The referendum results taking the United Kingdom out of the European Union has created an atmosphere of uncertainty. Financial markets initially responded unfavorably and analyst assessments of the economic impacts in the short term cover virtually any potential outcome Euromonitor forecast declines in GDP and increases in both unemployment and inflation. (See http://blog.euromonitor.com/2016/06/the-brexit-vote-is-in-what-next-for-the-uk-leave.html). In stark contrast are predictions that restrictions on immigration may create a labor shortage. Predictions for impact on the EU as a whole and investor confidence vary widely. Forrester predicts wide-scale impacts on technology investments. This ambiguity and uncertainly will continue until the two year exit strategy is defined and negotiations completed.

What is certain is that now is the time to pay extraordinary attention to your customers. At Market Force, we weathered the 2008 economic downturn with our clients. Those who maintained a laser focus on product, service and value, came through with flying colors. Some lost their focus and went bankrupt. Others suffered damage and recovered, including corporations in the banking and auto industries.

We’ve also seen the measurable consequences when companies pull back on their CX investments. In three different situations, detailed below, pulling back on investments or stopping measurement significantly impacted the ability to meet corporate objectives and satisfy customers:

  • For a large retail bank: Customer engagement scores for advisors responsible for accurately presenting products and upsell, dropped by almost 50 points, from 72% in compliance to 25% in compliance. When measurement restarted, performance returned to previous levels.
  • For one of the world’s largest QSR companies: NPS declined by 5.6 points and a critical upsell behavior—recommending a beverage—dropped by almost 80 points from 91% to 9%, creating friction with their beverage partner. When measurement restarted, upsell increased but took time to gain traction.
  • For a major wireless retailer: Performance on five critical selling skills declined between 3 points and 10 points with consequences for ability to attract new customers and sell accessories. 

The uncertainty caused by Brexit creates both risk and opportunity for any corporation. Market Force considers this a time of opportunity and will continue investing in technology, focusing on text analytics, social media listening, and mobility

And we will continue to invest in the teams that serve you, focusing on our ability to help you execute on your brand standards, delight your customers, and position you for financial success. Market Force is here at the ready to help you navigate these uncertain times.

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Ray is the consummate road warrior. His 25 years of experience as a senior-level executive has taken him to over 40 countries in multiple roles. As CEO for Market Force, Ray champions the role of technology and innovation in creating programs that improve our clients' brands. 

On June 21 and 22, Market Force participated in the Forrester Customer Experience (CX) conference in New York City. A report by Markets and Markets estimates that this space is due to grow to $8 billion by 2020, and certainly the level of commitment and investment by presenters validates that trajectory. I found the conference very valuable and walked away with a few key points that I’ll share with you. All of these points are framed by a keen focus by the world’s largest companies in creating cultures focused on exceptional customer experiences. 

  1. The customer is becoming increasingly powerful. George Colony, CEO of Forrester, put corporations on notice by claiming that we are now in an “existential crisis” with the increasing power of customers to voice their opinions and demand increasing levels of service. He believes that customers will increasingly judge corporation based on the state of their business technology and that software investments will be critical to success.
  2. Effortless customer experience requires vision. Vicky Jones at AT&T simply thrilled the audience with the bold and sweeping vision AT&T has for integrating large acquisitions like DirecTV with current mobility platforms to create an “effortless customer experience”. That focus is backed by AT&T’s CEO, Randall Stephenson. His commitment? Over $1 billion in budget to make that happen. Vicky reiterated that this is a “long game” with sustained investment and grit to make it happen.
  3. Design with simplicity as the core principle. Echoing the message from Vicky Jones, Mark McCormick, Head of User Experience at Wells Fargo, spoke to the power of simplicity in the design of products and experiences. “Simplicity is hard. Simplicity is noble”. He made an argument that products and experience that are complex or difficult to use “rob us of time time and confidence”.
  4. Map the customer journey to align the corporation. A presentation by Joana van den Brink-Quintanilha, Forrester analyst, compelled me to think again about the importance of customer journey mapping. This powerful tool makes it clear where every function and every employee plays a role in creating an effortless, simple customer experience. A good journey map will help create channel parity, simplify offers and pricing, and streamline platforms across multiple channels.
  5. Ask creative questions of your CX data to show ROI. Mike Dzura, EVP of GNC, presented a case study based on his experience as SVP of Operations at GameStop. He showed how analysis of CX data could predict top performing managers, clarifying where GameStop should make its talent investments and the strategy for growing game sales.

In summary, the conference emphasized the increasing importance of the Customer Experience, with companies like Ford, Wells Fargo, AT&T, Marriott, SiriusXM, American Express and Etsy emphasizing their own investments in time, money, and people...lessons for all of us. To understand more about Market Force’s solutions for prioritizing investments, see our strategic advisory workshops.

As Chief Strategy Officer, Cheryl aligns Market Force's strategic direction with our clients' strategic objectives. She oversees the North American client base, Analytics and Insights, Winnipeg Operations and Marketing. She has a Ph.D. in social psychology and broad business experience in both private and public companies.​

Mystery shopping is an extremely important tool to have in your customer experience management toolbox. Why? Because it measures each location’s adherence to brand standards. Brands invest six or seven figures in their merchandising strategies and planograms, sales associate training, line management protocols, and healthy and safety regulations. Those investments are wasted if teams don’t adhere to them.

Mystery shopping is an objective, standardized method for measuring operational excellence and the execution of brand expectations at every location. Implementing a mystery shopping program requires thinking through how to design the questions to ensure both the quality of the data gathered, and the actions you want to encourage in the behaviors of the managers and teams receiving the results. Here are four things you should avoid when structuring your program:

  1. Use subjective questions. The whole purpose of mystery shopping is to provide objectivity—not opinion. When questions are structured so they become opinion-based, they lose credibility. Question design needs standardized, clarifying comments so that your managers and teams know what to repair to drive performance improvement at the location level.
  2. Set up scenarios that identify shoppers. Shoppers need to remain anonymous. Anything that allows teams to quickly identify shoppers should be removed from the scenario. For example, we worked with a QSR company that wanted shoppers to approach the cash register with a $20/bill in hand. How many of us pay in cash—or have the cash ready at the register?
  3. Allow managers and operators to constantly question results. Pushing back on one questionable shop result is understandable. Pushing back on 10 of them is not. When a location receives many poor scores, it’s not the shop that’s wrong—it’s operations. Make sure operators use the data to take action—not complain about the shop.
  4. Look at only aggregated data. Sure, the overall score for your shops, aggregated at the brand level is important. However, it’s more important to look at how all of your locations perform and the distribution of scores. If locations perform very inconsistently on your own standards, brands are at risk. Location-level data provides the insights needed to drive change…at the location.

Market Force prides itself on the extraordinarily high quality of its mystery shopping programs. Companies rely on us to deliver insights about thousands of locations and these tips come from our experience as the largest mystery shop provider in the world. Contact us if you would like our expertise in helping you build a world class mystery shopping program. 

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As Vice President, Operations, Emily oversees Market Force's mystery shopping operations in North America and helps build programs that meet regulatory guidelines and retain customers. She also holds a BA in government from the College of William and Mary. 

Have you been measuring the same things in your customer experience surveys for the past three years? Has your mystery shopping program been in place with little change? Has it been 6 months or more since your team met to clearly assess your measurement program—including spend and ROI? If so, it’s time to step back and do a clear-eyed evaluation.

Too often, measurement systems are left running untouched for months or years. That’s a mistake. The market is dynamic, customer expectations change, and your own products and services change as well. Granted, there is a cost to making changes:

  • You do want a stable measurement system to track and trend results;
  • If compensation is tied to results, changes may need to roll out slowly;
  • There’s work involved—and that includes aligning stakeholders.

However, the benefits of carefully evaluating and fine-tuning your program far outweigh the challenges. You will want to:

  • Find the gaps. What methodologies need to be added to assess brand and store level performance? What focus areas or questionnaires need changed?
  • Align the questions. Remember to construct a questionnaire matrix to ensure that you use the same wording and scales across your measurement instruments.
  • Evaluate communication. Go out to franchisees, the front line, managers—all users of the data—and ask whether they are getting what they need to better manage their business. If they aren’t, you’ll need to rethink that strategy.
  • Raise the bar. Demand more of your teams. We have one client who raises standards every year in order to remain best-in-class. The bar he’s set in demanding exceptional customer experience has become a real challenge to competitors.

Market Force provides CX Strategic Planning workshops to assist with this process. We’d be glad to discuss how we might help you. In the meantime, check out a video published by The Telegraph interviewing Cheryl Flink, Chief Strategy Officer for Market Force. You’ll find some great tips for designing your customer experience management program. 

Gino Virgadamo is a Key Account Manager at Market Force Information, specialising in the pub, restaurant and petrol-convenience industries. Over the past 4 years, he has helped businesses understand key drivers & trends, as well as provide strategic planning to drive ROI and stay ahead of the market. 

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To discuss your needs for improving performance for your multi-location brand, give us a call. We’d be happy to discuss best practices for measuring the customer experience and compliance to brand standards, using analytics to understand what matters most and the ROI for change, and technology solutions that integrate large quantities of data on one single platform. We look forward to a great discussion!

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