure service levels and objectively evaluate service levels within a company.
Many companies wonder exactly how B2B mystery shopping works. Quite simply, it works in the same manner as more traditionally thought of mystery shopping, with the one exception being that customers, or mystery shoppers, will pose as companies who are calling to inquire about your services and products.
4 Great Benefits of B2B mystery shopping
With B2B mystery shopping, you can evaluate the following aspects of your business:
1. General customer service levels & product fulfillment- by setting up fictitious accounts or companies, our trained mystery shoppers can contact your business via telephone or email to make inquiries about your products/services.
By doing this, you will gain a better understanding of how your potential customers are treated, the information that is shared with prospective customers, and what follow up, if any, is completed in order to attain a new client.
Furthermore, fictitious accounts and companies can be created to pose as current customers to evaluate the service ordering process. From here, you can see if your employees are attempting to upsell/cross sell, offering additional products/services that are important to your customers, and the general service levels provided.
2. Branding presence - through mystery shopping, you will determine how your branding is portrayed to other companies. This is important in gaining customer loyalty and longevity.
Studies have shown that strong branding will encourage customers to be loyal to the product, be less likely to seek out competing brands, and not be adverse to pricing increases.
3. Online interactions/email inquiries - with the shift in online technology, more and more companies will seek information through email inquiries versus picking up a phone. One company utilized a mystery shopping program in which shoppers posed as companies who were seeking services and wanted to find out more information.
They wanted to see how long it took for emails to be answered, if the answers were fully provided, and if any type of follow up was conducted.
4. Training and sales development - it is vital that the sales team presents information in a clear, engaging manner, builds rapport with potential clients, and conducts the sales calls in a manner in which sales can be generated. If sales are not where they are expected to be, it is difficult to determine if it is because of the lack of sales development within the company or if there is a flaw in the sales techniques used.
Mystery shopping programs can provide companies with a program that will help them determine which areas are lacking, make improvements, and even determine if sales training needs to be altered.
While the planning stages of starting a B2B program are more detailed in nature, the program can run simply and easily once initiated. With this type of mystery shopping, the client plays a crucial role in the development of scenarios to play out as well as the implementation of fictitious company names/accounts.
Depending on the nature of the industry, this may require setting up accounts in the company's system that are covertly flagged to indicate they are not true accounts. In other cases, it may only require companies assisting the mystery shopping provider in determining which types of companies mystery shoppers should represent in order to interact with staff in an authentic, relevant manner.
Two Easy Examples of B2B mystery shopping
1. A supplier of office supplies and materials wanted to determine how special request orders were fulfilled and what options were provided to businesses who contacted them. They contracted the services of Ann Michaels & Associates to find out.
Furthermore, they wanted to find out if upselling and cross selling was initiated during the order process, and what promotional materials, if any, were included in the customer's packaging.
We used mystery shoppers who were small business owners in an industry that would need such supplies in a reselling capacity. Using their business information, they contacted the client's locations to place a specific order with special requirements. They evaluated the order placing process, tracked time for delivery, and then reported on how the order was packaged, what promotional material was included with the order. Pictures were taken and uploaded onto the survey.
2. A plastics and materials testing laboratory conducted baseline evaluations to determine speed of email response, knowledge of testing and laboratory capabilities, and follow up attempts with potential customers. Additionally, they wanted to see firsthand how email inquiries were routed within the company, and if responses weren't provided, at which point in the routing system the emails "fell through the cracks."
They contracted us to conduct a baseline study, repeating the same study three months later and after training was completed to evaluate effectiveness of training procedures.
Mystery shoppers were trained and educated on the company's laboratory testing capabilities and the industries. Each mystery shopper was assigned a fictitious company name and position within the company. They were instructed to contact an assigned location via email asking about testing specifications and what information was required for certain tests to be conducted.
Mystery shoppers tracked the time to respond to email inquiries, as well as who the original email was sent to and who replied (if it was a different person than who the email was sent to).
Additionally, the knowledge of testing capabilities and referral sources were evaluated, and mystery shoppers documented whether or not the associate attempted to follow up on the initial inquiry or if actual follow up attempts were made within 2 business days of the initial inquiry.