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Ten Tips to Unraveling a Mystery Shopping Program

Posted on 11/29/11 10:30 AM

Is there a difference in customer service when a Regional Manager and/or VP of Operations visits one of your locations on a Tuesday afternoon versus a customer walking in on Thursday night a half hour before closing? Read 10 tips how a mystery shopping program can provide clearer vision into how customers are treated in your store locations.

top tenWhen a store manager hears that the Regional Manager or VP of Operations is visiting stores, you can expect they will notify associates, clean everything, stand at attention and be on their best behavior. The store is usually merchandised perfectly, customers are assisted during the visit and everyone is friendly and energetic. But is the same happening 30 minutes after corporate visitors leave that store?

It would be great if the store always operated as when they are visited by a DM, RM, LP or corporate staff. Unfortunately this is not always the case; in fact it is almost never the case.  This is where a mystery shopping program can be that extra set of eyes checking on the store environment when corporate is not visiting stores, the district manager is busy visiting other locations or when the store manager has the day off.

10 tips when considering and implementing a mystery shopping program are:

  1. Inspect what you expect. When developing a mystery shop questionnaire, make certain it is based on expectations that are properly documented, such as within an associate training handbook, customer service manual or P&P manual.

  2. Keep the scope of your questions observation based. Avoid implementing a shop as a substitute for a more detailed store audit. Shop questions should be short and direct, with specific goals and objectives.

  3. Your business changes and so should your shop questionnaire. This is not to say you should alter the entire shop regularly as that would hinder the ability to benchmark key areas. But, think about a “question of the month” that coincides with sales and promotions.

  4. Your mystery shop questionnaire does not need to focus solely on customer service. Consider what other observations the shopper canhappy employee make “through your customer’s eyes” like store opening times, door greeter positioning, associate interaction, etc.

  5. The evolution of a mystery shop program can identify opportunities for increasing sales. Have mystery shoppers monitor and gauge the percentage of cashiers (for a certain time or number of transactions) who offer add-on items at the point of sale. This monitoring of customer interaction can help determine the likelihood of associates regularly offering discounts, add-ons or other sales increasing offers.

  6. Determine a shop schedule that fits your budget, but consider increasing the shop frequency for locations that score below average. Treat failing shop locations like you would a target store for auditing or inventory improvement.

  7. Do not restrict times or days for mystery shopping. Yes, it may be a burden during busy shopping times, but is there really a time or day that you would ever accept poor customer service?

  8. Catch your associates performing perfectly too! Your mystery shops by nature are focused on finding out what needs to be corrected, however have a section within your shop questionnaire for the shopper to comment on positive experiences. Mystery shops should also be a tool to acknowledge associates who are going above and beyond for customers and selling opportunities.

  9. Select a mystery shopping solution provider that provides automated email notifications that can customize delivery based on scores, districts, regions, etc. Filter your notifications so that emails are not taking up space in your inbox, but rather sent to ensure they are read and reviewed.

  10. Make certain your mystery shopping provider has software that has robust online reporting that will help identify trends across various hierarchies of your business. Choose a provider that offers a suite of high level reporting as well as question by question averages and details.

Your business is unique and your mystery shopping program should be too. Your mystery shopping provider should present you with a customized solution from form development to reporting capabilities. A successful mystery shop program is a great way to gauge the customer experience, identify trends and gain insight to each of your locations.

Written by Marc MacGillivray, National Client Services Manager

Topics: Loss Prevention program and development, Mystery Shopping