Hidden customer: what it is, applications, types and benefits of this strategy
The term hidden customer, at first glance, may seem strange and even sound like something unknown to many.
But the truth is, companies that want to know whether the business process is assertive or not, need to resort to this strategy.
After all, the objective of any business is to sell more, better and be able to delight and retain customers all the time, right?
This is a relentless pursuit that involves a series of good practices. The world changes at a speed that we often cannot keep up.
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And that impacts the way people relate to brands. One thing, however, cannot change within companies: the quest to generate value for customers.
Within this mission, the hidden customer strategy decisively helps organizations to achieve an always better delivery.
In this article, we’ll talk better about how this practice occurs, its variations and its advantages.
So, we hope you have a better understanding of this strategy and, if it makes sense, apply it to your business. Come on? Good reading
What is a hidden client?
A customer who isn’t quite a de facto customer. But, in a way, it is. Complicated? We explain.
Hidden customer is a person who actually purchases the product or service that the company sells.
She goes through all stages and is in contact with all sectors of the company, marketing, sales, customer success, among others.
This consumer will then serve to assess the process as a whole, customer service and final delivery.
If we think about the inside sales model, when there is no face-to-face sales, this person will convert it into a form on the website, for example. It will follow the path any customer does.
However, at every moment she will be making a thorough assessment of what is happening.
Of course, each company has its own sales process and a peculiar way in which the marketing and sales team interacts with customers.
However, some points are crucial for the hidden shopper to understand.
- How was the marketing approach to the email flow?
- Was customer service positive and efficient?
- Was the call from the pre-sales team really worthwhile?
- What is the quality of the sales pitch? Has the seller been advisory?
- Is after-sales concerned with ensuring the customer’s success?
- How was the support given after onboarding?
These and other points (again, it depends on your business process) are analyzed by the secret shopper.
I understood! And how does this strategy work in practice?
Maybe now you’re wondering. Now, why am I going to adopt this strategy? Just do a satisfaction survey with my customers and they will tell me everything I need to know!
The truth is, not everyone is willing to answer your questions – especially those who are dissatisfied. And they’re also not prepared to pay attention to all the details continuously.
They have their own routine and problems – even so they most likely turned to you, right?
For this methodology to be effective, some steps are important to be able to measure the results and understand the points to be corrected.
Therefore, it is crucial that the hidden client:
- complete the buyer’s journey in full;
- generate reports for each step;
- analyze the information;
- measure the results;
- present the points to be improved;
- Propose solutions.
Ideally, in these cases, the secret shopper should have a briefing on the actions he or she needs to perform.
With a defined script, it’s easier to pay attention to details – which often makes a difference to a positive or negative user experience.
5 types of hidden shoppers to apply to your business
The role of the hidden shopper can be played either by an expert consultancy or by anyone prepared.
It is common to be someone from the parent company testing how the quality of work in its branches is doing, for example. The company owner visiting other units is a very common practice.
But then the “hidden” of the client lost some of its strength. The ideal is, of course, for someone totally unknown to carry out this process.
That said, several segments and sectors began to apply this strategy because they understood and believed in its efficiency and effectiveness.
There are several types of hidden customers because of this evolution and adhesion. We separate some:
1 – Face-to-face assessment at establishments
It is certainly the most classic way to put the hidden customer strategy into practice.
They visit an establishment and, as part of their planning, evaluate both the service and a specific product at the point of sale – the so-called POS.
In a supermarket, for example, the secret shopper can evaluate employee training. This is to know if the network standard is being followed.
As for the product, the trade marketing team assesses whether a given product has the correct exposure and is able to communicate and deliver it to the customer in the best possible way.
2 – Evaluation of online service channels
Attendances in online chats, social networks, among others, can and should pass through the scrutiny of the secret shopper. The user experience within the service needs to be as positive as possible.
It is worth paying attention to points beyond solving problems and clarifying doubts, but navigability issues also need to be analyzed.
3 – Voice channel evaluation
Both call centers and companies that still act as telemarketers need to improve the way they serve and sell. Therefore, as it is a voice channel, the hidden client performs this work over the telephone.
The ideal is to do this work by recording the call so that a thorough evaluation is possible later.
After all, understanding how to approach a customer is essential to be able to see value in what you sell.
4 – Evaluation of hidden customer in competition
This is a very efficient marketing strategy and also serves to improve internal processes – even if the assessment is not done in your competition.
Use the hidden shopper to analyze how your competition is doing and see how competitive your business is.
In addition to evaluating the buyer’s journey as a whole, also evaluate the product or service purchased. How far ahead or how far behind are you?
5 – Hidden customer with special needs
Accessibility is essential in physical stores. The hidden customer can act to identify how consumers with special needs such as wheelchair users, the blind and the deaf are attended to and have everything they need at their disposal.
Is there priority and differentiated service? And people prepared to guide these customers? Are there ramps and wide corridors for circulation?
These and other points need to be on the roadmap to be followed by the strategy.
How do I know if my company needs to apply the secret shopper methodology?
The answer, at first, is always “yes”. After all, who doesn’t want to improve the sales process, service and customer experience?
Or, better: who doesn’t want to know how the competition delivers its solution and, of course, analyze it itself?
As we said before: society is constantly changing, which is reflected in greater demand from consumers.
Technology has a decisive impact on this and the digital transformation, therefore, is something essential for companies to meet the demands.
Within this reality, the hidden customer methodology needs to be used as quality control. She is proactive, goes after possible defections.
After all, if it were passive, it would be easy to identify the problems without much effort. But, you want to have a complete delivery. You want to generate value from the first to the last customer contact.
Therefore, this strategy is valid whenever:
- the proposed standardization is not repeated in branches or franchises ;
- the product does not meet the quality standards established by the brand;
- the service does not take place within the company’s mission, vision and values ;
- the environment does not follow necessary quality and hygiene standards;
- sellers do not follow the sales playbook and do not generate value for prospects ;
- Among so many others.
Take into account the peculiarities of your business. Have the steps in your process well defined and how they need to take place.
By knowing how it needs to be, you will understand whether things are going a good way or a bad one.
4 Benefits of Hidden Shopper Strategies
In order to have a really efficient administrative management, the role of the hidden consumer is necessary. We talked above about some symptoms that show when companies need to resort to this strategy.
The benefits, you might think, are in solving the problems that will lead to their adoption. Which, of course, is correct.
But let’s think about the macro, the company as a whole, and not just the specific problem attacked.
Thus, we have separated 4 benefits that the hidden customer brings to the improvement of processes.
1 – Give the customer the best experience possible
Have excellence in service – this is what your company wants and that is what your clients, undoubtedly deserve.
Alignment of processes to quality standards is only possible when a secret shopper has identified the bottlenecks and understands how to correct them.
That inside, immersed in everyday life, especially in the operational part, are so used to the modus operandi that they don’t notice the flaws.
That’s why this methodology is so effective: It works directly at the points of interaction and is able to capture improvement insights almost instantly.
2 – Greater productivity in all processes
Identifying and correcting problems makes everyone more assertive when working.
After all, knowing the parameters that need to be met and, by following a script (which does not need to be strictly closed), it is possible to have greater productivity within the routine.
Remember: customer focus is constant and the mission to deliver value to them never stops. But, without knowing what works or not, it is up to each one to work as they wish.
And that’s bad, not least because the customer just doesn’t know what to expect.
The standardization of some basic practices leads to greater productivity, and this helps to bring better results for companies and also for teams.
3 – Control over everything that is done
Without control, there is no management. And without management, there is no way to prosper in running any business, no matter what its size or segment.
Achieving a standardization of product, service and service in all branches is without a doubt having control over operations.
The hidden client identifies, on top of the necessary parameters, in which places the work is not being done well.
4 – Sell more
When you straighten out processes, when you increase productivity and deliver value, delighting customers is much easier.
Enchanted customers often buy. And if your after-sales is efficient, within what the company needs, their loyalty is important.
With consumers who are true brand evangelists, you get referrals from new consumers and obviously increase your sales conversion rate.
This, by the way, positively impacts the cost of acquiring customers. Your CAC will be smaller and your company will gain an even greater image as a reference in what it does.
This is, without a doubt, the scenario that every business needs to look for – and you know it very well.
So, how can we help you?
Take the opportunity and read two articles that will help you to have more optimized processes in your business.
The first talks about BSC, Balanced Scorecard and how this methodology helps in the management of companies.
The second is about how the Ishikawa Diagram works to identify internal problems within organizations.
The term hidden customer, at first glance, may seem strange and even sound like something unknown to many. But the truth is, companies that want to know whether the business process is assertive or not, need to resort to this strategy. After all, the objective of any business is to sell more, better and be able…