13 July 2008

Mystery shop your way to success

Mystery shoppers (or shadow shoppers) are used by more businesses every day to provide an independent evaluation of what the business is doing well and what it could be doing better. They are not witch hunts trying to find the underachieving employee who can then be thrown to the wolves. They are mechanisms for giving an honest appraisal of a business.

Companies that offer mystery shopping services can be found in most cities. Often this is a service provided by marketing companies and training organisations. In more recent times, firms that do nothing but offer customer service evaluations, utilising mystery shoppers as one of their key resources, are being set up.

Ideally no one, not even the business owner, will know when a mystery shopper will be dropping by. They will appear just like any other customer and that is the aim. A short while later a report will be issued and the overall performance of the business can be measured. Periodically the mystery shopper evaluation can be repeated to determine if the business has improved or worsened.

Normally the first mystery shopper is the tough one. It highlights the most glaring weaknesses and it can be quite confronting for the business owners and the staff. Often the initial response is to point the finger and blame, which is not the best course of action. What is needed following this first report is a clear and level-headed plan to rectify any problems and to work at improving the business in any of the areas that need improving.

  • Mystery shoppers can be used to evaluate the following:
  • service and selling skills offered over the telephone
  • how easy the business is to find
  • how appealing the entrance is
  • general layout of the business
  • first impressions of staff and the business overall
  • overall cleanliness of the business
  • overall ambience of the business (smells, sounds etc.)
  • appearance of the staff
  • selling skills of the staff
  • perceived value for money
  • general level of customer service
  • response time to internet enquiries
  • quality of the products or services sold.

There are many other related and specific areas of any business that can be evaluated and the information is usually valuable. While it can be a little confronting the end result is that your business will have the opportunity to rectify problems that can be losing you customers.

It is also interesting to note that if your staff know you are having regular mystery shoppers they tend to try a little harder as they never quite know if the customer standing in front of them is today’s mystery shopper. Because of this, it is important to share any mystery shopper findings, good and bad, with your staff. Show them the information that is collected and that you are doing something with it.

It takes a strong business to use mystery shoppers—but they are a great way to work out the difference between mediocre and extraordinary. There are no businesses that I can think of that wouldn’t benefit from being mystery shopped. 

Got for it. 



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