Is mystery shopping a business-to-business (B2B) organization possible?
The short answer is yes. The long answer is it’s possible, but not easy.
Traditional mystery shopping in the business-to-consumer (B2C) model is somewhat straight-forward. In a retail setting, mystery shoppers are sent in with specific tasks and questions to answer about their experience.
They might be tasked to ask a question of a salesperson, purchase an item or return it, or only respond if someone approaches them. They fill out a form after completing the visit, including answering questions like “were you greeted?” and “was the cashier friendly and courteous?” The information provided helps retailers improve their store layout, product displays, staff training and more.
TheB2B experience is more complicated.
Just think of how many types of businesses there are and how many types of businesses who may be customers. A relationship between a corporate client and their telecom provider is vastly different than a small printing business and their relationship with store owners who rely on them for printing signs and business cards. It’s complicated. There is no easy template to print with reasonable questions.
Understanding your customer’s journey in a B2B environment takes more finesse. Here are a few ideas on how to approach being a mystery shopper of your own B2B organization. This won’t tackle the entire journey, but just take the first step – shopping – and break it down.
These ideas might not all apply to your organization’s structure, but take what you can and you can learn a lot about what it’s like to shop your organization. Trust me.
1. Call your sales number.
Find out what it’s like to call in as a prospect and ask the question: What is it you do? It’s amazing how many inbound sales departments are totally unprepared for this type of question.
2. Use the web contact form to inquire about products or services.
Is it easy to fill out? How quickly do you hear from someone? Is the form confirmation written in a robot voice? Lots of areas to consider improving here!
3. Ask typical questions of the sales person.
You probably know what questions get asked the most, so go ahead and ask them. Use the channels your customers might. Email the salesperson back and ask random questions. Ask what happens if you want to add a service in the middle of the contract. Ask about price quickly. Ask the difficult questions salespeople hate. See what happens.
4. Use the product trial, if available.
If a trial is typically offered, go for it. See what it’s like to sign up, use the product, call support and then either end the trial or not. Pay attention to how many emails and calls you get. Pay attention to if the product trial lives up to the marketing hype.
5. Ask other customers.
Check out forums or communities and ask about others’ experiences. Pay attention to what they say doesn’t work. Or call a few current customers and ask them. What’s working? What’s not? Tell me how we fit into your day.
6. Talk to your front-line customer service reps.
Customer service is often considered only after the sale in B2B relationships, but these folks know everything. They know what customers say “doesn’t work as the sales guy promised” and what “is the best thing ever!” Ask them what they hear from people and what disappointed them in the sales process.
7. Take a look at a contract.
What happens when a prospect becomes a customer? Is the contract ugly and threatening? Is there anything to make customers feel appreciated and good about signing with you? Consider that experience carefully.
These are just a few ideas on how to mystery shop your own organization. The best way to get a truly outside-in perspective, however, is to ask someone from the outside to do it. You’ll get honest feedback and find holes in your process easy to ignore on the outside. But any form of mystery shopping is better than none. Take a step and examine what experience you’re really delivering to your business customers.
If you’re ready, you know where to find us.