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Retail Mystery Shopping

How Do Mystery Shoppers Help Reduce Loss Prevention

If your store is suffering from loss and shrinkage — the polite term for shoplifting, employee theft, and even bad inventory management — you can help reduce it with mystery shoppers.

We’re not saying mystery shoppers should serve as store security or undercover theft prevention. Rather, they can help you find any holes or lax procedures that may be contributing to some of these problems.

In a normal day, mystery shoppers will visit a business, make a purchase, check the cleanliness of the bathrooms, confirm whether certain promotional items are in place, whether the staff was friendly, and so on.

So it’s possible to create a loss prevention program just by doing some of these same checks, plus you get the added bonus of seeing whether your stores are meeting your expectations and requirements.

A shoplifting sign shouldn't be your only loss prevention methodTo start with, are customers greeted as soon as they walk in the door? Do they check in with customers who are “just browsing?” I’ll admit, some shoppers can be pretty mean and cutting to the store staff. They’ll snarl at the retail associates and demand they be left alone. (And then they complain when no one falls all over themselves to help them.) But don’t let a few mean people take the wind out of your associates’ sails — make sure they check in with each and every shopper who comes through your doors, and check in with them more than once. If potential shoplifters think they’re being watched, they’re less likely to try to steal something.

Are your valuable items locked up? I know men can’t pick out their own replacement razor blades without going through a background check and clearing two security checkpoints (I’m exaggerating!), but I’ve seen other valuable items left unattended when they’re supposed to be locked up. And I once watched a shoplifter walk into a store, grab an armful of leather coats, and walk out again. It was only the store manager following the shoplifter that made him drop the coats. A mystery shopper can go into a store and see if the more valuable merchandise is locked up.

Is there at least one associate on the floor? Not ringing someone up, actually watching the floor. A lot of stores make the mistake of having only one employee available when things get really slow. This is a bad idea from a security personal safety standpoint anyway, but it also means that you have fewer eyes watching the incoming shoppers. If one associate is ringing up people’s purchases, they’re not actually watching what’s happening on the floor, and that inattentiveness can give shoplifters a chance to grab and go.

Do you have a bag checkin? Some stores have gotten strict about allowing people to bring large bags into their stores, and will check their bags behind the counters. I’ll admit, it’s annoying to be asked to check my bag if I walk into a store, but I also understand why it has to be done. Check people’s bags and return them as soon as the shoppers leave the store. (It also doesn’t hurt to check your associates’ bags when they clock out; a lot of stores do this.)

Are you doing any internal investigations? Some retail HR departments will sometimes hire mystery shoppers to help gather evidence into any kind of internal investigation. For example, a store with high shrinkage might have mystery shoppers look for anything unusual within the store, such as associates not following certain procedures or improperly processing returns. A mystery shopper could buy some items, document and return them, and management can compare those returns and see if everything was done properly or if something is amiss.

While mystery shoppers are not necessarily loss prevention security officers, they can at least help you detect a pattern of misbehavior or even just negligence among your staff. Based on their findings, you can make any staff changes, beef up your training, or even create new policies and procedures to deter shoplifting and shrinkage.

To learn more about mystery shopping and loss prevention, please visit the Measure CP website. You can speak with one of our retail experts and learn more about how we can help you reduce shrinkage in your stores.

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

Retail Mystery Shopping

How Do Mystery Shoppers Help Reduce Loss Prevention

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.

Retail Mystery Shopping

How Do Mystery Shoppers Help Reduce Loss Prevention

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)

Retail Mystery Shopping

How Do Mystery Shoppers Help Reduce Loss Prevention

Protecting investments comes in many forms. For hospitality and dining, ensuring identification and compliance checks are constantly safeguarding liquor licenses provides continuity in catering to patrons’ needs and hitting sales targets. All too often, establishments serving alcohol fail to recognize that training bartenders and servers with real world scenarios helps prep them for stings and audits, preventing unnecessary fines.

While training programs define company cultures and expectations, those can be difficult for management to observe and verify in high-volume locations or when staffing is light. Even seasoned employees make errors. Having a second set of eyes providing training feedback and giving age compliance insights can help businesses stay compliant with state and federal laws. Utilizing objective outside resources can capture the guest experience and verify compliance.

Instead of only having state alcohol compliance checks alerting you about deficiencies, launching internal age compliance checks provides you with another channel for identifying opportunities before they become penalties. By giving your business a buffer and additional layer of insights, you can identify training gaps and prescribe a remedy before encountering a costly mistake. Having a system in place to verify follow-up, action, and resolution are equally essential and should work in tandem with your program.

In addition to internal alcohol compliance checks, tighten the cork by confirming that measured pours are happening without losses and inventory depletion. While maintaining a liquor license is critical, verifying pour accuracy can prevent unnecessary waste and make sure patrons receive a properly prepared beverage. Over-pouring can add up quickly, resulting in unexpected shrink.

Retail Mystery Shopping

How Do Mystery Shoppers Help Reduce Loss Prevention

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.

Retail Mystery Shopping

How Do Mystery Shoppers Help Reduce Loss Prevention

Brand protection and anti-counterfeiting are necessary for luxury brands that often fall prey to fakes and knockoffs being sold by street vendors, illegal websites, and from boxes that mysteriously “fell off a truck.”

The problem is, these knockoffs are being sold as the real deal, which ultimately dilutes the value of the luxury brand. Brand protection is something these companies — Rolex, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, and many others — take very seriously. They pride themselves on the quality and relative scarcity of the product, which is how they can demand higher prices.

Counterfeit designer shirts on display. This is where brand protection can help brands protect their intellectual property and designs, as well as their brand name.

English: Counterfeit designer shirts on display at a flea market. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But if counterfeit versions of their products are being sold at a fraction of the price, and are shoddily made, this can also ruin the reputation and image of the real brands, since counterfeiters are often trying to pass their knockoffs as the real thing.

While it’s illegal to sell counterfeit products, some of the knockoff products are becoming so good and convincing, some stores are even convinced of their authenticity. Rather than being sold at a fraction of the price, these goods are being sold to stores as the real thing. The problem is, they discover the products weren’t real in the first place.

Other times, there may be less-than-reputable store owners who are knowingly selling knockoffs — a recent case in Illinois saw the arrest of two women selling knockoff purses on a website.

Many luxury good manufacturers are hiring mystery shopping agencies like Measure CP for brand protection. They hire us to send mystery shoppers to the various stores and websites to check out the products and make sure they’re the real ones. The brand protection efforts help them identify counterfeiters and companies that sell them. It helps them keep the counterfeit goods from cutting into their sales margins and diluting their brand.

Brand protection is necessary for manufacturers whose products are sold all over the world, where it’s difficult to keep track of where they end up. By using mystery shoppers for brand protection, they can better control their reputation and their image.

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Retail Mystery Shopping

How Do Mystery Shoppers Help Reduce Loss Prevention

Holiday mystery shops need to be an important part of how a business operates. Yes, holiday mystery shops. You can’t slack off during the holidays — in fact, that may be one of the most important times to use a mystery shopper.

In the months leading up to the holiday season, most retailers hire seasonal employees to accommodate the massive increase in business. Some of the largest retailers in the United States hire 50,000 to 100,000 temporary employees to staff both retail stores and distribution centers.

With many of these seasonal retail employees thrust suddenly into customer facing positions, retailers need to ensure that they are as well trained, knowledgeable and as helpful as regular employees. Unfortunately, the drastic increase in personnel creates a new set of challenges for retailers. Many times, training for seasonal employees is rushed, and harried managers are stretched thin. In addition, rarely will seasonal employees continue to keep their job past the holiday season, meaning they may be less invested in the position and therefore not performing at their best.

Of course, since many seasonal employees will often go on to full-time employment with the company, holiday mystery shops can also be a great way to assess whether that employee would be able to effectively make the transition to full-time.

Holiday mystery shops involve a professional shopper to come into the store, posing as a customer, and then identifying their different strengths and weaknesses, and areas of improvement. These holiday mystery shops can help retailers quickly identify training needs and remove weak links.

For retailers with smaller territories, it may be possible to do same day, or even next day, training for those staffers who are having issues identified in the holiday mystery shops. And in other cases, the mystery shopping agency may also be able to provide that training for the store, saving their regional managers to handle the normal duties that have exploded over the holiday season. For companies that need those immediate training needs, but are not sure if they can handle the time themselves, consider asking the mystery shopping agency if this is a service they can provide.

By contracting a mystery shopping agency to conduct holiday mystery shops, retail stores are able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of seasonal employees without sacrificing their much-needed staff power. The feedback from the holiday mystery shops helps retailers to pinpoint areas of improvement before they lead to full-blown customer service issues.

In this stressful time of year, emotions are already running high and customers are on edge more than ever. Therefore it is in the best interest of retailers to ensure that they are providing top notch customer service. For this reason, many retailers find that holiday mystery shops are an efficient, helpful way for them to gain unbiased feedback and ensure that all employees are properly trained and that customer service remains at a quality level.

Retail Mystery Shopping

How Do Mystery Shoppers Help Reduce Loss Prevention

Retail mystery shops — having professional mystery shoppers visit a retail store — are one of the most valuable ways for retailers to gain insight into many facets of their business operations. With the ever-growing popularity of online review sites such as Yelp.com and Google Places, even the most successful retail stores are turning to mystery shops as a means of improving their customer experience.

Some big-box retail stores are over-illuminated.

Some big-box retail stores are over-illuminated. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When a retail store hires an agency to conduct mystery shops in their store, an unannounced, unidentified professional secret shopper will visit their store in order to complete an assigned task – typically to make a purchase or receive product information. During the transaction, the mystery shopper will engage sales associates in conversation and ask questions in order to evaluate the staff’s friendliness, product knowledge, attentiveness and willingness to help.

During the mystery shops, the auditors will also take note of the retail store’s overall environment, including cleanliness and organization. They will ensure that products are in their proper place, items are neatly displayed, easy to find and well-organized and, if applicable, clothing is nicely hung and folded in the proper manner. During the mystery shops, the shopper may also evaluate the cleanliness of customer areas such as dressing rooms or restrooms.

In addition to evaluating customer service and environment, many retail stores also opt to have a brand audit performed. As the name implies, the mystery shopper will ensure that everything is in compliance with the proper brand guidelines. They will check all store signage, including interior posters and outdoor signs, and ensure the store is displaying current pricing and that all sales or promotions are being properly advertised.

Many retailers also use mystery shops to identify potential loss prevention issues. By measuring the amount of time it took for them to be served by an employee, mystery shoppers can provide insight into loss prevention weaknesses due to negligence, as unobservant employees can be making it easier for shoplifters to commit their crime. Immediate attention is the last thing a thief wants, because the longer he goes unnoticed, the more opportunities he has to steal.

When the mystery shops ar completed, the shopper will provide a detailed report of their findings. This unbiased, third-party feedback allows retailers to identify staff weaknesses and strengths, current or potential customer service issues, operations and management issues, etc. This allows them to make better staffing decisions, streamline their employee training program, and focus on improving any weaknesses before they turn into customer complaints.

When orchestrated through a reputable agency, mystery shops are a wise investment that offers benefits that stand apart from traditional market research panels or customer surveys. Retail stores that have added mystery shops to their arsenal find it to be a process that provides invaluable feedback that helps their brick-and-mortar improve upon their customer experience management program.

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Retail Mystery Shopping

How Do Mystery Shoppers Help Reduce Loss Prevention

People think mystery shopping is usually reserved for restaurants, clothing stores, and the occasional cell phone store or doctor’s office. But they don’t always think about how it can help their auto service center.

As a service center manager, you know how hard it is to keep up with everything: are your customers happy? Are you employees doing the job right? Are you getting repairs and jobs done on time? Are your employees upselling new oil filters and air filters, and other service? And — we’ll say it again because it’s that important — are your customers happy?

Midas Auto Service Experts at 3606 Durham-Chap...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mystery shopping can help you figure out what sorts of issues you’re having at your auto service center, where you’re exceeding all expectations, and where your customers would like you to do better.

In a mystery shopping visit, the shopper — who poses as a regular customer and does not announce himself or herself — will have service performed on their car. They will check the cleanliness of the waiting area and the restrooms. They will measure the speed at which their car was fixed. They’ll even report whether they were upsold, offered complimentary coffee, or anything else the national marketing manager wants to assess.

After the service has been completed, they’ll drive home and file their mystery shopping report. In some cases, the mystery shopping visit will include a video or audio recording, and they’ll send that along as well. At Measure CP, our shoppers use audio and video technology during their mystery shops, and clients have found it to be one of the most effective mystery shopping tools they have access to.

From there, the marketing manager, customer service manager, and anyone else involved in customer satisfaction will watch the video, read the report, and react accordingly. It may be a thank you note to your staff, it could be a checkmark on a report, or it could even result in more training for your employees.

If there are any areas of improvement for your auto service center, mystery shopping is going to be the best way to determine whether all your training and company policies are being followed, and if it’s making a positive difference to your customers’ happiness. We’ve worked with several clients in the service center and gas station industry, and found that mystery shopping to be one of the most effective tools in finding strengths and weaknesses in an auto service center’s customer satisfaction.

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Retail Mystery Shopping

How Do Mystery Shoppers Help Reduce Loss Prevention

People can do a lot of damage with their cell phones these days. The smarter those little tools get, the easier it is for a dissatisfied customer to use their GPS and find another place to do business with or blast a tweet to their hundreds of followers about the terrible service they received.

Wireless stores need mystery shoppers to find problem areasCombine the indisputable power of wireless with the utter indispensability of the phones that deliver that service, and you start to get an idea of how important your wireless store is in the lives of your customers. You’ll find itself in a real pickle if you don’t take good care of those customers…and their phones. (I don’t have to ask about the last time you saw a businessman with a malfunctioning CrackBerry, do I?)

Ensure that you’re doing all that you can to provide excellent service to your customers by hiring a mystery shopping provider — they’ll give you firsthand reports from a customer’s perspective — from the moment they walk in the door to the sales floor, back to the service counter and around to the cash registers. These specially trained shoppers are prepared in advance to visit your stores with a list of things to look for and questions to ask.

Here are a few things they might look for:

  • Attitudes — how do they cope with demanding customers? Are they empowered to provide heroic solutions to people who are upset? Do they smile?
  • Wait times — whether it’s a phone repair taking too long or not enough salespeople out on the floor, a shopper can track how long they wait for every response they’re expecting.
  • Sales issues — does your staff know its stuff? Do they know how to provide comparisons on the many products your store sells? Do they understand all the voice and data plans? How about accessories?
  • Vocabulary — do your employees know how to put all those technical specs into layman’s terms without patronizing or talking down to your customers? Some consumers have done their research and really do understand the “geek speak,” but many will not.

You’ve put this on hold for far too long — turn a few mystery shoppers loose in your wireless stores. Let them be your eyes and ears, and provide insight into your business that could make way for sales boosts and gain you lifelong customers. Can you hear me now? Good.

Retail Mystery Shopping

How Do Mystery Shoppers Help Reduce Loss Prevention

Blankets. Pacifiers. Cribs. High chairs. Tiny bowls and tiny spoons. Stuffed animals. …All lined up in perfect rows, Your baby store can benefit from a Mystery Shopperglimmering in the sunlight of your big picture windows.

Either you’re running the prettiest daycare center ever, or you’ve got a baby store on your hands. On one hand, you’ve got a pretty solid demographic, and you’re fairly recession proof. Babies will keep being born no matter how bad the economy gets.

On the other hand, it’s safe to say that mothers are a picky and demanding bunch — and why shouldn’t they be? Nothing but the best for their little bundles of joy, whether they’re still expecting or just keeping up with the demand for new sizes of baby clothes and other items to help them dote on their beautiful children.

Whether mothers choose to shop in your boutique or store, or take to baby-gear swap websites or yard sales, all depends on the kind of service you provide them when they give you that first crucial chance. How can you be sure you’re making the best impression on this very important shopper demographic? Hire a mystery shopping company.

A mystery shopping company will choose and specially train people to come to your store and act like real customers — customers who take copious notes on everything that goes on during their visit. When they leave, they’ll put those notes together and report back on their experience, which will help you understand how to build on your store’s strengths and eliminate the weaknesses.

You’ll work with the company on a list of things mystery shoppers will look for, but here’s a sampling:

  • Is your shop organized and merchandised well?
  • Does the store have a clean, welcoming environment? Music? Scent?
  • Are products (especially ones you’ve advertised) stocked up and on the floor for purchase?
  • How long does the in-store experience take, from entrance to checkout? (Moms are busy ladies!)
  • Is your staff friendly and helpful?

It’s important to take good care of all your customers, but in a baby store, moms should be your No. 1 concern — hiring mystery shoppers can help you do the best possible job catering to this important demographic.

Retail Mystery Shopping

How Do Mystery Shoppers Help Reduce Loss Prevention

Congratulations! You’ve entered the world of online retailing — there’s great success to be found here.

But they don’t call it the World WIDE Web for nothing, though. There’s so much competition out there for your consumer’s e-retail dollars! It’s easy for people to compare prices online now, and Internet users are finicky, too. If they have issues on your website, they’ll move on to another one so quickly it’ll make your head spin. If you can offer the right products at competitive prices — and create a good user experience to get your customers through the ordering and payment process — you’ll have it made. But how can you be sure you’re doing all these things the best you can? You’re already devoting so much bandwidth to creating your site, balancing the books and managing the other everyday aspects of your business; maybe it’s time to bring in a mystery shopper to check things out!

That’s right, mystery shopping isn’t just for the brick-and-mortars anymore. You can enlist these trained consumers to go to your website and simulate an ordinary customer’s experience — only they’ll have a list of criteria and points to look for throughout their shopping and purchasing experience that will all go into a report to help you understand what you’re doing right and what could use some work.

Here are a few examples of things mystery shoppers could look for:

  • How well is your site organized? Is the navigation intuitive?
  • Are all items displayed and stocked according to your business’s actual inventory?
  • How do your prices compare to other similar businesses?
  • Is your shopping cart process simple and easy to understand?
  • How is the checkout process? Do you offer integration with PayPal and other online payment services?
  • How long does it take your customer service department to respond to and resolve customer issues?
  • Are users able to contact you easily from the website, both electronically and by telephone and standard mail?

Let a mystery shopper service provide insight into your online shopping experience; they may notice things that you overlooked or give you a few pointers you never even thought about.

Retail Mystery Shopping

How Do Mystery Shoppers Help Reduce Loss Prevention

Hiring sales staff at large stores, especially electronics stores, can be especially costly. Not only do you have to train the people, but it takes a while before they know all of their products and stock. You spend weeks and months getting them to the level where they’ll be effective, but you don’t know if they are able to function at the level you perform.

You can hire sales trainers, role play different selling scenarios, and even have regular sales meetings. But is it doing the job?

A mystery shopper can show you whether your sales staff is meeting your expectations and handling the customers the way you want them to be. Below is a mystery shopping video that shows the interaction between the mystery shopper and the electronics store sales staff.

Store management uses videos like these to make sure their staff knows what they’re talking about, and can use the proper sales techniques, the way they have been trained.

If you own or manage an electronics store, and want to ensure your staff really knows their stuff, mystery shopping can show you what’s working and who needs more work. For more information, call Measure CP at (502) 749-6100.

Retail Mystery Shopping

How Do Mystery Shoppers Help Reduce Loss Prevention

Whether they’re watching the latest episode of a favorite sitcom or lounging during the holidays with big bowl football games, it’s safe to say people love their cable providers — as long as the picture is clear on their television sets and everything is in working order.

But you know that there are a lot of areas where things can go off the rails for potential and existing customers, from better offers from competing cable providers to an installation snafu or major technical issues after years of service.

RDNS Customer Service Representative

Image via Wikipedia

There are so many touchpoints for your company and your customers; it could be difficult to get feedback on all of them during a short call or telephone survey. So why not customize your information gathering by using simple text message-based surveys for different points in the process: shopping around, installation, routine checkups and even major outages.

If a potential customer calls you to get information about service, send a text survey after they’re done to find out how likely they are to go with your service versus a competitor’s. Find out “what they have that you don’t,” if anything. If there’s a promotion a prospective customer especially likes, you’ll know to continue it. The best part about these surveys is the instant feedback they provide — even if you lose one household’s business, you have the opportunity to immediately correct or adjust for the next one.

If a customer calls your customer service hotline, you can set up a system that will automatically push a text survey to them after they complete the call. You can find out their hold time, how helpful the representative was, whether their issue was resolved and even what could be done better for next time.

Perhaps there’s even opportunity to take time during a service outage to get customers’ feedback: Do you have an outage screen that typically displays on screens by default? Consider including a survey short code on that screen to get instant feedback on how your customer service representatives and service technicians are responding to the issues.

Because of the immediacy of these results — and because customers are far more likely to use an SMS-based survey system over dialing into an 800-number and offering their input that way — this could be your opportunity to catch an unhappy customer before they take to Consumerist, Yelp or another online forum to share their experience with others.

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Retail Mystery Shopping

How Do Mystery Shoppers Help Reduce Loss Prevention

These are strange times to be peddling published paper reading materials, bookseller: Borders has very recently gone belly up, Barnes & Noble hangs on but barely, and Amazon’s Kindle boasts millions of titles and is bigger than ever. And you’re supposedly the low man on the totem — the quirky, local independent shop, the David to these behemoths’ Goliaths.

Bookstore

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This is nothing you don’t know. You also know that your prices are higher than anything Barnes & Noble or Amazon.com sells; you’ve never tried to compete on price. Instead, you rely on customer loyalty and a level of service that these other retailers can never provide.

In a smaller store, it’s certainly easier to monitor how well things are going in your store, and one week of stunted sales is often wake-up call enough to jolt you back on track. But your perspective from the back office may be different from that of your customers’; how can you be sure you’re taking care of your loyal customers and giving them the experience they need to come back again and again?

Enter mystery shoppers. When you hire a company specializing in mystery shopping, they’ll carefully select people to come to your store like ordinary customers and evaluate everything from the parking lot to the checkout process. When they’ve finished, they’ll compile a report of their experience and you’ll get a cold, hard look at everything you’re doing wrong and right.

Here are some things they might look for:

  • Is the store logically organized? Is there good signage to direct them to what they’re looking for?
  • What’s the store’s ambience like?
  • Is there a kid-friendly area?
  • Are there areas with seating or a place for customers to preview the books they’re about to buy?
  • Are employees helpful and knowledgeable about what you carry? (Can they offer recommendations of their favorites?)
  • Do you have the latest bestsellers and other popular titles in stock?

You’ll work directly with the mystery shopping company to determine which criteria are most important to you and get results that will help you improve the customer experience. With the low prices and sheer stock volume of Barnes & Noble and the lightning speed of Kindle downloads nipping at your heels, you can scarcely afford to cut corners with your store and service.

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Retail Mystery Shopping

How Do Mystery Shoppers Help Reduce Loss Prevention

These days, people can’t survive without their cell phones. It’s a lifeline to family, friends, work and, often, the great world beyond our little personal bubbles. And for many wireless customers, they choose a carrier and where they shop for phones and accessories because it’s the lesser of many, many evils.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. What if you could be the wireless store everyone wanted to shop? Nobody’s perfect, of course, but you can get closer to perfect by asking this simple question: “How are we doing?”

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 08: Shoppers walk ...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

And what if you could have them tell you on the very same cell phone you just sold them? Measure CP offers a new way to gauge potential and existing customers’ opinions with a quick text-based survey that goes straight to their cell phones and gives you immediate feedback on your store’s performance.

Whether someone visits your store for a new activation or cancellation, phone repair or new phone purchase, or even something as simple as paying their bill or asking a question about their billing, you can set this service up to send specific questions for each situation that will ask customers, in a short text message, to rate your performance.

All customers need to do is reply to the text message with a simple answer; you’ll instantly receive their feedback to your phone or e-mail and take appropriate action as soon as necessary. Not living up to their expectations? This could be your opportunity to correct your actions before a disgruntled customer takes to Yelp, Facebook, Twitter or another online forum to gripe about their experience — and turn their negative experience into a more positive one.

If a customer needs to vent beyond their 160 allotted characters, there’s also an option to add a 30-second voice prompt. This removes the limitation of a text-based service without nonverbal cues — the huffing and puffing, the eye rolls, the storming out of the store — and lets you hear the frustrations straight from them, unfiltered.

It’s always best not to have customer complaints at all, but they’re practically inevitable no matter how well you’re doing — everyone gets them. But with text surveys, you can beat your customers to the online complaint punch by asking for their feedback directly before they give it to the rest of the world.

For more information on text surveys, contact MeasureCP, and we’ll be happy to show you how to use it in your business.

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Retail Mystery Shopping

How Do Mystery Shoppers Help Reduce Loss Prevention

Whether they’re watching the latest episode of a favorite sitcom or lounging during the holidays with big bowl football games, it’s safe to say people love their cable providers — as long as the picture is clear on their television sets and everything is in working order.

But you know there are a lot of areas where things can go off the rails for potential and existing customers, from better offers from competing cable providers to billing problems to an installation snafu or major technical issues after years of service.

There are so many touchpoints for your company and your customers, it could be difficult to get feedback on all of them during a short call or telephone survey. So why not customize your information gathering by using simple text message–based surveys for different points in the process: shopping around, installation, routine checkups and even major outages.

If a potential customer calls you to get information about service, send a survey after they’re done to find out how likely they are to go with your service versus a competitor’s. Find out what they have that you don’t, or something they don’t do that you do. If there’s a promotion a prospective customer especially likes, you’ll know to continue it. The best part about these surveys is the instant feedback they provide — even if you lose one household’s business, you have the opportunity to immediately correct or adjust for the next one based on the answers you receive.

If a customer calls your customer service hotline, you can set up a system that will automatically push a text survey to them after they complete the call. You can find out their hold time, how helpful the representative was, whether their issue was resolved and even what could be done better for next time.

Perhaps there’s even opportunity to take time during a service outage to get customers’ feedback: Do you have an outage screen that typically displays on screens by default? Consider including a survey short code on that screen to get instant feedback on how your customer service representatives and service technicians are responding to the issues.

Because of the immediacy of these results — and because customers are far more likely to use an SMS-based survey system over dialing into an 800-number and offering their input that way — this could be your opportunity to catch an unhappy customer before they take to Consumerist, Yelp or another online forum to share their experience with others.

Retail Mystery Shopping

How Do Mystery Shoppers Help Reduce Loss Prevention

It’s pretty safe to say that the liquor industry is recession proof. Parties and holidays will always call for festive drinks; celebrations will always demand the pop of sparkling wine; bad days will often call for a beer to ease the pain. So how do you ensure that revelers will stop by your store for their libations?

Breckenridge, Colorado liquor store.

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You’d better be doing everything to lure them in and keep them shopping. When you hire a mystery shopping company, they’ll assign shoppers to come your store, sniff around, make a purchase and do everything that an ordinary customer would do. They’ll take a detailed report of their visit that outlines how your store looks and feels, and how well your employees are treating customers and attending to their needs.

  • How does the store look on the inside and outside? Is it clean?
  • Is signage helpful in navigating the store? Are prices clearly displayed?
  • Are employees helpful? How long does it take them to greet customers?
  • Is the store organized? (Can they find that craft beer they read about or the bottle of Malbec they’re thirsting for?)
  • Are the aisles clean and free from spills and other messes?

And then, of course, there’s that sticky, tricky legal issue: Are your employees carding? Are they carding everyone who looks to be younger than 40? Failure to do so — and actually selling alcohol to a minor — can result in fines, license suspension, and even criminal charges.

In essence, these shoppers will be your eyes and ears when you can’t be in the store. (Because, of course, you can’t.) The information they collect can help you find your employees’ strengths and weaknesses; create or adapt your employee training programs; or even help better incentivize managers who make your job easier. Hire a mystery shopper and get on the road to being the toast of the town.

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Retail Mystery Shopping

How Do Mystery Shoppers Help Reduce Loss Prevention

More and more people are dependent on cell phones these days, from college students to busy professionals. In 2010, the National Center for Health Statistics released survey findings that said 25 percent of American households relied entirely on their cell phones (no landlines!). Responding to increased demand and ease of use, the console-mounted car phone and bulky Zach Morris phone have given way to sleeker, more streamlined technology that can do everything but land the space shuttle. And as phones become “smarter” — more complex, able to do more things and, well, more expensive — users are coming to expect more from them.

Various cell phones displayed at a shop.

Image via Wikipedia

There are a lot of options out there for cell phone customers, and many different places to get phones as well as customer and technical support for them. If users are expecting a lot from their phones, they expect even more from the people who provide them. How can you be sure your store is best equipped for today’s demanding consumer — and the rewards brought by keeping them happy?

Hire a mystery shopping company. They’ll send in people to come you’re your store and go through all the motions of an everyday customer to see how well your staff is doing. Then the shopper will send back a detailed report of their visit that outlines the good, the bad and the ugly.

For shops in stores like yours, the focus will be less on cleanliness and signage and more on your employees’ customer service, responsiveness and attention to detail:

  • Are your employees friendly and personable?
  • Are they adequately trained on the latest products and technology?
  • Do they know how to handle/delegate both technical and customer service issues?
  • How quickly can they respond to and find a solution to these issues?
  • Are they willing to go the extra mile to care for and retain customers?
  • Is the store well stocked? (Because who wants to wait for a charger or case to be delivered, much less that brand spanking-new phone?)

Whether you’re a corporate store for one of the big cell phone providers or a franchise shop that caters to customers with many providers and even prepaid plans, mystery shoppers are a great way to assess how well your employees are representing your company and how likely customers are to return to your store again and again for their mobile-phone needs.

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Retail Mystery Shopping

How Do Mystery Shoppers Help Reduce Loss Prevention

Americans are busier today than they’ve ever been. They do nearly everything on the go — I’ve even seen a woman tweezing her brows in her rearview mirror at a stoplight! — and eating is obviously no exception. The multimillion-dollar fast food industry just keeps growing to keep up with diners’ demands in their increasingly rushed lifestyles from home to work, work to social life, and all points in between.

Foto de una carretera en la cual se destacan a...

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So with all the restaurants out there, how you keep them coming for your burgers, fries and other items you serve? You know your store serves delicious food — you’ve tasted it yourself — but when you can’t be in the store to watch over the rest of the operation, consider hiring a mystery shopping company.

From the moment a mystery shopper pulls into your parking lot, whether they’re hitting the drive-thru or coming inside for the full restaurant experience, they’ll go through all the motions of the everyday customer’s experience and put together a detailed report of their visit to offer a snapshot that will help you identify your restaurant’s strengths and weaknesses.

Here are some of the things they’ll be keeping an eye out for:

  • Store appearance, inside and out
  • Handicap accessibility
  • Cleanliness
  • Time spent waiting in line to order
  • Personal appearance of employees
  • Helpfulness/friendliness of employees
  • Time waiting for food to be ready
  • Taste/freshness of food
  • Restroom facilities

Things do move quickly in a fast food restaurant — who knew? — so your employees should always be on their toes and doing something around the place. Something as simple as employees smiling at customers as they go about their business mopping, wiping up tables or stacking trays can make the difference between a quick chicken sandwich before soccer practice and a diner for life.

Mystery shoppers who blend in with your regular clientele can be your eyes and ears — slow down and listen to them!

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