Secret shopping - how do your donors feel?

“It's not what you do or say, it's how the customer feels.”

Borrowing a market research tool from our for-profit brothers, now's a good time to check how your organization is making a donor feel.

Try testing your customer-friendliness by becoming a secret shopper in your own organization. (If you don't want to do it yourself, enlist a trusted friend or colleague who can give you an unbiased report of the details.) The idea is to approach your organization at its point-of-entry (phone-answerer, web donation site, mail, etc.), say you'd like to make a donation, and see what happens. For the cost of a $10 donation, you can learn if all the systems you've set in place are working in the real world.

Devise the actions you want to check:

Is the phone answered promptly, in a friendly voice, is the “hold” music pleasant?

Does the person answering the phone greet you warmly and either take your donation or readily direct you to the person who can? (You don't want to hear: “She's not in right now; could you call back later?”) It shouldn't feel (to the donor) like a call to the bank.

Does the appropriate person ask for your name and, eventually, your contact details?

Does that person mention the mission your gift will encourage? (Is your gift more than an accounting transaction?)

Are you told how your gift will be acknowledged and how and when you could expect to receive a receipt? Did this come to pass in a timely manner?

Are you asked your preferences about being listed publicly? Were they honored?

Does the person ask what had prompted you to give at this time and show an interest in that trigger? Did he/she go beyond just asking the question as if filling out a report or a computer field?

Do you feel warmly thanked?

When you hung up, did you have a warm positive feeling toward the agency?

Make a “secret donor” call a regular occurrence. Give some thought about how you will share what you've learned with your staff. After you've mastered this task, you might want to try calling to make a planned gift. You might want to call other agencies to see if there's anything you can learn from their phone response.

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