June 2014

Shugoll Research On the Record
On the Record is Shugoll Research's regular examination of marketing research in Washington, DC and around the country. Join us online to browse previous editions of On The Record and for further information on our services.

Putting Mystery Into Improving Service

You know how essential it is that your employees provide excellent customer service. But, unless you receive complaints, how can you tell if the standards you've established are being met? (When company management observes employees, you can bet they'll be on their best behavior.)

The answer? Mystery shoppers - trained researchers who pose as customers and visit or call your locations on several occasions at different times of the day - and different days of the week. These interviewers visit or call retail stores, banks, airline reservation agents, catalog merchandisers and more. They work from a carefully developed script of actions, observations and questions. Findings are carefully and discreetly recorded on smart phones or paper forms.

Observations are made on a multitude of factors, including staff knowledge, helpfulness and responsiveness. In a retail environment, they're also looking for such things as product availability and store layout and cleanliness.

Mystery shopping isn't merely used to counsel employees who dip below expected service levels. It's used to change customer service requirements and establish effective training programs - and later measure the impact of these activities.

"Let go of your attachment to being right, and suddenly your mind is more open. You're able to benefit from the unique viewpoints of others, without being crippled by your own judgment"- Ralph Marston

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Don't Just Listen- Watch

Parents - and professionals - know that actions often speak louder than words. Similarly, ethnographic research is based on the premise that studying what people actually do, rather than what they say they do, can be invaluable. And, when combined with other such research techniques as focus groups or day-by-day diaries, what's learned can be downright astonishing.

Ethnographic research is equally valuable in gaining insights into "tried and true" product categories as it is to exploring the unspoken needs of new market segments.

This technique requires an experienced interviewer. He or she observes people's actions and interactions in any setting where products or services are purchased or used - in the home or office, or when shopping or driving. Then, an in-depth interview is conducted to probe reasons for behaviors, activities, and interactions observed by the interviewer.

Using this method, companies have come away with countless insights that enhanced - or changed - their marketing efforts or product designs. For instance, researchers have learned that many food purchases are influenced by the family unit, not the primary shopper. And that complex, sensitive, social and family values about death - and how money is spent after the demise of a loved one - shape decisions about life insurance purchases. Learning exactly how people actually use and respond to existing and new products - from vacuum cleaners to cutting-edge information technology products - enables companies to market better to their target audiences. And, in many cases, ethnographic research has uncovered product design flaws and safety risks so products that people will actually use can be developed or refined.

You can get fresh perspectives with far-reaching results through ethnographic research.

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