StormCloud

Customer Experience Experts

Company Overview: Customer Experience Experts (CEE), formerly known as Draude Marketing Group, is led by Founder and President, Nancy Draude.  According to her LinkedIn page, Ms. Draude founded CEE “over 10 years ago”.  Ms. Draude shares that she has over 20 years of experience in related fields.

CEE is a member of the MSPA.  A search of the BBB didn’t reveal a listing, and no BBB affiliation is indicated on the company’s main website, which is here.

There’s nothing on the CEE website about where the company is located, but on Ms. Draude’s LinkedIn page, she tells us that they operate out of their corporate office in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; providing services via regional offices throughout the US and Canada.  LinkedIn seems to be the only social media CEE is involved in.

The main CEE website reminds shoppers that, “the reports you complete directly affect the lives and careers of the persons being evaluated”, and requires shoppers to take the shops seriously, and treat every associate fairly and with that consideration in mind.

I only found a couple of discussion threads on Mystery Shop Forum (MSF), but apparently there is a little confusion between this MSC and another with a similar name — Customer Experience Experts, is NOT the same as Customer Service Experts.

Types & Locations of Shops:

Like many MSC’s, mystery shopping is only one component of what CEE offers it’s clients.  They also research and assess the client’s brand, products, and services; “competitive intelligence”; customer perceptions, habits, and satisfaction; and employee impressions, opinions, and attitudes.  They work with clients to establish performance standards; along with programs for sales, service, and leadership training and monitoring; employee recognition and incentive/reward; and brand and product merchandising programs.  They also provide clients with a variety of survey and interview options, including focus groups; to gather feedback from both customers and employees.  You can see for yourself, more of the full scope of what CEE does, here.

CEE’s website describes their trademarked “PerformanceChek” mystery shopping program thusly:

“PerformanceChek™ is dedicated to providing clients with state of the art mystery shopping programs designed to give timely, accurate and meaningful feedback. Bottom line, customers vote with their feet and we tell you what you need to know to keep them walking through your door.”

They work with clients in banking, health care, drug store/pharmacy, grocery and convenience stores, hotels, restaurants/cafes, department and retail stores, telecommunications, and “all service committed industries and companies”.  However, the majority of the website seems primarily aimed towards the banking industry.

A quick search of the job board found shops currently in the following states:  Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania; with the majority of those shops being in CEE’s home state of Pennsylvania.  On MSF, a couple of shoppers report a major banking client in Mississippi as recently as June of this year; but I didn’t find any shops available there at this time.  No shops were currently found in Canada.

Currently the vast majority of the shops listed are in the banking industry, along with one charitable donation shop, and one for an eatery.   Hopefully more states and a wider variety of shops will be available in the future!

Getting & Completing Shops:

Basic shopper information is found here.

CEE uses the popular, and familiar-to-most-shoppers, SASSIE platform.  You can search for jobs using the “Classic” job board, (my personal preference) or the map-based job board — where you input your address and then search whatever radius you’d like from there.   From what I can tell, no special certifications are required for specific shops, as with some MSC’s.

I didn’t find any shops that were self-assign currently on the board, and from reading the brief initial job descriptions, it appears that scheduling is handled by Summit Scheduling.  CEE’s website states that shoppers are selected based on the needs of the client, including matching the client’s target customer profile and demographics.  Shoppers are also selected based on their reliability, along with the observational and writing skills, and their ability to properly follow guidelines.

As is typical, a prospective shopper can’t view guidelines or questionnaires until being assigned a specific shop.  Never having done a shop for CEE, as there are none in my half of the country; I can’t comment on the various aspects of their guidelines or questionnaires — such as clarity, thoroughness, or readability.  However, I did note that (to me, anyway) their website a bit lacking in organization and has some annoying redundancy of information; so I hope this wouldn’t carry through to guidelines and questionnaires.

Completed reports are due within 24 hours of completion of the shop, unless an exception is stated in a specific shop’s guidelines, or unless arrangements are made with CEE ahead of time.  When reporting your shops, SASSIE does allow for reports to be saved in-progress, and also for a PDF version of the completed report to be saved by the shopper.  Shoppers are asked to be available, or at least to check messages regularly, in case there are any clarifications needed post-shop.

CEE provides a Shopper Hotline for shoppers to call with any questions about any aspect of their shops, or if they run into any difficulties while completing a shop or making deadlines.  The numbers are given here (http://www.customer-experience-experts.com/shopperinfo.php).  Oddly, the webpage gives two different phone numbers for the Hotline in two different sections — “Deadlines”, and “Client Contact”.  Your scheduler can also typically be contacted by email via a “contact” link given with each shop listed in your Shop Log.

Again, since I’ve never been able to complete a shop for CEE, I’m unable to give a first-hand account regarding the nature and complexity of shops and reports.  Just looking at my empty shop log, there is a category for ‘Shop Rating’; so I would presume that CEE uses the standard scoring system that most SASSIE-based MSC’s do, which is a scale of one through ten.

With the SASSIE platform, shoppers are easily able to view completed shops if they wish, for verifying payments and other shop details.  Also, your Shopper Agreement can be reviewed any time, through the Shopper Profile link, at the top of your Shop Log.

Writing skills are strongly emphasized and a high standard is expected — not just the basic spelling, grammar, and punctuation; but also “content and coherence”.  Shoppers who submit work considered substandard will be noted and may be removed from the shopper database if their work doesn’t improve.

What Others Have to Say: In the two discussion threads on MSF, one from 2013 and one from earlier this year, shoppers report that CEE is a company that values its shoppers; schedulers are friendly, responsive, and eager to help shoppers who need it; most shops are no-purchase-required, and are quick and easy to complete; reports are reasonable, and pay is fair for the level of work required.  One shopper even reports that the owner of the company was happy to work with her when she had issues with a major project, in order to successfully complete it and help get the reports accepted so she could be paid.

What About Getting Paid? CEE pays via PayPal.  Shoppers are advised to “not use an address that PayPal might recognize as a business account, or they will deduct a fee”.  Payments are processed the last working day of the month, following the month in which the project was completed.  However, nothing is said about how long it typically takes the payment to reach the shopper after processing.  Make sure the email address in your shopper profile matches your PayPal email address!

A number to call with payment-related inquiries is here (http://www.customer-experience-experts.com/shopperinfo.php) under the “Employment and Compensation” heading.

Shoppers on MSF report that the company pays reliably and quickly, and they receive their money in 30 days or less — one shopper reported being paid in under two weeks.  The title of one thread on CEE includes the phrase, “Lightning Fast Pay!”

One shopper even reports multiple payments in a month, with shops being paid as they are accepted.  This shopper also says that there is a slight delay on bank shop payments, as CEE holds the reports briefly, to help shoppers keep their cover; but still paying in under 30 days.

Getting Signed Up: Being on the SASSIE platform, getting signed up with CEE is pretty quick and easy, as it is for most SASSIE-based MSC’s.  Despite the paragraph on their webpage dedicated to writing skills, no writing sample is required with  the initial sign-up process.  I checked my profile, as sometimes the writing sample will be required as part of an “Extended Profile”; but I didn’t find any evidence of one being called for — actually, I didn’t even find an “Extended Profile” section.  (:

The sign-up page is here.

You just enter your email, select your country (USA or Canada), agree to the Independent Contractor Agreement, and then fill out all the standard and basic information required when signing up with any MSC, including basic demographics.  That’s it!

Summary: Although I have no personal experience, going by the handful of comments on MSF, I wish I could say that I did! Shoppers are enthusiastic about working for CEE.  They report easy-to-complete shops, reasonable reports, reliably fast pay that is equitable for the work, and a helpful and responsive company.  I only wish they had shops where I am!

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