If you’ve looked in the correct spots, you should have noticed encouraging signs from the economy lately. For those of us that keep a pulse on the retail field, this recent holiday season was a good one, perhaps a little better than we all expected. Shoppers were back in stores, products were moving, and dollars were exchanging. And if you’re like many other retailers out there, you are probably thinking that it’s time to kick up investments in your customer service, time to make sure your employees are delivering the best customer experience can they can provide. You want your brand to stand out in the crowd, so you’ve decided to look into customer service consulting.
With the help of technology and innovation, customer service consulting firms have come a long way since their humble beginnings. Here are some things to consider when choosing the firm that’s best for you, and how to go about vetting a consulting firm you may be interested in:
- Accreditation: This is easily overlooked, but extremely important. Inquire to see if the customer intelligence and research provider you’re looking into is part of industry associations, such as the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) or a similar network.
- Services: Know what services they provide and what you are getting. Are they a mystery-shopping-only provider? Many firms offer a full menu of services, including customer feedback surveys, software, and on-site consultation. It’s all well and good to have one shopper’s reaction to your customer service experience, or to have a list of metrics printed out for you, but how do you make sense of it? The best firms will do this for you. Ask yourself: how will this firm address my company’s complete needs?
- Reputation: This goes beyond just asking your contacts and friends (although there is something to be said for this practice as well). Find a local business that has a similar setup to yours, while not being a direct competitor, and ask them. Put it right out there. Ask: “Would you consult with them again?” Other resources for recommendations include local business and retail associations that you may (or may not, even) be a member of.
- View Their Website: You can’t always trust and assess providers solely based on their online presence, but often the best firms have made it a point to have an online presence that is as impressive as their product. You can ask yourself: How does this particular firm represent itself online? Does it show care and passion for the services they provide? Do they provide samples of their work? How is their customer service?
- View Their Portfolio: Good firms are proud of their portfolio and will be happy to share it with you. You can often find this information on their website. If it’s not, call or visit them and ask.
- Get On The Phone: Call the consulting firm itself and chat. Do their values and passions align with your brand’s? Have they worked in your specific sector before? The more questions you have for them, the better. Remember, they are working for you. Tell them up front: “I’m interested in delivering the best customer experience possible,” and see what they say. Then ask for references and be sure to follow up with them.
The best part about searching for a customer service consulting firm is that the people you will be dealing with will be experts in customer service. This should be evident throughout your entire experience with the potential firm. If it’s not, move on to the next one. Keep searching until you feel absolutely comfortable with your complete experience. Do this, and the chances of your overall satisfaction will greatly improve.