Some had a hint that I was someone they’d seen before, but outside my usual navy blazer and microphone, none of them bagged me as that consumer investigator from WSB-TV. I invited them to my home because I wanted to experience first-hand each company’s price, quality and customer service.
For example, of the six companies I shopped for pest control service, Allgood Pest Solutions’ technician was the only professional who donned coveralls and crawled through my nasty crawlspace — in and out of the pouring rain, to give me an accurate assessment. I was impressed — and they got my business. Secret shopping was and continues to be a cornerstone of how I certify companies for my free consumer help and referral site, TrustDale.com.
Today, not-so-secret shopping holds the key to empowering us all to be better consumers. Last week, I applauded the efforts of a Marietta-based website called MyGrocerySpy.com, a resource where fellow shoppers actually shop and report prices across the region’s best-known grocery outlets. Another favorite is Gas
Buddy.com, where you and I can actually report and retrieve the cheapest gas prices in our neighborhoods.
Simply stated, the Internet has given us the vehicle to shop for almost any product and service, compare price, quality and make better decisions going forward. These sites are changing the way we shop, and in turn, the way companies do business — one industry at a time.
Could health care delivery be next? I just discovered a website called MonocleHealth.com. Its founder, health care management expert Mike Cadger, had a bold idea: Why not create a one-stop resource for finding medical care, based on the providers’ price, record of quality and service? (Sounds a lot like TrustDale.com!)
Its brilliance is captured in its simplicity: Mike and his team invite employers and their employees to simply enter their basic data: location, type of service needed, press enter and voila! The screen provides an instant ranking of providers based on distance, real price and tangible quality measurements (as determined by reputable rating services).
Why would someone actually choose a less expensive provider? “Well,” Mike said, “because more expensive does not necessarily mean better.” He provided several examples of local providers we think are the best, simply because they’re known for charging the most. He then related several eye-popping examples of how some of their lesser-heralded competitors actually delivered a higher quality of care — at a lower price.
“OK,” I responded, but people aren’t going to agree to use a lower-cost provider if they aren’t the ones paying the bill. Mike disagrees (and since he’s a former partner with Price, Waterhouse Coopers, I shut up and let him explain). Despite everything politicians are doing to alter our health care model, Mike said the marketplace will ultimately determine the solution.
Smart employers who provide health coverage will require their employees to take a more aggressive role in helping manage costs, and they’ll do that by providing their employees direct access to independent rating services like MonocleHealth.com. I can’t argue. Monocle Health’s first client to sign? Southern Company.
For great consumer advice and companies you can trust, go to www.TrustDale.com. Watch Dale Cardwell on TrustDale TV weekends on Fox 5; and don’t miss his new consumer problem-solving radio show on Saturday afternoons on WSB-AM News/Talk 750 and NOW 95.5 FM.