When customer experiences change rapidly, to meet enforced circumstances, there's often no measurement and no way of benchmarking success. We've recently worked with property clients who moved quickly to mystery shop their new virtual services.
Lockdown has been tough on many businesses, across a variety of sectors, and unfortunately many will not come out of the other side. However, it has not all been negative.
We have continued to mystery shop throughout and have seen many businesses using their initiative and adapting the way they work to ensure they are still successful in this new norm. Many companies are using a variety of virtual services to ensure they can offer like for like customer service compared with that available pre-Covid.
As we enter a further period of uncertainty with case numbers on the rise again, it is becoming increasingly important to ensure that any virtual services you do offer satisfy the customer’s needs and are delivered to the same high standards.
One industry where virtual services are on the rise is the property industry. Despite branches now being open, lots of people still prefer to do as much as possible from the comfort of their own homes rather than heading out into busy shopping areas or other people’s homes. We have seen many estate agencies conducting property valuations and viewings virtually, rather than face to face, whether that is the initial property tour with the vendor/landlord or subsequent viewings and online video tours for the portals.
We recently completed a project of over two hundred home valuation mystery shops for a big client and some of their competitors. We kept the scenario true to life by allowing shoppers to choose the competitor agents they wanted to come and value their home. This resulted in a hybrid mix of virtual and physical appraisals taking place.
Interestingly, not all agents choosing to deliver their services virtually are getting it quite right yet. On this project, our analysis showed that viewings conducted in person had an average customer experience score of 81%, compared with only 45% when done virtually. This is a huge gap and really showed that the virtual viewings could and needed to be improved. Our mystery shop reports were able to pinpoint exactly how the two methods compared at each step of the process and provide guidance for our client on how to do things better in each.
One big difference between the two was the questioning from the agent. Questioning a potential customer seems so simple, but based on our research, customers felt surprised at the lack of questioning during the virtual viewings. They seemed rushed and agents found it more difficult to develop their usual natural rapport with a client. Understanding your customer’s situation and needs is so important so that the experience can be tailored to their requirements. The learning here is to take your time in the same way as you would if you were in a customer’s home physically, relax into the technology, show empathy and demonstrate pro-active behaviours.
Another note on the technology front. A common issue we observed amongst agents was that they did not check that customers knew how to use the piece of software they were using or planned to use during an interaction. Despite the increased popularity of Zoom, Skype et al during lockdown, many customers are still not familiar or entirely comfortable with these platforms and need a little more support and guidance.
First-hand during a mystery shop we saw an instance where the shopper had never used Zoom before and the call handler was unable to explain appropriately how to use it. In the end our shopper had to call back another time – not great customer service and another lost lead for the list!
Not everyone is tech-savvy and some customers will become frustrated if the service is not explained well or is difficult to use. Others will not approach you at all so you need to make any virtual services as accessible as possible. Make sure your staff are trained and practised so they know the ins and outs of the software and can transfer this knowledge effectively onto your customers.
More positively, one of our clients who has always been very engaged in their programme and continued mystery shopping throughout the pandemic, has actually seen an increase in their customer experience scores during lockdown. During the height of the crisis, when companies were faced with minimising contact, they switched from conducting physical visits, to virtual visits over Zoom. This enabled them to show their customers around their facility, and offer all the same solutions as previously, whilst keeping customers and staff safe and secure. Their physical visits customer experience score was 84.3% before lockdown but increased to 92.2% when changing to virtual viewings.
When done right, there is no reason why the customers cannot have just as good, if not a better experience virtually. With no clear end to coronavirus in sight, it is vital that the virtual services you offer still meet, if not exceed, customer expectations.
If you would like to find out how we can measure and improve YOUR virtual services and new Covid-compliant processes and procedures, please get in touch with a member of the Insight team. We would be happy to help. firstname.lastname@example.org