Mystery shop your competition. Mystery shopping is shopping with your competition, under the cover of anonymity, with the intent of seeing how they perform. Consider this marketplace espionage. While much less direct than simply introducing yourself and swapping stories about successes and follies, this still gives you vital information about what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and how you may better leverage your own efforts.
Better: Pay someone to mystery shop you. Look for the good, the bad, and the ugly. Act on what you discover.
Variation: While there are professional mystery-shopping organizations widely available, there is another way. Seek out strategic partners within your network, and arrange to have them shop you. Tutor them on the facets of the customer experience you would like to know most about. This may even be a reciprocal effort, where you shop them in return.
Tip: You must remain open to criticism if you’re going to have yourself shopped. Being closed-minded to the results may render them useless and leave you in the dark.