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Mystery Shopping

Understanding and Measuring a Modern Retail Customer Experience

Technology has certainly sped up the way we do things: the retail supply chain has changed as Amazon has worked to perfect fast fulfillment and two-day shipping. It has changed the way retailers and suppliers exchange information and sell products online. And it has even changed the way products are promoted and shared between shoppers.

All of this has led to things like the retail omnichannel, the idea that the customer experience is the same in the store as it is in the ecommerce site, as it is on the mobile app, as it is on the packaging from the online order.

And all of this has led to the redefinition of the “modern customer experience.”

A recent article by Daniel Bakst says that regardless of how things, the key to delivering a modern customer experience is “by providing the value that brought customers to your brand in the first place.”

Mobile survey in Persian. Every good retailer is worried about their customer experience, no matter where in the world they are.In other words, don’t lose track of what made you a customer’s favorite in the first place. But at the same time, don’t get complacent. If customers don’t find anything new or exciting, they’ll start looking for new ways to spend their money and find the things that made them excited about your own brand in the first place.

This means you always need to be focused on the customer experience and make sure this is what your customers want from you. Measure the performance of new products, current products, and even new products available from competitors and new suppliers.

How can you manage all this? Data collection. As Bakst says:

If your brand is hoping to start the journey of fostering and executing modernity in its Customer Experience, then data-collection is the first step. Without data, brands are simply making guesses hoping that customers will like it. Before any major investment or change is made, organizational leadership should have a clear idea of what changes need to be made, how these changes will take place, and what kind of effect it will have on the bottom line. Enact Customer Experience measurement programs like mystery shopping and voice of customer feedback surveys to get a clearer understanding of how customers feel about your existing Customer Experience, and what changes can improve upon these feelings.

We’re a big believer in point-of-sale analytics and paying close attention to your top performing brands and suppliers. But, most retail buyers only have the bandwidth to keep track of their Tier 1 suppliers, and can’t pay as much attention as the Tier 2 suppliers or seasonal items.

Plus, you have no way of knowing what your customers actually think about your store and brand.

This is where mystery shopping and the “voice of the customer” feedback helps. A mystery shopping agency can not only help you determine whether your stores and staff are meeting your standards, you can use mobile surveys to keep track of what people buy and then assess their attitudes toward those products.

With enough surveys, you can get an idea of what customers think of your best performers, information you can’t always get just by analyzing sales data. And with enough mystery shopping reports, you can determine whether your staff and store performance is providing the experience your modern customers expect from you.

Mystery Shopping

Understanding and Measuring a Modern Retail Customer Experience

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has started a mystery shopping program — they call it “shadow shopping” down under — as part of its review of the mortgage broker industry. According to BrokerNews.com, ASIC is “delving into the suitability of brokers’ advice.”

ASIC said this is part of its effort to better understand the home loan purchase process, which goes beyond broker commission and remuneration.

“While broker remuneration practices may have an impact on home loan choice, ASIC recognises that a range of other factors influence which home loan products are purchased, and that the purchase experience may vary across purchase channel, i.e. via broker compared to directly from a lender,” said Michael Saadat, ASIC’s senior executive leader for deposit takers, insurers and credit services.

Ultimately, they want to know which factors, other than commission, affect which home loans clients buy, and whether consumer outcomes can be improved.

But this is more than just a marketing move. While ASIC wants to gain insights into how borrowers buy home loans or find decision making points in the whole process, this is also about regulatory compliance and ensuring that brokers are following the legal requirements in the Australian home loan process.

This past November, Saadat told Australian Broker magazine that anything they discovered “will be more about understanding to what extent brokers are potentially not meeting their legal obligations, and whether ASIC, for example, needs to produce more guidance around what they can or can’t say to consumers or whether some other action is required”. 

All of this comes on the heels of ASIC’s findings of rampant loan application fraud originating from the mortgage brokers in June 2017. After those findings, they launched a project to “develop industry-based and best practice solutions to prevent loan fraud, particularly in respect of the home-loan market.”

I sometimes wonder if we’d had similar oversights and compliance mystery shopping programs if the mortgage/credit crash of 2008 could have been avoided or at least lessened. I’m glad to see that mystery shoppers are going to be involved in regulatory compliance efforts.

This is something that mystery shopping agencies, whether in the US, UK, Australia, or elsewhere, can do for lawn enforcement agencies, government agencies, or regulatory agencies. The way ASIC’s program, and any other mystery shopping program, will work is to have either people who need home loans evaluate their loan buying experience, or hire shoppers to pose as home buyers and go through the loan application process without actually taking out the loan.

We’ve done age compliance shops for the purchase of tobacco and alcohol products, regulatory shops for fair housing in home and multi-family dwelling rentals, and have even helped some retail chains ensure their clerks are properly trained on the different rules and laws regulating sales of certain products.

If you would like to learn more about using mystery shopping as a way to monitor legal and regulatory compliance, please contact Measure CP and ask to speak with one of our mystery shopping experts.

Mystery Shopping

Understanding and Measuring a Modern Retail Customer Experience

We’ve talked in the past about mystery shopper scams and the way unsuspecting mystery shoppers can be tricked into different ways of parting with their money. We recently heard a story that has us scratching our heads a bit and wondering if this is a scam or not.

A mystery shopper competition in the United Kingdom is offering customers £100 ($141) gift cards to spend in Aldi in exchange for a review. While this is not an unusual practice per se, it still has us thinking this may be a scam for a couple reasons.

For one thing, $141 is an awfully high amount for a grocery store review. Typical mystery shops run between $8 – $20.

But most importantly, Aldi has said they are not involved with the shopping campaign at all.

Aldi supermarket, Alphington Road, Exeter. Aldi supermarkets are the subject of a questionable contest for mystery shoppers.

Aldi supermarket, Alphington Road, Exeter

They released a statement that said,”Aldi has confirmed that this opportunity isn’t genuine and is in no way connected to the business. Please alert readers to the fact that this is not an Aldi opportunity.”

For another thing, Aldi does not sell gift cards. So there’s no way this mystery shopping contest is offering Aldi gift cards. (Maybe they’re Visa gift cards, which Aldi accepts, but there’s no such thing as an Aldi-branded gift card.)

According to a Cambridge News article, if the shoppers are selected, they only have to visit the store and then provide “honest feedback” about their visit.

To qualify, shoppers must provide their personal details and agree to submit a 500 word written review within a week of the visit, as well as a video and photos.

And there’s the rub: shoppers are being asked to provide their personal details. While your basic personal details are not that hard to find — name, address, email address — anything more than that is liable to make you the victim of identity theft.

At no point should you ever share your birth city, mother’s maiden name, or social security number to someone who’s promising to send you a large gift card.

If these are the kinds of personal details you have to provide to qualify for this kind of “contest,” chances are it’s not on the up and up.

That’s because it could just be an outright lie; they may not send you a card in the first place, but they’ve got your details and can use that to sign up for credit cards in your name.

Now, this could be on the up-and-up. It could be a totally legitimate contest being run by a marketing agency or even an Aldi’s competitor. And the contest website even says they’re not involved with Aldi’s and that this is not an Aldi’s-sponsored contest.

Still, it makes me wonder what kind of mystery shopping campaign it is. Here in the United States, no one would publicly hire mystery shoppers for $141 to go check out a store without some connection to the store.

There might be companies that would do a secret shopping campaign to gather competitive research, but they certainly wouldn’t announce that they were doing it. They would usually hire a mystery shopping agency, or they would do a lot of their own competitive research with their employees.

As we always say, the bottom line in avoiding mystery shopping scams is that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Someone offering you $141 (or even $100) in a mystery shopping contest is probably not a legitimate campaign. Avoid it, hold onto your personal details, and only work with agencies that are members of the MSPA Americas (the Mystery Shopping Professional Association).

If you would like to become a real mystery shopper yourself, you can sign up at our website. Or to hire a mystery shopping agency to run your own campaign, please visit the website for more information.

Photo credit: David Smith (Geograph.org.uk, Creative Commons 2.0)

Mystery Shopping

Understanding and Measuring a Modern Retail Customer Experience

Compliance checks are essentially surprise inspections that federal government agencies and local law enforcement will carry out to ensure that a retail establishment is following the rules and laws created by the government concerning the products being sold.

In other words, they check up on stores to make sure they’re not doing anything illegal.

One example of a compliance check is the age compliance check, which is done to ensure people buying alcohol and tobacco are the legal minimum age to purchase it. The legal age for buying alcohol is 21, and it’s 18 for buying tobacco.

Rum display in a liquor store. Minors are often sent in to buy alcohol during compliance checks.Alcohol retailers that fail to card their customers to determine their age can be penalized and fined by the local law enforcement agencies or the state’s Liquor Control Board, in conjunction with state and local law enforcement. However, it’s usually the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that conducts tobacco compliance checks.

The FDA calls them “Undercover Buy Inspections,” where the retailer is not aware the inspections are taking place. Minors, or people who look very young, will come into the store, buy the product, and then the enforcement begins — it starts with a warning letter or ticket.

A second infraction draws a monetary penalty that can be pretty stiff. Two violations in 12 months is $279, four violations in 24 months will cost you $2,236, and six violations in 48 months costs $11,182. So these guys aren’t messing around!

And if you persist in violating the law, the FDA can hit you with a No-Tobacco-Sale Order (NTSO), where you’re not allowed to sell tobacco products at that specific location for a long period of time.

What About Marijuana Compliance Checks?

Meanwhile, in states where it’s legal to sell marijuana, compliance checks are often overseen by local law enforcement and the Liquor Control Boards

For example, a recent check on underage marijauana sales by Washington State, where it’s legal to sell and use recreational marijuana, saw an 88 percent compliance rating with local laws.

But it’s not just underage sales that are the problem. In states that allow medical marijuana sales, there is a myriad of rules and regulations the dispensaries have to follow.

According to BioTrack.com, these are the top five most common medical marijuana dispensary infractions.

  • The license does not immediately input all marijuana and marijuana product(s) into the State-mandated inventory tracking system and account for all variances.
  • The dispensing facility does not have accurate or updated tracking logs for visitors, security and/or waste.
  • The business does not have all required financial business documentation available as required (federal and state).
  • Marijuana and marijuana product sold to patients does not include all required public health and safety warning statements as required by law.
  • Surveillance cameras do not have clear, unobstructed views of the license premise and blind spots or sight obstructions exist.

Compliance checks can be a royal pain, especially if you’re the one caught selling products to underage buyers or patients who don’t have the right paperwork. This is where it helps to work with a mystery shopping agency.

Mystery shoppers can help liquor and tobacco retailers and marijuana dispensaries stay in compliance with their local laws. Many times, it’s the clerks and non-owners/non-managers who either aren’t fully aware of the laws or don’t have a vested interest in avoiding penalties and fines causing the problem. Working with a mystery shopping agency like Measure CP can help you run spot compliance checks without actually suffering any financial and legal penalties from anything we find. Our job is to report our findings to management, so we can help you find any shortfalls and holes in training.

And we don’t just have to do compliance checks; we can do other checks, such as restroom cleanliness, condition of the stores, friendliness of the staff, or anything else you want to know about at your retail establishment.

To learn more about mystery shopping and compliance checks, please contact us for more information or to speak to one of our mystery shopping experts.

Photo credit: O’Dea (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

Mystery Shopping

Understanding and Measuring a Modern Retail Customer Experience

There are plenty of reasons why we’re seeing casual and fast casual chain restaurants go out of business: Millennials are killing them by not eating there. There are too many restaurants and not enough people are supporting them. People are more interested in farm-to-table not boil-in-a-bag. And some restaurants, like Chipotle, are working hard to re-earn their customers’ trust after several food contamination incidents.

A recent article on CheatSheet.com, These American Restaurants Are Failing to Attract Customers showed 17 casual and fast casual dining chains that are losing sales, closing up stores, and are seeing a general decline in their overall performance.

  1. Sonic
  2. Ovation Brands (Hometown Buffet, Old Country Buffet)
  3. Noodles and Company
  4. Panera Bread
  5. Outback Steakhouse (Bloomin’ Brands, which owns Outback Steakhours, Carabba’s, and Bonefish Grill)
  6. Subway
  7. Cheesecake Factory
  8. Applebee’s
  9. Chipotle
  10. Chili’s
  11. Buffalo Wild Wings
  12. TGI Friday’s
  13. Domino’s
  14. Shake Shack
  15. Ruby Tuesday
  16. Jack In The Box
  17. Starbucks

While each brand had its own reasons why it wasn’t doing well — Sonic blamed bad weather, Outback says people are flocking to delivery and take-out, Cheesecake Factory is found primarily in malls and suburbs — it’s hard to say why these particular casual/fast casual dining brands are failing.

But there are three strategies restaurant brands can use to help boost their sales and increase their customer base.

And they involve mystery shopping.

1. Ask your guests what they liked and didn’t like via mobile surveys.

Don’t rely on anecdotes from customers and don’t spend too much time reading online reviews. Anecdotes may be representative of patterns, but without actual data you can’t be sure. And online reviews are usually only written by complainers or people who love your product. They don’t catch the people who only had a “meh” experience and aren’t motivated to come back.

But with a 4- or 5-question mobile survey, you can quickly find out what problems your customers had, what they enjoyed, and spot patterns on the national, regional, and city level, as well as identify any problem stores or staff quickly and easily.

Rather than waiting for a six-month survey to show you why you’ve lost hundreds of customers, you can identify patterns and trends in a matter of days, and fix the problem before it gets worse.

2. Are your bartenders pouring right

Outback steakhouse, one of the 17 casual and fast casual dining brands having sales strugglesWe once mystery shopped a high-end restaurant that was losing thousands of dollars every year to help them identify their problem. One thing we found was that their bartenders weren’t using jiggers to measure their drinks, they were counting. They were often (unintentionally) over pouring, giving a little more liquor than a recipe called for. While that doesn’t matter one or two times, imagine losing three drinks out of every bottle of liquor. That starts to add up! Our client was losing a few thousand dollars a month just to overpouring.

Another thing they were doing is whenever the bartender poured beer from the taps, they would pour off the foam. I’ve seen bartenders fill up half a glass with foam, and keep filling until the foam ran out, sometimes losing one beer’s worth of foam for every two glasses.

Foam collapses and turns into beer. And all my beer snob friends tell me that the foam is part of the experience, and it enhances the flavor. (I don’t actually know — talk to some beer experts who will tell you why foam dumping is a bad idea for beer.)

But the bottom line is that your bartenders are dumping one in three beers. If you’re charging $5 per beer, you’re losing hundreds of dollars of inventory because they haven’t been properly trained on beer pouring.

Mystery shoppers can visit your restaurants, order from the bar, and pay attention to how the bartenders are filling their drinks.

3. There’s more to loss prevention than just theft.

How many people turn away because it took too long to be greeted and seated? How long did they have to wait before their server brought water or their food came out?

While it’s good PR to comp a person’s meal if there are screwups in the kitchen, how many times do you have to do that per day or per week? A mystery shopping program can help you identify where problems may lie with your hostesses, servers, bartenders, and even managers.

One problem with any kind of management-employee situation is that the employees are often on their best behavior when the boss is around, but they let up on those standards when he or she isn’t. Mystery shoppers can be your eyes and ears in your restaurant, telling you what you can’t see, showing you the problem areas, and helping you find areas to train and retrain your staff so they can better serve your customers.

By finding problem areas, correcting loss prevention and overpours, and surveying as many of your customers as you can, you can keep your patrons happy, keep them coming back, and possible help reverse the trend that these national chains have been seeing for the last couple of years.

If you would like to learn more about what mystery shopping can do for your casual or fast casual dining brand, please contact us and ask to speak with one of our mystery shopping experts.

Photo credit: Mike Mozart (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

Mystery Shopping

Understanding and Measuring a Modern Retail Customer Experience

It’s hard to believe, but the age-old mystery shopper scam is still around and catching unsuspecting people who just want to earn some extra money. But we’re still seeing articles that show people are falling for the scam and getting caught by unscrupulous dirtbags who think nothing of preying on people.

Since we recruit mystery shoppers, these filthy rotten scammers only make our job harder, because if someone gets burned or is on their guard about mystery shopping, we have a harder time convincing them that we’re running a legitimate operation.

If you’re interested in mystery shopping, but you want to make sure that the offers you’re seeing are legitimate, here are a few telltale signs to look for.

Scam icon - Watch out for mystery shopping scams out there.

You’re expected to PAY for your shops.

If you had a job at a restaurant or office, would you pay to go to work? Of course not! Mystery shopping is no different: it’s a job, you get paid to do it. There is no way you should ever have to pay to receive shops.

Basically, if there’s a mystery shop in your area, and you’re qualified to do it, you can accept the shop. There’s no fee, there’s no wage sharing, nothing. This is a job like any other, and if you’re chosen to do it, you’ll get paid to do it. You won’t pay to become a shopper ever.

You’re promised a lot of money.

I saw one mystery shop that offered $350 for a single shop. Honestly, that’s way too much money being offered. A typical mystery shop can be anywhere from $8 – $20, depending on how big the shop is, how complex, and even what’s being asked of the shopper. Anything outside of that range, especially from someone you’ve never worked with before, is almost certainly a scam. (We’ve had a few shops that fall outside that range, but we offered them to people we’ve worked with in the past, so they know they can trust us and we can trust them.)

One mystery shopping scam story in Texas (see below) promised $350 for buying three Walmart gift cards and said there would be two of those jobs a week for as long as the shopper wanted them. At $700 per week, that’s a $35,000 salary, just for driving to Walmart twice and buying three gift cards.

Basically, if it sounds too good to be true, it is. And $35,000 per year for three hours a week? That’s impossible.

3. You’re promised cruise ship and vacation mystery shops.

I’ve been doing this job for a lot of years, working with a lot of national clients, and I have never, ever seen a cruise mystery shop. I also belong to MSPA Americas, our national trade association, and none of their members have ever seen cruise mystery shops either.

That’s because these shops don’t exist. They’re not out there. The people who promise these are lying.

Believe me, if there were cruise ship mystery shops to be had, the staff at the mystery shopping agencies would do it themselves. Again, it sounds too good to be true, which is a serious red flag.

4. There are spelling and grammar errors in the announcement.

The people who perpetrate these scams aren’t necessarily in the U.S., and so English is their second, third, or fourth language, which means their announcements often have errors. They also don’t use a lot of the same expressions and slang we use in the United States, and their formal English may sound stilted and unusual.

While people are prone to make errors in their writing, you shouldn’t see a lot of obvious errors in a job posting. The occasional typo is not a big deal, but it it’s a poorly-written ad, it’s almost certainly not real.

5. You’re asked to deposit a check and use those funds for your shops.

I recently heard a story about a woman in Texas who fell victim to the old “deposit this cashier’s check” scam.

This is where the scammers send you a check for a few thousand dollars, ask you to deposit it, buy some gift cards or wire part of that money back to them, and then rescind that check. Or the check is found to be counterfeit.

Now, not only are you out the money that you wired or used for the gift cards, but the remaining money that you were supposed to “keep” is gone. The woman in Texas received three checks for $2,850, was asked to buy $2,500 in gift cards and mail them, and then keep the remaining money as her commission.

After the shop was done, she found out the checks were counterfeit, and she had negative $2,000 in her bank account. There was no recourse or way to recover the money, so she lost $2,000 of her own money to some anonymous thieves.

Bottom line, never deposit a check from a stranger, and never buy gift cards as a part of a shop.

If you want to make sure a company is legitimate, check out the MSPA America’s Service Provider’s Search. If the company is listed there, they’re probably legitimate. But be careful, the scammers know this and will sometimes pose as real companies.

So watch out for all these other warning flags too. And if you’re not sure, call up the mystery shopping provider listed on the website and ask them about that particular shopping campaign. Ask if they have you listed in the system. If they don’t know anything about that particular shop, then it’s most likely a scam.

If you want to learn more about becoming a real mystery shopper, please contact us, we can tell you how it all works, and we can even help you get set up in our system.

Photo credit: Anecdoteak (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)

Mystery Shopping

Understanding and Measuring a Modern Retail Customer Experience

Last week, we examined a study that looked at how different states and municipalities manage their alcohol age compliance checks. And it has already been established by several other studies that age compliance checks already decreases sales at establishments that get checked. But what kind of effect do those alcohol age compliance checks have on neighboring liquor stores and bars?

Dr. Daren Erickson and other researchers from the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota decided to find out for themselves and published the study, “Do Alcohol Compliance Checks Decrease Underage Sales at Neighboring Establishments?

The bar from Cheers. Never saw any alcohol compliance checks here!

The bar from Cheers.

Whenever a liquor store clerk or bartender doesn’t ask a young-looking person for ID, that’s considered a violation and the clerk or bartender will receive a ticket. In some states, the owner of the establishment may also receive a citation.

So does news spread around the area when age compliance checks are done? When the police do their checks, especially those who are doing it at random and not checking every establishment, do the bartenders and liquor store clerks notify each other? As Dr. Erickson and associates said:

Underage alcohol compliance checks conducted by law enforcement agencies can reduce the likelihood of illegal alcohol sales at checked alcohol establishments, and theory suggests that an alcohol establishment that is checked may warn nearby establishments that compliance checks are being conducted in the area. In this study, we examined whether the effects of compliance checks diffuse to neighboring establishments.

They used data from a previous study, which included more than 2,000 checks at more than 900 establishments. They used a multi-level logistic regression to “model the effect of a compliance check at each establishment as well as the effect of compliance checks at neighboring establishments within 500 m (stratified into four equal-radius concentric rings), after buyer, license, establishment, and community-level variables were controlled for.

In the end, they found that it was less likely that establishments would sell alcohol to underage youth after they had been checked, but that this effect decayed over time. More importantly, they found that of the stores and bars that were checked within 90 days, their alcohol-selling neighbors within 125 meters were also less likely to sell alcohol to youthful buyers. But they observed that those effects also decayed with distance — that is, the farther away a store was, the more likely they were to still sell alcohol to youthful-looking customers.

Alcohol-selling establishments that fail alcohol age compliance checks several times are in danger of losing their license, and in some states, the owners can be hit with citations and fines as well. Liquor store chains and bars that want to make sure their staff are complying with alcohol sales laws can work with Measure CP to run surprise mystery shopping checks. This will help you make sure you’re in compliance with the laws and find areas for additional training.

And local law enforcement agencies that would like to organize their own alcohol compliance checks can work with Measure CP to find youthful-looking professional shoppers, as well as to administer and tabulate all of the results of the compliance checks, leaving you to manage the actual enforcement.

Photo credit: Marcin Wichary (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

Mystery Shopping

Understanding and Measuring a Modern Retail Customer Experience

Underage alcohol consumption has become such a problem in the last couple decades that it is now a public health issue, and one that Measure CP can help local law enforcement agencies monitor.

A 2014 study, “Current Use of Underage Alcohol Compliance Checks by Enforcement Agencies in the U.S.” found that age compliance checks at liquor stores and convenience stores actually did curb illegal alcohol sales.

Alcohol compliance check sign from Utah. It says "No one under the age of 21 is permitted to enter this store unless accompanied by a parent or spouse of legal age."

Liquor store sign in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Dr. Daren Erickson and other researchers from the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota conducted a national survey in 2010-2011 to measure how many law enforcement agencies were conducting underage alcohol compliance checks, and how many used optimal methods “including checking all establishments in the jurisdiction, conducting checks at least 3–4 times per year, conducting follow-up checks within 3 months, and penalizing the licensee (not only the server/clerk) for failing a compliance check.” They also wanted to determine some of the characteristics of agencies that performed these checks.

The group received responses from 1,082 local law enforcement agencies, and found the following:

  • 26% of them had at least one full-time agent assigned to work specifically on alcohol-related issues.
  • 7% of them had an alcohol-related division.
  • 94% of them indicated that underage drinking was “somewhat or very common” in their jurisdiction.
  • Only 35% of local law enforcement agencies reported conducting compliance checks.
  • Of those agencies performing checks, 55% reported checking all alcohol establishments, but 28% reported checking randomly selected establishments.
  • One third of agencies conducted checks annually, one fourth checked twice per year, and one fourth checked 3 – 4 times per year.
  • Finally, 76% did follow-up checks when an establishment failed an earlier compliance check.

They also measured some of the state-by-state comparisons and found:

  • In 47% of the states, both the state and local law enforcement agencies were responsible for enforcing alcohol retail laws.
  • In 39%, the state agencies alone had primary responsibility for alcohol retail enforcement.
  • 18% of the agencies (9 total) indicated that illegal alcohol sales were very common in their state.
  • 76% of the agencies with the authority to conduct alcohol compliance checks did so.
  • 24% conducted compliance checks almost yearly, and 21% conducted them 3 – 4 times per year.
  • Of the agencies that conducted compliance checks, 94% of them conducted follow-up checks of any kind.

Of course, things may have changed in the seven or so years since the surveys were first done. Did the numbers go up or down? Are there more alcohol compliance checks or fewer? What about the number of local law enforcement agencies that have, or don’t have, a full-time person dedicated to alcohol-related issues.

This is one area where Measure CP can help local law enforcement agencies. We have a vast network of mystery shoppers who can help with alcohol age compliance checks (as well as tobacco compliance checks), whether departments want to hire us to recruit shoppers or even work with us to coordinate a compliance check campaign.

We can coordinate with shoppers throughout a city or even a state and reach our shoppers via a mobile app, so information can come in a standardized format and in real time.

This can help reduce your workload, letting you focus more time on actual enforcement, while we handle the administrative aspect of the work, including paying shoppers, handling their taxes, and other details normally handled by the law enforcement personnel.

If you would like to learn more, please contact us, and one of our alcohol compliance check specialists can help you further.

Photo credit: Cory Doctorow (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)

Mystery Shopping

Understanding and Measuring a Modern Retail Customer Experience

Some business owners think customer loyalty is only earned through offering repeat business programs like loyalty cards, and offering regular specials and coupons.

Customer loyalty can actually be earned through providing excellent customer service, and making sure customers are pleased with the service they are getting.

That is why mystery shopping can play a much bigger role in establishing customer loyalty for restaurants and stores: because mystery shopping can help management learn where they have shortcomings and problems, and provide staff feedback and training to help them overcome those problems.

customer loyalty

English: Different customer loyality cards (airlines, car rental companies, hotels etc.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With mystery shopping, management can get unbiased, objective feedback on those areas that concern them the most. Whether it is the amount of time customers have to wait before they receive help and attention, the taste of the food, the cleanliness of the facilities, or the favorability of the programs and specials, all of these areas can affect customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Mystery shopping helps with customer loyalty, because it shows management just what people are thinking when they visit that establishment. What typically happens is when managers watch the staff to make sure they are doing everything right, the staff does everything perfectly. But their standards may slip when they know no one is watching them. Mystery shopping lets managers watch the staff without being onsite.

It also helps them better train the staff to avoid problems that might drive away customers and hurt customer loyalty. If the staff can fix problems, and avoid screw ups, customers will have a better experience, and will be more likely to return.

Finally, if staff know they are being mystery shopped, but do not know when it will happen, they are more likely to provide better service at all times. Better service means more customers will be happy. Happy customers will tell their friends, and become evangelists for the business. As they tell more people, they will also have more affinity for it, and will be more likely to return, becoming regulars to the business.

And as more people visit the business, because of those recommendations, they too will enjoy the benefits of improved service, and can also become raving fans and returning regulars. That is the essence of good customer loyalty.

Ultimately, mystery shopping becomes more than just a report card for businesses. It is a tool for customer loyalty and customer experience management. Managers who want to improve their customer loyalty programs should consider working with a mystery shopping agency to see how they can improve.

Mystery Shopping

Understanding and Measuring a Modern Retail Customer Experience

Customer Experience Management is crucial in order to turn first-time customers into repeat customers, and even loyal fans.

When a customer’s experience is poor or marked with mistakes and poor quality, he or she is less likely to recommend the business to his or her friends – and every good marketing student knows that word-of-mouth advertising is some of the most effective advertising a business can get. Destroy that and it will destroy a business’ reputation.

It is not hard to find a business that is mediocre at customer experience management. Many consumers are willing to try a new business, product, or service that offers lower prices than the competition. However, if they have a terrible time, they will not only NOT return, but even warn away everyone they can.

There are plenty of businesses that succeed with positive customer experience management. If a customer is unhappy with one business, there is always another that is willing to try harder with a better product and service. So the secret to a successful business is not only a good product or service, but effective customer experience management.

Good customer experience management will often surprise many customers, which is unfortunate, because one would hope it would be the opposite: people would rather be surprised by a poor experience, not a good one.

Good customer experience management can even save a business money. It is a common business adage that it costs more to attract new customers than it is to keep old ones. It takes advertising and marketing to bring in new customers. It takes specials and coupons. It takes a lot of hard work, all to bring in customers. So it doesn’t make sense to provide poor customer service and turn them away. But many businesses spend a lot of their time and money trying to win new customers, but never pay attention to any customer experience management tactics that can keep those customers coming back.

But by focusing on good customer experience management, loyal customers will return again and again. They do not have to be enticed with coupons and specials, marketing and advertisements, and other things that cost money. By reducing those marketing costs, it increases the business’ sales margins and profits.

Finally, a positive customer experience management focus can increase traffic through word-of-mouth marketing. That is, the happier a customer is, the more likely he or she is to tell friends about the great time they had. Their friends will be more interested in trying out the restaurant or store, and traffic will still increase.

The only cost to the business manager was making sure the customer was happy and had a good time. No expensive newspaper or magazine ads, no radio or TV commercials, and no wasting time and resources putting those things together. By just making sure the business is run well and that people are happy is enough to keep old customers coming back and new people coming in.

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Mystery Shopping

Understanding and Measuring a Modern Retail Customer Experience

 

Respondents often ask how they can better maximize their earnings. While it can take a variety of shops to reach your financial targets, it is important to know that Mystery Shopping Provider’s (MSP) entrust higher-value projects to those with a history of making accurate and high-quality submissions. Brands rely on very precise data to make business decisions, sometimes affecting multi-million dollar budgets, thus making it critical for assignments to be done correctly the first time.

Because many programs require you to follow certain criteria as directed by each client, here’s how you can understand all the steps necessary to achieve success.

How can improving quality lead to financial reward? MSPs typically make assignments available to those individuals with a strong record, based on their ability to accurately follow directions. Not only are quality and accuracy critical – timeliness is, too.

To help, we have collected four best practices designed to improve your skills!

 

1. Tools to Stay Organized

When accepting an assignment, check your calendar and be sure you are available to complete the assignment before or by the due date. Because assignments have deadlines, it is critical for you to finish on time; otherwise, clients lose valuable resources, leading to incomplete and unusable submissions.

Most smartphones today have a calendar feature with reminders and alarms. As soon as you accept the shop, add a reminder so you do not forget to complete it, especially when accepting an assignment in advance. Google offers a free calendar tool, making it easy to manage your tasks, especially if you are scheduling tasks for multiple MSPs.

 

2. Stay Objective, Don’t Let Things Become Personal

Shoppers are so passionate about their jobs that things can often become personal instead of objective. Scenarios and guidelines provide a framework to your interaction so that the client can focus on the data they are trying to measure. Objectivity and knowledge of the framework will keep your feedback accurate and be of more use to the client. This will help to capture the true essence of an interaction and make your feedback valuable.

 

3. Document All Steps Required

Most assignments have strict requirements such as keeping a receipt, recording any phone conversations, or visiting during a specified time. Be sure to keep all documentation required to prevent delays or incomplete submissions. Oftentimes, your payment is contingent upon submitting your records; delays can result when not submitting proper documentation.

In addition, be sure to keep backup copies and do not delete any files until you have been paid. This makes it easy to verify and reimburse you for any expenses correctly the first time! Cameras and cellphones make a great way to snap a record of the receipt and keep a digital copy.

 

4. Communication is Key, Especially When Issues Arise

Things do not always go as planned and sometimes issues come up. Whenever a problem arises, it is important to contact your scheduler as soon as possible. If a short timeframe is available to complete the shop and you are unable to complete the shop for any reason or need clarification, keep the communication lines open and call or email your contact to seek help.

Do not be afraid to raise your hand if you do not understand something or to let your MSP know you cannot complete things on time.

 

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Mystery Shopping

Understanding and Measuring a Modern Retail Customer Experience

Are you wondering what mystery shopping jobs can do for your business? Mystery shopping jobs provide a new type of research that is not widely available in the customer service marketplace today. If you partner with a mystery shopping company that employs a variety of shoppers across many demographics, you can take advantage of each shopper’s unique perspective to gain the clearest possible perspective of your company’s performance. Additionally, mystery shopping jobs can provide a business with both qualitative and quantitative research that can help a company grow in its success.Mystery Shopping Customer Service Experience

First, let’s discuss the types of research information that mystery shopping jobs can provide. Mystery shopping jobs provide qualitative research results by ensuring that the mystery shopper answer open-ended questions about the company and the mystery shopping experience. The questions sought out in a mystery shopping job are structured around helping the business meet its sales and customer service goals. Mystery shopping jobs can also provide quantitative research results. Through specialized research methods of measuring, monitoring, and analysis of operational and customer service standards, precise data can be gathered and analyzed through mystery shopping jobs. This data can then be assessed and turned into actionable results that the company can use to improve performance in sales and customer service.

Next, let’s discuss why mystery shopping jobs that utilize a variety of mystery shoppers from multiple demographics can be beneficial to your business. Believe it or not, very few businesses consider whether the customer service they offer differs according to the personal characteristics of their customers. For example, do customers who are of a minority ethnicities receive as good customer service as white customers? Do disabled customers receive above adequate service and care when they interact with your company’s employees? These types of issues can cross gender lines too. For example, do female customers feel that they’re treated with the same amount of respect as their male counterparts? Age can also be a factor when it comes to customer service evaluations – are older or younger customers marginalized for any particular reason? What about a senior citizen, a college student, a veteran, or a parent – are any of these people treated differently from one another – better or worse – because of their appearance?

There are so many ways that diversity in your customer base can appear, and as a responsible business owner or operator, you want to ensure that all your customers are treated with equal levels of respect. Mystery shopping jobs that employ people of all ages, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations and other walks of life can provide your business with the clearest picture of how your staff serves your customers.

You may be wondering how a mystery shopping firm can provide your business with such a variety of coverages in research and responses. One way a mystery shopping firm can provide this first hand analysis is by placing shoppers who self-identify using their disability status, religion, ethnicity, age, gender, and sexual orientation into these mystery shopping jobs. Mystery shoppers then visit the business – it can be retail, a dining establishment, or a service provider – to evaluate and report back on their customer service experience.

Besides customer service, and depending on the needs of the business, a mystery shopping job can assess signage, store layout, building facilities like handicap-accessible restrooms, and more. Using open-ended qualitative questions and more data-driven quantitative questions, a mystery shopping job can be used to determine where gaps exist in customer service and sales methodologies, and what can be done to close those gaps.

The level of detail and the type of research gathered are highly dependent on the needs of the business and the types of mystery shopping jobs the business owner wants to employ first. By working with mystery shoppers who feature a wide range of diverse characteristics, better insights can be found into the nuances of what drives sales and improves customer service ratings. The important thing to note is that mystery shopping jobs can be incredibly useful to a business because they use a variety of data gathering methods to find insights into how to improve customer service and sales, by compiling the perspectives of a variety of shoppers and looking for patterns in the results.

Mystery shopping jobs that make a real difference for the firms they work with are likely able to have a positive impact because they are built on a strong foundation. Before hiring a mystery shopping consultant, be sure that the mystery shopping company has a stringent training process in place. Firm guidelines on accepting and training mystery shoppers are a crucial part of the mystery shopping program’s success. It’s never too late to find a mystery shopping job that can help your business take its customer service and sales abilities to the next level.

Mystery Shopping

Understanding and Measuring a Modern Retail Customer Experience

What is brand protection, and why is it important? First, let’s discuss what your brand is. A brand, according to the American Marketing Association, is a “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.” By the definition alone, it is easy to see why a company’s brand is important. Your brand is what defines you, and what sets you apart from your competition.

Brand protection, therefore, is just another way to build on the success of your business. Think of brand protection as identity theft protection – just as you don’t want a stranger stealing your identity and damaging your personal reputation and finances, you also don’t want your competition stealing your ideas or your image and using it to their advantage, or finding ways to damage your business. Strong, effective brand protection means that you – and only you – are in control of your brand image.SONY DSC

Protecting your brand should be an important aspect of your overall business model, regardless of the size of your company. Small to medium-sized business owners may think that they are not at risk of brand issues, when in fact the opposite is true. It’s as you are building and refining your brand that it is most susceptible to someone damaging the brand – especially companies who are your competitors, and who view your brand as a threat to their own success. Brand protection is as important at this stage of your company’s growth as it is in your long-term future. After all, consider the time and money that you have put into building brand awareness for your company. If another company steals your ideas, or misappropriates your image to their advantage, you should not be flattered. Instead, you should consider the large potential financial loss that your competitor’s brand theft represents, and you should take steps to strengthen your brand protection.

In today’s digital world, online brand protection is crucial. There are many things that you can do to secure your brand image, including filing for a trademark for anything that is unique to your company’s goods or services.A trademark will give you strong legal grounds against anyone who attempts to make money off of anything that is extremely similar to yours. Copywriting your website, marketing materials, and anything else that has to do with how your company is represented is another way you can strengthen your brand protection.

Another way to bolster your brand protection is to register your website domain name and any other iterations of your domain name that are similar to your organization. This goes for website domains that end in .com, .net and .org as well. Believe it or not, there are individuals out there who will buy domain names they think they can sell for a lot of money in the future. Do not be at the mercy of these individuals. Instead, take charge of your brand protection now, and this will protect your business not only now, but in the future as well.

One easy way to get an unbiased look at your company’s online performance and brand representation is to set up Google alerts. With Google alerts, you can be notified on a regular basis whenever a website or news venue mentions a specific product or name. By setting up alerts for your company name, domain name, and any goods or services which are uniquely provided by your business, you’re keeping an eye out for infractions on your brand. If you set up Google alerts, keep in mind that a person or company who is interested in stealing your ideas is most likely not going to use the exact same phrases that you do. So, set up Google alerts for similar company names, goods, and services to yours, in addition to your own specific alerts. This way, you’ll get a full picture of how your brand is represented online, and where your threats are coming from.Successful Business People Showing Thumbs Up.

Online reputation management is an important part of brand protection, and should not be overlooked.Because we live in a digital world, your reputation online is your reputation, period. If your business does not seem viable online, customers will not believe that it is viable in person. There are many things business owners can do to manage, protect, and build the company’s online reputation. The most important thing to do is to create your own content and optimized social media profiles, and make sure your online information is updated on a regular basis. Having a regularly maintained company blog helps with this, as well. Frequently updating your content with optimized keywords will aid in pushing any offending content that appears in search engine results down to the later pages in Google and other search engine results. By following the basics such as creating your own web domains, establishing a strong online presence, updating your social media profiles, blog, and website with new content on a regular basis, and setting up Google alerts will help you manage your online reputation and strengthen your brand protection.

If you want to maintain a high level of control over your brand, you must take steps to keep an eye out for intellectual property theft. Business owners are incredibly busy, and brand protection and intellectual property laws can be complicated and time-consuming to understand and monitor. It may be a good idea to consider hiring a third-party firm who can help you keep tabs on everything that comes with brand protection. After all, there are many tasks that must be completed when it comes to full brand protection. Monitoring threats, understanding if another organization is a threat or is misusing your image, and knowing how your organization is represented online are all important tasks that cannot be overlooked. Seeking the help of a professional can often be beneficial because you have an expert on your side who knows what threats are worth paying attention to, and how to best protect your business in the event that your intellectual property is being stolen or misused..

Mystery Shopping

Understanding and Measuring a Modern Retail Customer Experience

Mystery shoppers are secret shopping customers who follow guidelines to analyze a business, providing valuable insights that can help improve the company’s customer service and customer experience policies.

If you’ve been meaning to look into mystery shopping but have been putting it off, or if you haven’t considered it until now, your timing is perfect. There’s never been a bigger need for mystery shoppers than right now. Successful Business People Showing Thumbs Up. They're happy mystery shoppers!

Mystery shoppers are crucial to helping businesses better execute their customer experience and customer service procedures. With Measure CP, secret shoppers get to perform secret shopping tests that analyze a company’s customer service standards, store appearance, brand standards, and more. Then, the mystery shoppers report feedback from their secret shopping experience, and the feedback is analyzed and turned into actionable data that our clients can use to improve their businesses.

Measure CP’s shoppers receive the industry’s best education and training, which is just one reason among many why Measure CP stands apart from the competition. Mystery shopping is truly a learning experience, for both the shoppers and for our business clients.

For example, in our mystery shopping courses, Measure CP teaches you memory tricks to help you clearly recall the details of the shopping experience. Our shoppers are also fully educated on the company where you’re performing the mystery shop. You’ll be fully aware of the client’s benchmarks, and you’ll also be familiar with our standards of excellence. That way, when you’re performing the mystery shop, you’ll have no doubts about what the company is doing well, and what could use improvement.

Secret shoppers who sign on to work with Measure CP are working with the best. If that isn’t reason enough, here’s another point: mystery shoppers bring in extra income, which is great for the holiday season. What’s not to love about that?

Not only are you helping businesses who want to improve their customer satisfaction ratings, but you also get to earn extra income just for going on a mystery shopping trip. If you’re thinking about becoming a mystery shopper or just want to learn more, call us today.

Mystery Shopping

Understanding and Measuring a Modern Retail Customer Experience

There is a misconception among many business owners that mystery shopping is simply when a secret shopper comes into your location and grades the performance of your place of business. But, mystery shopping is so much more than that. Today, the iterations of mystery shopping are as diverse as the needs of your business. Mystery shopping can certainly tell you about employee performance and the usability of your location’s layout, product displays, and more. Mystery shopping in today’s technology driven world also entails anonymous mobile surveys, anonymous questionnaires, and online mystery shopping – if your business has a website through which your customers can buy goods or services that you provide.Mystery Shopping Customer Service Experience

Mystery shopping also can take many forms depending on the type of business you provide. Another misconception among business owners is that mystery shopping can only be valuable if you’re a retail location or a direct-to-consumer service provider, like a restaurant. However, every business regardless of industry can benefit from some form of mystery shopping.

Businesses which are franchised can benefit greatly from mystery shopping. Are you wondering if a franchisee is buying competitively? Are you curious to see if your company’s uniforms are being worn consistently throughout all your franchised locations. Or perhaps you need to make certain that all your franchise locations are following the brand standards of your business, which can be an especially taxing job if you need to closely analyze signage, uniforms, hours of operation, menus, displays, layout, and more. Believe it or not, mystery shoppers can help franchise owners and franchisees address these concerns, and so much more.

A typical mystery shop may simply have the purpose of analyzing customer service. That’s how many mystery shopping experiences first start out. But, for a franchise owner, mystery shopping takes on a new meaning. Mystery shopping for a franchise most often covers what’s called a brand audit. A mystery shopper who is certified in brand auditing and well-versed in your company’s operations and goals can examine both front-of-the-house and behind-the-scenes. The goals of the mystery shopping experience would be clearly outlined by a thorough checklist, which would impart an analysis of your business’ marketing and advertising, as well as the operations behind the front desk of your company. For franchises especially, brand awareness and perception are a crucial part of your company’s success. If your locations vary in quality or look-and-feel from location to location, who knows what consumer perceptions might be. Mystery shopping can take the guess work out of brand compliance, and gives franchise owners clear insights into opportunities for franchisee improvement.

Brand audits reveal whether a company’s money spent on advertising, marketing and operations is working correctly, out on the streets, to convey the company’s brand in the way it wants to be seen. Regardless of industry – whether your company is in the health and fitness industry, the hospitality and food industry, the hair care, salon and spa category, the retail and shopping industry, or some other service provider such as auto care – franchise owners will want to know if the company’s brand is perceived, or not, the way it should be by consumers. This is especially true on a franchisee level, when each location must adhere to specific brand standards, which may be especially difficult if there are multiple franchisees who may be operating their franchise in a way that is different from the franchise owner’s expectations.  A mystery shopping brand audit will give franchise owners the capability to know all of this, and so much more.

Brand audit services for franchisees also include compliance audits, including age compliance related to alcohol and tobacco sales, marketing message compliance for highly regulated industries, and fair housing compliance analysis for businesses in real estate or home sales. Another aspect franchises can take advantage of when it comes to mystery shopping is online. Most franchises have websites which set certain expectations for consumers on absolutely everything: price of goods/service, look and feel of each location, minimum expectations of service quality, options of goods/service available for purchase, and more. Franchise mystery shopping takes a hard look at the online offerings of your business franchise, then performs mystery shopping tasks to make sure that each franchise location is meeting or exceeding consumer expectations set on the website. Mystery shoppers will outline which aspects your franchise locations are excelling in, and where your opportunities for improvement or expansion are.

Knowing if your business is branded correctly is critical. Just as important, it’s crucial that franchise owners know if their brand is permeating the world beyond the storefront or website, through proper advertising and marketing.  Is the logo and name of your company is being used correctly inside and outside the house in order to portray the best possible brand image to customers? Do online perceptions of your business align with the shopping experience at each franchise location?  How far-reaching is knowledge of your company and what your brand represents? A mystery shopping brand audit will ensure that everything is running according to the company’s marketing and operations strategy.

Best of all, mystery shopping brand audits help franchise owners strengthen their brand. Gaining customer trust and loyalty is so closely tied to the consumer perception of your brand. A franchise’s brand is a combination of well-designed and consistent marketing collateral, consistent logo usage, the standards of customer service, the consistency of customer experience across physical locations and across the franchise’s website, and the quality of the goods or services your franchise business provides.  Customers will return to franchises and companies in large part because they trust the brand. They have no doubts as to what they will get when they walk into the doors of a store whose brand they know and trust.  Mystery shopping will show franchise owners exactly how the brand is represented to consumers, and will help your company gain the trust and loyalty that is crucial to your long term success.

Franchise owners who take advantage of mystery shopping gain the necessary information to make changes, and bring their business to a position where each customer will inherently trust your brand and grow in loyalty.

Mystery Shopping

Understanding and Measuring a Modern Retail Customer Experience

In today’s business climate, mystery shopping firms protect a company’s most important asset – the customer experience.

For B2C companies, there is nothing more critical to success than fulfilling the brand promise. Sadly, most companies invest more money and effort in their marketing plans and store fixtures than they do in the front-line staff who do more to fulfill that brand promise than anyone else in the organization.

Real-Life Training

Whether it is the food service industry or retail, most front-line employee training looks something like the following:

• Day 1: Employee fills out paperwork and meets the team. At larger companies, the employee may watch some training videos.

• Afterwards, the employee shadows co-workers (who have received the same caliber of training) and spends some time with shift supervisors and managers, learning the ins-and-outs of the tasks associated with the job, like working the cash register, how to serve customers, and so-on.

• As soon as possible, the new employee is pushed out on the selling floor, forced to sink or swim and develop habits that will get him or her through the day. If there are no disasters and the employee shows up for work on-time, the training is deemed a success.

• From this point on, the employee will train subsequent new employees and be evaluated on whether or not key metrics, like new credit accounts or menu up-sells, are being met.

Some companies do a better job at preparing employees for the sales floor, but not many. Companies like Wal-Mart, whose success is based on being the low-price leader, can get away with a “good enough” attitude towards customer experience – customers will excuse the experience if the price is low enough.

But companies like Apple depend on the quality of the customer experience, and would soon lose customers in droves if they stopped investing in it. Apple’s ability to create a nearly unbreakable relationship with the customer is the key to success.

There are very few Wal-Marts and Apples out there, which means most B2C companies fall somewhere in-between. The trouble starts when the in-between companies behave like Wal-Mart and ignore customer experience in favor of slick marketing or some other strength. Employees are “trained” as in the model described above.

Other companies talk like Apple, but lack the commitment to truly execute Apple’s cult-like business model.

Once the marketing budget is cut or the strength is neutralized, what happens? That is when the in-betweeners get customer experience management religion. They put together committees who quickly discover that they have a host of dissatisfied customers who have abandoned their brand due to neglect.

Effective Customer Experience Management

Mystery shopping firms are the best defense against corporate complacency when it comes to customer experience management. Rather than paying lip service to the customer only to focus on more credit account conversions, committing to a third party audit of the customer experience puts a company’s money where its mouth is.

Here are a few examples of why a mystery shopping provider is a better conduit for understanding and improving the customer experience:

• Mystery shopping evaluates the customer experience in a real-life setting: When a front-line employee is with a trainer, she is on her best behavior, doing her best to remember all the things that go into properly executing the tasks being evaluated.

Mystery shopping firms send shoppers into real-life situations, where products are bought and sold in real-time. It is only by doing this that a company can get a true gauge of what their customers go through.

The front-line employee, having no idea he is being evaluated, will do the things he or she does when no one is watching – whether good or bad.

• Mystery shopping provides a standardized measurement across a network of locations: Let’s face it, a store manager or district manager doesn’t want to be the bottom feeder in a chain store environment, and that desire to succeed can lead to loose standards when it comes to scoring locations on evaluations.

Mystery shopping firms eliminate any kind of bias in evaluating by a) not having an emotional stake in the scoring of locations; and b) by having a standardized instrument that is used across the entire network of locations. When these two factors are coupled, B2C companies are equipped with a powerful tool for taking a crystal clear snapshot of the customer experience. Thus equipped with a new vantage point from which to see their operation, companies can make critical adjustments in how their stores and people interact with the customer.

• Mystery shopping firms provide powerful reporting tools: When evaluations are completed in a willy-nilly fashion across a network of locations, the results cannot be compared side by side. There is no integrity in the data.

Mystery shopping firms are uniquely suited for providing a suite of reporting tools that give B2C companies a 3-Dimensional view of their operation. Because the mystery shopping provider is using a standardized instrument with no emotional stake in outcomes, the data can be trusted and analyzed in the following types of reports:

o Rank by location by overall score

o Rank by location on a question-by-question basis

o Rank by employee

o Trending over time

o Recommended follow-up training

o Hierarchichal reporting that is designed for the C-Suite down to the store level

Mystery shopping firms work with clients to design reports that are the best fit for the B2C company’s goals.

In addition to traditional mystery shopping methods, where mystery shoppers visit the location, observe, then complete the survey offsite, a growing number of mystery shopping firms use hidden video technology to capture the most objective view possible of the customer experience, with high quality sound and imagery.

In a highly competitive world where almost all B2C companies sit somewhere between Wal-Mart and Apple, keeping a vigilant watch over the customer experience is the best way to grow and protect market share.

Mystery Shopping

Understanding and Measuring a Modern Retail Customer Experience

Mystery shopping has a variety of purposes outside of traditional retail shops.  Automotive after sales mystery shops offer a valuable look “under the hood” of a company’s service operation…but only if the right partner is providing the mystery shopping service.  Just as there are all kinds of car salesmen, there are many kinds of mystery shopping providers out there, making a variety of claims about how they can help you improve the customer experience.

mystery shopping

At Measure CP, we’ve done enough automotive after sales mystery shops to know what to look for in a prospective vendor.  Here are five questions to ask before you let any mystery shopping company on your lot:

#1: Can you match my demographics? Shopper pools for nearly every mystery shopping provider skew heavily towards females.  If you are looking for a predominantly male shopper pool for your after sales mystery shopping program, dig in on this question. If a mystery shopping provider is unable deliver on your demographic, then move on to the next candidate.

Also, when exploring the question of demographics, find out how the prospective mystery shopping provider handles alternates.  Do they have a deep bench of qualified shoppers to take the place of anyone who may quit (quitters are called flakes in the business) in the middle of the program?  Because we are dealing with people, flakes happen, and the best mystery shopping providers plan for them.

#2: Do you handle everything in-house?  Does the prospective mystery shopping provider handle scheduling, editing, and video in-house, or are they at the mercy of a third-party vendor?  This question is vital because with every step that is covered by a vendor, your prospective partner has that much less control over the operation, which can cause crippling delays when the inevitable glitch occurs.

Have the prospect walk you through each step of the operation.  How does project management work?  How does scheduling work?  How do shoppers report their results?  How does editing/QC work?  What is at stake here is the overall quality of the solution.  Each vendor means another communication handoff, which jeopardizes the ability of a mystery shopping provider to respond quickly to problems.  At Measure CP, we do everything in-house, maintaining control over every facet of the program.

#3: Do you have automotive experience?  Automotive after sales mystery shopping programs are very complex operations that can literally span the continent.  Having an untested partner at the controls is a risky proposition.

Have a prospective mystery shopping provider walk you through their automotive experience, and look specifically at how they certify shoppers and onboard vehicles.  If they have never performed automotive after sales shops, see if they have done ANY after sales shopping programs.  Measure CP has developed a detailed checklist for clients that helps anticipate bureaucratic red tape that can bring a program to a stand still.

#4: Are you a national or regional operation?  If your program will include an audit of dealerships spanning the entire country (not to mention international locations), you want to make sure your prospective partner is skilled at dealing with a program of this scale.

A regional mystery shopping provider may be just fine for handling a particular portion of the country, but if they are not well versed in something as basic as video recoding laws, for example, it could end up costing you a lot of money in fines and lawsuits.  Smaller mystery shopping providers tend to rely on third party vendors for overflow work, which could also affect the quality of their solution for you.  Measure CP’s experts know the automotive industry, and will help you avoid costly pitfalls.

#5: How do you communicate?  Communication is perhaps the most vital critical success factor in an automotive after sales mystery shopping program.

Because these programs are so complex, things never go exactly as planned.  This is where effective communication is key.  Is the prospective mystery shopping provider pro-active?  Do they hold onto information too long?  Do they shoot from the hip and do things on their own without consulting you?  These are only a few questions to ask, and they provide a perfect platform to setting expectations at the outset of the program, rather than having to learn the hard way.

For the utmost confidence, choose a mystery shopping provider that can confidently answer all of the questions outlined above.  It is imperative that you have experience on your side and get the detailed checklist of critical success factors needed to allow you to provide your customers with the best service.  Contact Measure CP today and speak to one of our automotive specialists about your next after sales mystery shopping program.

Mystery Shopping

Understanding and Measuring a Modern Retail Customer Experience

Mystery shopping provides immediate and ongoing feedback that training companies can use to not only prove the effectiveness of their work, but also show where additional training may be needed. When your training company is hired to boost weak sales, how do you prove that your solution fixed the problem? Do you point to increased revenues? Performance reviews? Customer satisfaction scores? Those are all good metrics, but take time to collect and analyze. Measure CP’s mystery shopping services can be your definitive answer.

mystery shopping

Training Companies and Measure CP, How it Works:

1. Discover: This is where the critical success factors of your company’s training program are unpacked and understood. For example, what needs to be happening that was not happening previously? 2. Design: Once the experts at Measure CP understand what is expected, they will design the mystery shopping survey for each shopper to use to evaluate the customer experience. These surveys will be submitted to your company for approval prior to any shopping activities. 3. Develop: During the discovery phases, Measure CP will create a composite of what your company’s average or ideal customer looks like. This information will be used to recruit shoppers who will be trained to perform the mystery shopping activities needed. 4. Deploy: The final step is the launch of the program. From here, shoppers will interact with your staff, collect their findings, and submit the findings. The results are collected into various reporting tools that are customized for your specific needs.

Three Benefits of a Good Mystery Shopping Program

1. Provability: Many clients point to Measure CP as an independent, third party verifier of their solution, giving them an extra layer of credibility with their clients. 2. Value Add: Other clients white label our services as an additional service. 3. Consistency: Performance reviews can be subjective. Revenue growth/loss can be deceiving. Customer satisfaction scores are infrequent and unscientific. But, a well-designed mystery shopping program provides statistically valid objectivity that is impossible to refute.

The value in adding an effective mystery shopping program to an existing training program is undeniable, especially in the reporting. Good reports tell a thousand stories: they identify super-stars, they point out good and bad managers, and they show exactly where the training is or is not being followed.

To learn more about how Measure CP is helping training companies retain their clients and grow revenue through mystery shopping, please visit www.measurecp.com and fill out a form on the contact page.

Mystery Shopping

Understanding and Measuring a Modern Retail Customer Experience

Mystery shopping may sound simple on the surface – send a secret shopper to your store and have them report what happened. Easy, right? But, as you may have guessed, there is a lot more to mystery shopping than meets the eye. Measure CP has developed a highly advanced secret shopping program that approaches the customer experience systematically.

Mystery shopping is a great way to earn extra money for the holidays or to shore up your budget.

Apply to become a mystery shopper

Our modern, detailed mystery shopping programs include traditional in-person mystery shops, mystery shops via phone, and even online mystery shops. All data gathered from our mystery shopping studies is housed in our exclusive online portal, where clients can access all the information gathered by Measure CP in addition to suggested next steps necessary to grow sales.

One aspect of mystery shopping that many business owners may not consider is that the mystery shoppers who visit or call your business should mirror the demographics of your actual customers. A professional mystery shopping company can help discern this information and ensure that your sales processes and staff people are working in the ways that best serve all of your customers.

Secret shopping can also involve checks for compliance with brand standards, which can be additionally beneficial if your business has multiple locations. As a business owner or manager, it is impossible for you to operate your business in addition to overseeing every single discrepancy between your business guidelines and what is actually happening in each of your locations. When you work with Measure CP, we will determine answers to the questions that are important to your business and your brand.

Secret shopping is so much more than simply sending a secret shopper to your business. Measure CP mystery shopping programs determine how your customers see you and interact with your brand. We will report our findings to you, plus we provide the value-added service of calling out areas of strength and weakness in your business’s customer-facing operations. The shopping program Measure CP develops for your business will be customized to your needs, and the data we gather will be meaningful to your business and your bottom line.

Mystery Shopping

Understanding and Measuring a Modern Retail Customer Experience

Mystery shopping is essentially a mirror which reflects the reality of front-line customer interaction and how the company brand is interpreted by the customer. For small to medium-sized businesses especially, building a brand can be difficult and takes a lot of time. There are many things that play into building a brand – everything from your logo to your signage to your employees’ uniforms. There’s even more to consider when you think about how your brand image is created and interpreted in the minds of your customers. A mystery shopping program can help you determine if your brand is being projected correctly.

Mystery shopping programs can help you discover a variety of things that would be incredibly difficult to find out on your own. For example, let’s say that your business has multiple. Building a strong brand image requires there to be consistency between all your locations in the appearance of your stores and in the attitudes of your staff. It may be difficult for you to determine if this is the case if you are working on your own. Deploying a mystery shopping program can provide the unbiased experts you need to ensure your high standards are being met company-wide.

For example, a mystery shopping program can examine questions such as: Do the locations of your business look consistent from store to store? When a customer walks into one location then visits another at a later date, are they greeted with a welcoming, professional attitude each time? Do your employees across all locations dress in the appropriate uniforms and attire, and do they follow the same rules of decorum expected of all staff? A mystery shopping program can identify the answers to all of these questions, and more. And perhaps more importantly, a mystery shopping program will use questions like these, and a plethora of other questions, to determine if your brand standards are being met aesthetically in your stores as well as in the attitude of your staff.

Mystery shopping can help reinforce a company's brand image.If you are interested in measuring your brand image over time, consider employing a mystery shopping program on a yearly basis. The first step in this process would be to work with your mystery shopping program to identify what is successful about your business and what areas need work in order to increase sales. Then, on a yearly basis moving forward, the same things would be analyzed in order to measure improvement. As your mystery shopping program helps you build your brand, your sales will build as well.

A primary benefit of working with a mystery shopping program is that mystery shoppers see what you are not able to, and experience your company from the customer perspective. In order to build and protect your brand image, it is important to communicate with customers in the ways that work best for them. Mystery shopping can help you find ways to engage your target audience so that you can keep existing customers and find new audiences too.