Mystery shopping – interesting discoveries

By 6th January 2012August 25th, 2015Ecommerce

This was an interesting little project for me and I thought I’d share…

Our strategy advisor kept on telling us about the importance of superb customer service and continuous improvement in this area but also about knowing our competitors, what they offer, how they engage, what they charge, etc. We thought it would be rather fitting to experience how potential clients are treated by other companies in our field.

I have an old e-commerce site that needs re-vamping and I have submitted a request for quotation to about 10 different competitors in our field. The results were quite interesting:

  1. Most of the companies had a request a quote form or a button to take me through the enquiry process. I only had to write 2 emails to the sales team direct.
  2. Out of all the companies that I contacted, I only received 3 emails back that were addressing what I needed and 4 automated emails thanking me for my interest (but without any follow up afterwards)
  3. The competitors who I thought were the most reputable did not even respond to my request for a quote…
  4. I only had up to 2 touch points with any of the competitors before they have stopped contacting me
  5. The price quotations for developing a full e-commerce website were vastly different… from £1.5k and 5 weeks project duration (on old style OS Commerce developed in China) to 12k and 12 weeks (on Magento developed in the UK)
  6. I have only received one document that looked like a proper quotation document with letterheads, project plans, budgets – others were just simple email replies
  7. None of the quotes included putting in the content which would have left me with an empty shop and masses of work to put all the products in… Especially the cheaper quotes seemed to me to only look cheap at first sight but have quite a few hidden costs when you start adding what you need

All in all – it seems like web design agencies in general have a quite a way to go in terms of responding to client enquiries and offering them a superb pre-sales service. Most of them already offer a nice form to fill-in to request a quotation but in most cases, this form is not followed up with any action or at best it is followed up with an automated ‘thank you’ email.

When the customer is receiving quotes they differ so much in terms of platforms/ designs/ time to deliver/ quality of the delivered product e.g. in terms of the website optimisation/ including content or not/ budget/ elements in an out of scope that the poor client really needs to know what they want…otherwise they will end up paying over the odds for a poor design and poor quality ecommerce shop that has no products on go-live and no available support to turn to when there are problems (as the team is in e.g. China).

Our process looks like this – the customer contacts us using a form on the site. The email goes directly to our Director and he starts to engage with the client which is typically a phone conversation and a few meetings and emails. For us, it takes about 8 touch points with the client before they decide to go forward with the project… partially it’s to do with the client getting to know what they can have and educating themselves and weighing it up with the time to deliver and money they have to spend…we try to act like trusted advisors and present what’s possible, open up lots of options and let the client decide what’s most suitable. We typically write a proposal almost at the end of the process where the client is already committed to doing work with us and we just need to give some structure to the deliverables, scope, plans and budgets. Sometimes it takes them a year to decide! And that’s fine 🙂

We find that it’s easier for a client to commit to a smaller deliverable up front and to keep working on their site as a monthly support contract thereafter or subsequent releases of software of different parts of the website… It gives the client an option to have a better budget control and to keep their website/ application up to date, pick up on new trends, better engage with customers, develop parts that have better take-up, etc.