Local News

Secret Shoppers Working to Improve Customer Service

Posted February 16, 1999

— Getting good service in the Triangle can, at times, seem almost impossible.

Who hasn't spent minute after minute on hold or received the wrong order at a fast food drive-through? To top it all off, there's nothing worse than a case of bad attitude.

A new study shows things may be changing.

The American Customer Satisfaction Survey shows we are more satisfied with the services we are receiving. It is the first time in five years there has been any significant improvement in customer service.

After handing out bad service for years, retailers may finally be doing something right. That may be because someone is secretly watching the way they do business.

"They come into our stores and then they will shop and give us a report card every month on how we did," says Jiffy Lube's Dave Barnett. "They grade you on telephone [and] write up procedure."

Secret Shoppers are popping up in even the least obvious businesses. Their goal is to improve customer service after their visit.

"You can look at your income statement or your balance sheet but it's not going to tell you how you're doing with your customer," says Elaine Buxton.

Buxton's company employs more than 1,000 secret shoppers in the Triangle. Companies, including Jiffy Lube, receive a detailed report on their service after each visit.

And if a happy customer means a return customer, "we're not going to end it. It's critical, it's vital to the business," says Barnett.

Economists say many businesses began focusing more on customer service after online shopping took off.

Another interesting note; banks fared the worst in the customer service survey.


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