Video mystery shopping among 2012 trends

An increase in smartphone integration, customer review sites and texting feedback will be among the major customer experience management trends for 2012, Retail Customer Experience reports.

An increase in smartphone integration, customer review sites and texting feedback will be among the major customer experience management trends for 2012, Retail Customer Experience reports.

The news source touches on the penetration rate of smartphones in the current cellphone market (40 percent). Smartphone users have more functionality on their phones to browse the internet for offers, take pictures and video, text, and in some cases, complain about a business.

One unique way customers can use camera phones to rate a business is by becoming a video mystery shopper. Some of these people are hired by mystery shopping companies, some run customer service blogs and others simply do it to show their friends. All they have to do is tuck a camera phone in a shirt pocket with the lens poking out, and an hour later, a store's footage, good (or bad) customer service and available products are being broadcast across the internet.

Customer review sites like Yelp aren't going away - these websites give consumers a voice, which can be extremely powerful in coercing a friend or a random viewer to choose or disregard an establishment. Companies must be more aware of their products and customer service than ever before - a diner at a restaurant, for example, might be posting a review about her latest dish before the check even arrives.

Businesses may want to offer discounts or promotions in exchange for reviews on Yelp - which, given the positive incentive, will most likely be of the four or five-star variety.

Texting is also going to continue to gain ground with people of all ages in 2012, not just teens and young adults. An infographic from Mashable in 2010 reported that people aged 35 years and older account for 60 percent of the population - and 50 percent of them are text message senders.

That number has surely grown over the past two years, and companies should embrace texting as a way to elicit customer feedback. This can be done by providing a phone number on table tents, allowing customers to provide text feedback before they leave.

The news source notes one example - a restaurant called Chicken-N-Mo in Spokane, Washington - which used a real-time customer satisfaction survey service to gauge feedback. Managers found that of the 68 reviews it accumulated over six weeks, 95 percent were via text message.