You spend a lot of time ensuring the best-possible experience for every customer purchasing your product or service. You've trained a friendly, knowledgeable staff, and you use customer feedback—both positive and negative—to shape the sales process and provide ongoing support.

But do you know how your customer experience compares with that offered by your competition? Especially during a sluggish recovery—when an experience might make the difference between a loyal customer and a former customer? In times like these, it's best to know how well you measure up. And that may mean it's time to go shopping.

Allow us to explain: "Perhaps it is a good idea if a company owner becomes a customer and walks in the shoes of a consumer," Cheryl Hanna suggests in a post at the Service Untitled blog. She offers an example of how to become a secret shopper to check out the competition:

"Order a pair of shoes from a competitor; observe their service, [test] their product; [participate in and learn] from the experience," she advises. When you take on the role of an average customer, she notes, you can observe how your competitor's sales process differs from your own, and adapt or adopt any good ideas you discover that might work well in your business.

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