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Can You Mystery Shop a Church? You’d Better Believe It!

In previous blog entries, we’ve discussed mystery shops of restaurants, banks, hotels, and real estate. To the average consumer, the need for mystery shopping in these categories seems logical. These types of businesses want to gain third-party, unbiased insight into what a typical customer experiences when he or she steps into their establishments.

Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan
Image via Wikipedia

But what if I told you that churches can also be clients of mystery shopping companies? Many are surprised to learn that religious associations are now hiring mystery shoppers to report on the quality of their services. And why not? Churches have many of the same concerns as any business out there, primarily, retaining current “customers” and attracting new ones. Just like a hotel or restaurant, those managing a place of worship want to ensure that their congregation’s needs are met.

I recently read an article in BBC News that discussed how the Christian Research Association in the UK organized a study to test “how churches could meet people’s needs.” Thirteen inspectors — called “mystery worshippers” — secretly visited churches in a community. These individuals typically worked as paid secret shoppers of restaurants and retail stores, etc. Moreover, they were from all walks of faith.

The churches, of course, were not warned of the mystery worshippers’ visits beforehand. Still, several churches scored upwards of 90 and 100% when final reports came in, according to the Christian Resources Exhibition (CRE). The mystery worshippers said they were surprised and impressed by the sermons and “warm welcomes.” Some were even inspired to attend the Church again on their own accord.

I think this just goes to show that any establishment that involves personal relationships can benefit from the objective reporting of secret shopping. No matter what kind of product or service is being offered, there is always an opportunity to learn how it’s being experienced from the customer’s point of view. When those learnings can be applied to make adjustments and improvements, everyone benefits.

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