Secret Shop Your Client Experience to Improve Your Marketing

We have all received client service so wonderful that we’ve raved about it to anyone who would listen.

In contrast, you have surely had a client experience so awful that you are determined to never use the product or service in question again. Wouldn’t you love to know what your clients really experience when engaging with your firm? What improvements or procedures could be implemented to ensure your client has a positive experience? It’s time to secret shop your sales and service process and discover how your client experience is affecting your business.

As a marketing director, I have seen how effective a secret shopper (or let’s say a secret client) can be in exposing hidden faults in client experience. For instance, an organization I worked with in the past received vague but consistent complaints about a registration process that clients described as unwieldy and difficult to navigate. With this in mind, management assigned a person unknown to the rest of the staff to follow the path of our customers through our sales and service process to determine where the problem resided.  Later, after reflecting on their experience, the secret client explained that they had loved dealing with the front desk and even gave them rave reviews. The secret client had experienced no problems with the billing process but described the registrar as cold and impersonal leading them to characterize the entire customer experience as a poor one. At the time we in management wondered if perhaps the registrar might have been having a bad day, so another secret client was sent to navigate the process and again the registrar’s poor customer service skills were identified as the problem. Unfortunately, even after additional training and coaching this employee remained resistant to change and had to be reassigned away from responsibilities requiring customer interaction. Nonetheless, without the insights provided by the secret clients we might never have discovered the source of the friction that left so many customers feeling cold about our registration process. Given our reliance on previous clients for fundraising and future growth leaving every client with a warm and lasting good impression was imperative.

It need not be expensive nor time consuming to assign several people to document their experiences with your sales and service process. Identifying and eliminating frictions in client interactions is the way to ensure that the whole experience is one that turns clients into advocates and a constant source of referrals. Word of mouth based on positive customer experience is one of the most critical aspects of your marketing strategy and should be treated as such.

Special thanks to my co-author Cody Malone, Principal/Consultant at EMPATÍA.UX. He can be reached at for user experience design.  To sign up for more marketing tips, visit