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GSA Suggests Using ‘Secret Shoppers’ to Evaluate Call Centers

When the General Services Administration launched its Centers of Excellence in 2017, the program included revamping agency contact centers as a major customer experience push. To ensure the program is meeting that goal, the Contact Center CoE recently began conducting undercover assessments.

Last week, the CoE outlined its mystery shopper program and offered advice for other agencies interested in doing the same.

In a post on the CoE blog, the Contact Center team explained how first impressions with an agency representative can color a caller’s entire experience from the start. And while customer service representatives can be trained, using a mystery shopper for evaluations can ensure call centers are setting the stage for better interactions.

“The technique utilizes ‘secret shoppers’ who pose as customers with an inquiry for the agency’s contact center,” the post explains. “This process can deliver unbiased and unfiltered insights into how customer service representatives are handling customer inquiries.”

But before sending undercover operatives to evaluate call center representatives, agency leaders should lay out exactly what they want to measure. The CoE suggests analyzing issues like the overall customer experience; the accuracy and consistency of information provided; how quickly calls are answered and turned around; recurring pain points; and “relationships between various contact lines,” including multiple call centers or methods for contacting the agency.

The post provides a sample graphic showing five such metrics and examples of how shoppers can measure the quality of their interactions.

From there, agencies can begin developing fake personas for their secret shoppers.

“Creating a list of personas involves thinking critically about the types of customers the agency serves on a regular basis,” the post states. “Specifically, what kinds of questions these customers usually pose and what are their most pressing needs?”

Authenticity is key, and secret shoppers should have the list of tailored questions handy to keep their test on track.

The authors note this method can be used to evaluate problems that are “technological, workforce-related, operational, or all of the above.”

Once the issues are identified, “Next steps may include updating training materials, retraining staff to better handle topics that were poorly addressed during mystery calls, routing calls in a more efficient manner to meet customer’s specific needs, and creating more or different contact channels,” the post states.

source: NextGov