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Interview with Customer Impact

Overview: Customer Impact is a privately owned mystery shopping company, founded in 2008. It is based in The Woodlands, TX and serves over 50 clients in the restaurant, hospitality, grocery, retail and financial sectors. They have an A- rating with the BBB. (The BBB states it does not have sufficient background information on this business, which lowered the rating.)

From my experience, the fees are reasonable and, with their restaurant and retail shops, the additional reimbursements are quite generous. The reports require a reasonable amount of narrative and are audited quite quickly by very forgiving editors. The schedulers are readily available, during business hours, and are amazingly helpful and nice.

Shoppers request shops and are notified if they are awarded the assignment(s). Payment for shops completed during the previous month are paid, via PayPal or Direct Deposit, during the current month, between the 15th and 25th.

Registration is on the Customer Impact website:www.customerimpactinfo.com.

MSM Talks with Scott Hiller, CEO:

MSM: You founded Speedmark Information Services, a company similar to Customer Impact, and after 17 years, sold it to Market Force. A little over a year later, you and Mike Green started Customer Impact and purchased some of the smaller, regional clients back from Market Force. What persuaded you to jump back into the mystery shopping arena?

Scott: Well, I was never really out of the business. When our company was purchased by Market Force, all of the employees, including me, went to work for them. I enjoyed my time with Market Force, but had been on my own for so long, when the opportunity presented itself, I acted on it. Our separation was friendly, and we remain good friends with Market Force.

MSM: The trend among many of the large mystery shopping companies is to discourage shoppers from calling with questions, to the point where some of them bury the phone number deep within their website. The rationale of one of these companies explains, that by using the Help Desk link, it is more economical and allows the MSC to offer higher shopper fees. And then along comes Customer Impact, who not only prints their phone number on the paperwork, but also, requires a shopper to call if they are new to the type of shop. Could you please comment?

Scott: I never really thought of operating any other way. Our customers rely on quality data sent to them quickly. One of the ways we assure we are delivering quality data is to have an open communication link with our shoppers. They are really part of our team, and we encourage the interaction.

MSM: After combing through over two years of postings on the Mystery Shop Forum, in search of credible complaints about Customer Impact, I came up empty-handed. If anything, there was a plethora of “I love this company” posts. To what do you attribute this?

Scott: For as long as we have been in business, we have had an internal statement of ethics which explains how we interact with everyone we come in contact with. Our ethics include complete integrity and open communications with our employees, peers, customers and suppliers. We are not perfect We deliver solutions when we have problems, and I am convinced this is one of the primary reasons our business has grown over the years.

MSM: Your website states that Customer Impact was formed with a focus on small and medium-sized companies. When you recruit shoppers, to represent your company, what is your criteria? Please rank the following attributes in importance to your company? (5 = Highest, 1 = Lowest)
Great memory
Above-average writing skills
Ability to follow instructions
Dependable
Highly developed observation skills

Scott: All of these attributes are important, but dependability along with good writing skills are probably the most important…some of the others can be refined and improved with coaching, but dependability is a trait that is there at a level we demand, or it is not.

MSM: Do you foresee Customer Impact expanding into video mystery shops?

Scott: We do offer video shops as an option.

MSM: What do you see as the future of mystery shopping?

Measuring customer service and adherence to operational standards will remain an important component of superior organizations who want to deliver a great experience to their customers, and maintain a culture of a customer focus.

Like all businesses today, technology will continue to drive our industry, with more data collection and delivery being done with hand-held devices such as phones, smart pads and other new devices on the way.

Speed of delivery and quality of data will lead also, and those companies that keep up and innovate will survive. The others will not.  We have to see.
ourselves as market research experts that support the demand for information, deliver it quickly with current technology and satisfy the demand of our customers.

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