At the start of 2004, automation of the entire process started, providing immense improvement to the system on many levels. The automated system allowed shoppers to register online with the company, and the number of qualified shoppers quickly expanded. More importantly, the submission of shopping reports was automated, allowing for businesses to review and react to the results of a mystery shop within 24 to 48 hours. This was a great benefit to managers and company owners, as issues could be addressed and rectified quickly and efficiently. It also allowed Ann Michaels & Associates to expand their business to assist clients across North America, with a current database exceeding 300,000 shoppers.
Another benefit of the automated system was the addition of interactive analytical reports. These reports are available to customers through a secure online suite that houses their individual shop evaluations and analytical reports. The user friendly, interactive reports allow customers to drill down to find strengths and areas of improvement, enhancing their current service and bringing it to the next level.
As the internet gained popularity and social media networking exploded, Ann Michaels & Associates again listened to the needs of their customers. They noticed customer feedback left on popular sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, but weren't quite sure how to keep track of it all. In response, the company developed a social media monitoring program that will continually monitor the Web to find conversations surrounding a brand or industry, and provide detailed reports to clients. These weekly reports include raw data surrounding the conversations, comments, and posts online as well as information regarding demographics, sentiment, and geography.
Competitive social media monitoring has also become more relevant as social media exploded. Many companies are now seeking this specialized competitive intelligence to further enhance their marketing strategies.
As a retail owner, Kathy Doering understood the importance of customer service, not only with regard to customer loyalty, but also to revenue and increased sales. They realized that employees provided excellent customer service while they were present, and wondered if the same service levels were provided when they weren’t there. To answer this question, a basic mystery shopping program was implemented to visit their business and evaluate the service provided. The information gained was invaluable. Realizing that this service would benefit companies in every industry, Ann Michaels & Associates was conceptualized.
The company started its operations in 1998 serving companies throughout the Midwest. The process was slow at the time – the company relied on paper and fax to complete shops. Surveys and training materials were originally mailed to mystery shoppers. At times they could be sent via fax or email, but that was rare. Mystery shoppers would conduct shops and complete handwritten reports. These reports were sent to Ann Michaels & Associates via fax or mail, at which time Account Managers needed to convert the handwritten reports into a typed format. The reports were compiled, printed, and mailed to the clients each week. While providing excellent, objective information, turnaround time was lacking. The importance of acting on issues that were in need of quick improvement was noted, and alternatives to this current system were investigated.
As business grew and more and more companies understood the importance of objectively measuring service levels and employee performance, it was apparent that a broader view was needed to truly assist companies in improving the customer experience. Ann Michaels & Associates surveyed clients to better understand their needs and realized that while mystery shopping provides an objective snapshot of customer service, another viewpoint was needed for the big picture.
Customer feedback programs were the obvious solution. Taking the objective information gleaned from mystery shopping and coupling that with the more subjective voice of the customer, owners and managers were able to see their business from all aspects. The service was originally offered as a web based program in early 2006, and has expanded to offer web based and toll-free telephone based feedback programs throughout 2007.
Finally, Ann Michaels & Associates again expanded their services to allow companies a true 360 degree view of their business by implementing employee surveys. These surveys were similar to the customer feedback in that they were anonymous and could be implemented on a web based or toll free telephone format, but they allowed management to survey their employees to pinpoint potential morale issues and gather feedback for improvement.
This wide range of services has led to great success for Ann Michaels & Associates’ clientele and has positioned Ann Michaels & Associates as a customer service solution based company.
The Customer Engagement Console launched shortly after digital marketing and advertising became relevant within stores and restaurants. This console is an interactive kiosk that allows customers to learn more about products, make purchasing decisions by answering a series of questions, and connect with a brand's social media sites during the moment of experience. This has helped businesses better engage with customers and "fill in the gaps" for customer service as needed.
The company's ultimate goal is to stay on top of technological advancements and continually offer relevant services to make managing and monitoring the customer experience simple and affordable.
Ann Michaels & Associates is a proud member of the following organizations: The Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA), Naperville Chamber of Commerce, and the National Retail Federation.