The Importance of Customer Acknowledgement

Customer Acknowledgment

The importance of customer acknowledgment

It may seem like common sense but how many times do businesses still fail to get customer acknowledgement right? First impressions last, they set the tone for all future interactions between us.

On many mystery shopping surveys acknowledgement often jumps straight to the top of the list as a key service measurement. This is partly because it’s very often the first part of the customer journey, but also because it can often be a key indicator for the overall service delivery and how a business treats its customers in general.

Setting the bar for customer acknowledgment

Every business has its own unique set of requirements and customer service standards. If you’re in a car showroom, you might want to browse for a while before being asked if you need any help, however if you’re in a restaurant you would expect to be acknowledged straight away and shown to your table. Subtle differences in timing can have a big impact on overall customer satisfaction. Managing a customer’s expectations by being there at the right time is key to building a good rapport.

Report on first impressions the with a clear framework

If you have a set of service standards which states that every customer should be asked if they need help within five minutes, then make this is a measurable action. If it’s a combination of initial acknowledgement and a more in-depth needs gathering exercise, then make sure that this is recorded in multiple parts but within the same sectional ‘first impressions’ scoring. This helps to build an overall picture and mystery shop score depending on your business model.  It can also help to handle variations in approach. Additional qualitative commentary to support the scoring will help you to understand more complex approaches to the customer journey.

Acknowledgement is more than just a perfunctory action though, it’s your chance to engage the customer and help ascertain their needs. This in turn provides the foundation for good service and increases the chance that your customer will either make a purchase or recommend you to a friend.

But all my customers use self-service

Of course, there are instances where self-service is becoming more common and the point at which acknowledgement occurs is changing. Shoppers in many stores may now only interact at the final checkout stage, particularly in the fast food, convenience and forecourt sector.

This has a benefit of leaving staff to become utilised in other areas of the business to make sure elements such as stock levels, hygiene and cleanliness are more effectively maintained.

Retail is rapidly changing and is finely balanced between using technology which improves service and the need for physical staff to be there in support. This is why customer acknowledgment and the ability of your staff to handle the unexpected will always be an integral part of business.

The Impact of Rising Inflation on Consumer Behaviour

With the UK inflation predicted to rise in 2017, consumer spending power is becoming squeezed as the gap between wage and price inflation grows.

Retailers shouldn’t panic however, it’s not all bad news. The threat of inflation can actually spur consumers into spending, especially on high price ticket items.  To encourage increased spending, the best way for stores to differentiate themselves from one another is to offer superior customer service.

Inflation Trends Consumer Spending

Consumer Prices Index – Inflation

“Worries about inflation have kept a lid on consumer confidence, with the EC survey showing UK inflation expectations have spiked above long-term trends, with the balance of people expecting prices to rise over next 12 months advancing to +42.3 in February from +41.7 in January, +38.9 in December and +18.1 in October. The long-term average since 1990 is +22.6.” Source:

How to keep shoppers spending in a time of rising inflation

With traditional saving returns at an all-time low and the threat of nest eggs being eroded, bringing forward that expensive purchase could be money well spent for some consumers. Retailers should seize the moment, rising inflation can be a golden opportunity for all who operate in the retail sector.

With some companies already increasing their ticket prices, the quality of both the products and the quality of the customer service is key to keeping those tills ringing. Whilst  some customers might shake off that reluctance to spend,  purchases are still made with caution. For customer facing sales teams, effectively overcoming those objections to purchase is critical to making the sale and improving brand advocacy.

How can sales teams effectively convert new customers?

Big ticket purchases tend to be infrequent which means you may only get the one opportunity to make a customer become an advocate of your brand. Here are some key steps to selling to the customers making high value purchases:

  1. Focus on the customer needs
  2. Establish the budget
  3. Challenge any negatives with the positive benefits of your brand, product or service
  4. Ask the customer what will convince them to purchase today

To see how your staff are delivering in these key areas you can use mystery shopping to help with measuring staff performance.


The Challenges of Low Footfall in Retail

Customer Footfall image

How increase the effectiveness of customer service footfall

According to the latest BRC-Springboard Footfall Monitor January 2017, overall footfall for the month was 1.3% down on last year, its worst performance since the 2.8% fall in June 2016.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive British Retail Consortium, said: “At a time when retail is being re-imagined as customers seek more engaging experiences in our high streets, town centres and retail park and centres, the incentive for retailers to innovate and invest in physical space is being curtailed by the upward only trajectory of business rates.” Source: BRC

With these challenges taking their toll on the retail sector from a number of angles it’s clear that business owners need to differentiate themselves from the digital upstarts. There is a positive though, location based retailers are in a unique position to offer the consumer something which is not available online. Face to face interactions are by far the biggest advantage for physical store locations and retailers need to capitalise on this factor.

How do I improve my store performance and increase footfall?

The one thing which drives store performance above everything else is an immersive customer experience with a personal touch. Whilst the investment in physical space is always an important factor for retailers, the customer journey in stores is even more crucial. Without a high-quality team providing the service levels anticipated by customers, even the most elaborate flagship store can under-perform.

Mystery Shopping helps stores to maintain and increase the quality of face to face customer service, by checking on those all-important key stages of the purchase/service journey. Whether that’s how long it takes to acknowledge the customer or how you introduce them to the product which matches their needs. The composite elements which go into delivering a great store experience can be broken down into core segments. These help customer insight teams and operations managers build an overall picture of the how they are performing on an ongoing basis.

Every retailer tells a slightly different story however these core fundamentals can be applied to all customer journeys.

Tips for focusing on the customer experience journey

  1. Make the customer feel welcome
  2. Be there when they need you
  3. Match the product or service to their needs
  4. Help them to make good decisions
  5. Confirm the sale

Tern helps UK companies drive the quality of customer service by providing detailed  retail customer insights which can include video mystery shopping, telephone mystery shopping and online mystery shop. We can support you in understanding both your physical stores experience alongside your online journeys.

Are you still feeling the love for ‘Customer Advocacy’?

Feeling the love for advocacy

Feeling the love for ‘Customer Advocacy’

As a phrase, it can certainly sound intimidating and conjures up images of some kind of special customer insights framework measure dreamed up by PR managers, marketing teams and sales directors.

But what does it actually mean?

Firstly, let’s differentiate two different types of advocacy which can have a positive impact on business operations, customer advocacy and brand advocacy.

Customer advocates can be your sales team, your call handlers and support staff, even the Chief Executive, everybody should be on board. They all help to ensure that the customer comes first and that service quality is at the top of the agenda. Brand advocates are your customers who may have purchased your product or service, they’re happy to share their opinion with friends and family in a positive way by word of mouth.

To generate brand advocacy, we must first focus on customer advocacy, after all nobody is going to promote poor service delivery.

Why is advocacy important?

At its core, brand advocacy is psychological, as humans we buy and make decisions based on trust, we are more likely to do that if a friend or someone we have a relationship gives us a recommendation. It’s why online customer reviews have flourished and become an integral part of our purchasing journey.  Because the information is so readily available, it’s easy to make an informed purchasing decision with minimal risk to us as customers.

Should business leaders wait for trusted reviews to roll in though? Of course not, by focusing on key service areas, we can ensure that our customers receive the best possible experience, and company employees are key to this.

How do I get people to become advocates of my brand?

It only happens through hard work, by focusing on all the key components of customer service you can realise the potential for customers and staff alike to become advocates.

It may seem easy but how many companies manage to get every component of service 100% right. By understanding where we can improve, in turn  we can help customers to become brand advocates by exceeding their expectations.

Tips for improving advocacy

By starting at the beginning of the customer journey customer insights teams can quickly build an overall picture of areas which might influence this.

Top 5 areas to focus customer service to help improve brand advocacy

  1. Customer acknowledgment
  2. Sales team product Knowledge
  3. Quality of product
  4. Speed of Service
  5. Customer follow-up

Using mystery shop as a tool to help

At Tern, we believe that you can start to create greater customer advocacy by using mystery shop to enable a greater understanding of where your brand or service is at.

Find out what’s happening in your stores with detailed customer insights using either video mystery shop or requesting detailed mystery shopping visits. Then focus on the results and employee training to drive positive change.

Articles you may find useful:

What’s Your Customer Service Focus for 2017?
Do Tech Advances Result in a Better Restaurant Experience?
The benefits of ‘One Click Regional Manager Action Plans’

The Casual Dining Sector – Growing with delivery

Online deliveries in the casual dining sector

Online deliveries in the casual dining sector

The options to enjoy our much loved restaurants chain are evolving and we have more opportunities than ever to indulge in our favourite eats.  With Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats all making substantial changes to the way we consume food to go, should more restaurants be joining the revolution?

For the cash rich, time poor consumer, hot and ready to eat food from well-known restaurant chains provides a step-up from the traditional dine-in experience.  For food operators wanting to join the party, there is a premium to pay for getting your brand out to the masses via the latest online food-delivery platforms. Even though the sector and methods of distribution are still in their infancy, many restaurants are starting to successfully target this huge area of growth, and consumers are happy to pay when the product and service is right.

Consumer willingness to try new cuisine also means that the traditional Friday night take-out is no longer confined to an Indian Curry or Chinese dish. High quality European, Lebanese, Japanese and middle eastern dishes are all options opening up in this new sector of the market.

 A note of caution for restaurants and the dining sector

For restaurant and food operators that are thinking of dipping their toes in the water, it’s worth conducting due diligence on the benefits that online food delivery can bring to the business and also consider the risks.  A loyal customer who makes regular visits to your restaurant may be put off your brand by one bad home delivery experience.

For brands deciding to use a third party bridge from the restaurant to the customer, there are some important factors for consideration.

5 things to consider when joining the online food delivery revolution

  1. Can we maintain food quality considering the extra demand placed on our kitchen?
  2. Will it arrive on time and will it be hot?
  3. Are we comfortable with how the delivery person reflects on our brand?
  4. Does the quality and look of the packaging fully reflect our brand?
  5. Finally, is the customer satisfied with the service, taste and quality?
Takeaway food delivery

What a great looking food to go delivery should look like.

Once the carefully packaged delivery leaves the restaurant, the owner or manager will have no idea how it will look when it arrives or even if it will still be hot.  Luckily for restaurants there is a robust service measure available.

Mystery diners are still able provide that extra level of factual information which can help to monitor the quality of the food and at the same time, it can also be used as a clear measure of the outsourced service provider. Doing so will help you to understand if your restaurant brand and product reputation is being maintained, allowing you to quickly remedy any issues uncovered. Don’t leave this to chance or it may well impact the success of your physical restaurants.

Tern provides regular mystery shop programmes to the hospitality industry, food to go and dining sector throughout the UK. Mystery shopping programmes enable companies and brands to have a structured insight into the food quality and performance of third party delivery companies.


Video Innovations in Mystery Shopping

At Tern, we’re fortunate enough to meet and work with a range of business sectors. Most love the idea of mystery shopping, however as technology keeps advancing we are being asked how we can add extra interest for senior management teams. At some point most companies have considered using video, but video mystery shop isn’t always practical. To bring customers’ stories to life we have added an extra dimension to our standard written reports, VoxPop videos!

How does it work?

The VoxPop is a circa 1 minute ‘selfie’ video which the shopper makes immediately after their visit.  They speak directly to the camera effectively giving you face to face feedback on how they felt about the experience.  You get to hear the tone of voice and see the shoppers facial expressions as they bring your mystery shopping report to life.  This short but powerful video is embedded into the standard mystery shopping report thus providing you with the hard stats and the softer, more subjective video feedback.

Coupled with NPS score data you can quickly group the videos into sentiment groups that support the mystery shopping data.

Quick visual overview

Video VoxPop

The Video Feedback Process

Video is quickly becoming the perfect tool which can add a qualitative element to  quantitative mystery shopping research data.

Videos can be quickly combined into sentiment show-reels if required, allowing you to group multiple elements of video feedback by NPS rating or other important key surveys requested as part of the exercise.

If you’d like to learn more, then our video VoxPop feedback sessions could be a great addition to your mystery shop reporting. Give us a shout to find out more.

What’s Your Customer Service Focus for 2017?

Customer Service Measurement

Customer Service Trends for 2017

Most companies have a strapline or brand tagline that describes what they believe their service or product stands for, in many cases it places the customer right at the forefront of their thinking. Sometimes these taglines also double up as brand identifiers. For example, Tesco’s famous tagline ‘Every Little Helps’ doesn’t require much imagination from the consumer and gives them something to emblazon on very bit of marketing material they have available. These are three carefully selected words that demonstrate a commitment to the customer, whilst also letting you know a little bit about their core guiding principles, mainly to save you pounds in your pocket.

Likewise, if I mentioned the tagline ‘For the Journey’ would you be able to remember the brand? Most of us might think of a breakdown company or similar. ‘For the Journey’ was actually used by Lloyds Bank to position the brand as a lifetime partner for everything we do with our finances. This has since been superseded by ‘The Next Step’ campaign which is a more subtle in its approach and shows the iconic black horse slowly galloping through a demographic mix of the UK populous.  By carefully aligning themselves to you as a customer they demonstrate that they have a commitment to you as an individual.

Why is a customer commitment important?

Whichever way you look at it, there is a common thread in big business trying to win us over as long-term users of their service. Companies know the value of building long term customer relationships and the profitability they can bring. After all it’s far cheaper to retain a customer than to have go out to find a new one. It’s why the Net Promotor Score (NPS) has become such an important benchmark for business and quickly summarises whether someone would use the service again based on their experience.

It’s 2017 so ‘Just Do It’

Taglines are statements which are short and easily remembered. Repeated taglines can become mantras for a business and help guide your staff and customers to your guiding principles and beliefs. Your goal as a company is to work out how well your own business mirrors the guiding principles of the company tag or strapline. This is important stuff; both your customer and staff satisfaction are a reflection of being able to deliver your key message. When it comes to your vision for what great looks like, every member of your organisation must be in alignment to this message. Everyone should understand the goal, and ideally if it’s summarised in a strapline you can build your customer service principles around it.

Customer service measurement and training is key.

To deliver and live up to the standards required, quality measurement and training is a must. Your staff are the most important component in allowing you to deliver on your promises to the customer. For your customers to get the service they deserve you must first start with your staff.

Tern supports brands and employees with a range of customer insights measurement methods through mystery shopping. These include video, telephone and online mystery shopping with detailed report feedback.

Contact us via our website or give us a call on 01939 235555 to see how we can help you fulfil your core business values.

Mystery Shopping Gambling Operators

With online now the dominant gambling channel in the UK and research indicating that 450,000 children gamble very week is it time for operators to increase compliance monitoring of gambling and betting in general?

“New report indicates 450,000 children gamble every week” Source Gambling Commission

Gambling Operator Mystery Shop Customer Research

Gambling Operator Compliance Testing

Whether the venues are betting shops, bingo halls, racetracks or adult gaming centres, operators need to play close attention to those who use their services. Young people are particularly vulnerable and it’s in the gambling sectors best interest, both morally and financially to ensure those who are not legally allowed to gamble are challenged.

Of course, we can’t always tell by looking, how old an individual is. The risk to the operator and licence holder if it’s found to be negligent in this situation can be a large fine and enforced monitoring.

Gambling operators need to adhere to Gambling Conditions and Codes of Practice  which  helps them to ensure that they trade responsibly as part of the licence conditions.

Key elements included in codes of practice under section 24 of the Gambling Act 2005 are as follows:

  1. gambling is conducted in a fair and open way
  2. children and other vulnerable people are protected from being harmed or exploited by gambling
  3. assistance is made available to people who are, or may be, affected by problems related to gambling.

Compliance Monitoring for the Gambling Sector

Gambling operators don’t need to leave compliance to chance though. By building a robust compliance testing framework the risk of regulatory intervention can be significantly reduced. In addition, a proactive approach to under age sales testing as part of Challenge 21/25 also increases awareness amongst staff around the importance of regulatory gambling codes of practice.

Tern offer a range of uk mystery shopping services and age restricted testing, so whether you’re a pub, casino or racetrack there are some practical steps you can take to keep you the right side of the Gambling Regulator.

Our Gambling Sector Mystery Shop Coverage:

  • Pubs and Arcade FOBTs (Fixed Odds Betting Terminals)
  • Casinos
  • Bookies and Racetracks
  • Adult Gaming Centres including Motorway Services

2016 News Stories Relating to Gambling

MPs urge clampdown on bookmakers’ betting machines
UK Gambling Commission Issues Warning Over Underage Gambling

Other useful links

Consumer Credit Mystery Shopping

Rent to View Mystery Shopping

The Rent-to-Own Sector

With the FCA shifting its focus towards companies supplying in the Rent-to-Own  marketplace, high cost credit providers are continuing to attract the attention of the financial regulators.

So, is it now the right time for these high cost credit companies to focus on the customer first? After all, the rest of the financial services industry has faced a deeper level of scrutiny for a much longer period of time.

The number of consumers accessing high cost credit in the UK

 “In the UK, up to 400,000 people use rent-to-own firms to buy household appliances, paying the money back over three years.” Source BBC News

With such high numbers of people accessing these lines of consumer credit, it’s essential for compliance and arrears teams at these firms to take a pro-active approach in support of the customer.

If the high cost credit industry is to continue unrestricted, avoiding enforced price caps, then those supplying short term credit to consumers through lease agreements or rentals need to have a more inward looking philosophy.

Date Source: Citizens Advice Bureau

Providing clear communication on consumer credit

It’s time for the sector to be more diligent with customer communications, whether that’s transparency on contract terms, clarity on the overall cost of credit or termination fees. Helping customers to have a clear understanding of the product offer and the costs of purchase ensures that companies sell in a way which is clear, fair and not misleading.

Staff play by far the biggest part in the way consumers interpret the information given. They are also the highest risk area when it comes to the consumer failing to understand what they are committing to. Making sure the correct affordability checks are conducted and that the customer has all the required information to make an informed decision should be standard.

Areas of customer risk for consumer credit providers

  • Clarity of Payment Terms
  • Termination Fees and right to cancel
  • Transparency of overall cost
  • Affordability checking
  • Contract Terms and the small print
  • Treatment when payments are missed

 Taking the right approach

By doing things in the right way, the benefits gained are not only for the consumer, they are also for the company. Making sure that complaints and arrears figures for consumer credit don’t form a bigger part of the business means that companies can avoid ratings downgrades, damaging newspaper articles and greater regulation from the FCA.

There will always be a demand for short term higher cost credit however it’s in everybody’s interest to make sure the customer doesn’t become distressed when gaining access to it.

 Mystery Shop Research for Consumer Credit Companies

Tern provide second line of defence mystery shop research to some of the biggest financial companies in the UK. We provide our clients with evidence based research in the form of digital mystery shop reports . These reports are feature rich and can include embedded audio, video and survey scoring.

For more information on how we can support your compliance and operations teams call us on 01939 235555

One Click Regional Manager Action Plans

Our new  ‘Customer Service Pulse’ add-on allows you to turn complex mystery shopping report  data into clear area or regional action points. The new service performance review tool will transform the way you communicate with your area managers. The function provides a simplified view of big data that those within customer insights, operations and training teams should all have access to.

Manager Action Plan Software

Manager Action Plans with Customer Service Pulse

Drilling into mystery shopper data with one click 

Simply choose the relevant area (North, South, etc.) and click on Pulse.  The system instantly gives you the five key areas of focus for that particular area and the five stores holding the area back the most, helping you to build a clear manager action plan. The Pulse screen also shows the potential impact if these problem elements and locations were addressed.  In short, with one click you have a bespoke area or region action plan at your disposal at the click of a button.  Tackling these marginal gains on an area by area basis can have a dramatic cumulative effect.

Service Pulse Data

Customer Service Pulse

How to focus on marginal gains in customer service:

  • Review the survey criteria to ensure it matches the goals of the business
  • Analyse sectional and group data by region, manager, location or mystery shop survey
  • Review results in context and focus on your quick wins for performance gains

By getting managers and staff to focus on smaller components you can make a bigger difference to the overall customer service. This helps to develop a consistent and high quality service every time you interact with your customers, it also allows you to pick out training points with staff for future improvements.

Break down the mystery shopper survey and build a manager action plan

By starting at the beginning, we help you to strip back your service to the key components to help you build the story of your business through a detailed mystery shopping survey. With this in place your action plan will formed into ‘Customer Service Pulse’. This helps you to build question by question a story which can be translated into a potential overall positive percentage increase in performance. See the related article on how to design a great mystery shopping survey.

For sports scientist, the focus might be on fitness, nutrition and rest. In retail, we can focus much in the same way on elements like customer acknowledgement, service and up-sell. Whichever discipline you operate within the ultimate goal is the same – to improve and marginal gains at each step. By combining and measuring all of the key elements we can develop the overall manager action plan to be followed which helps us to improve our benchmark scores over time.

But just like sport it doesn’t happen by accident, trainers, development teams and coaches are instrumental in helping to measure and improve the core components one step at a time. You can only do this with a robust set of data. So, whether you’re a sports scientist or a retail insights manager the requirement is the same.

Having the ability to see the key areas for improvement so quickly makes reviewing your mystery shopping scores effortless.