With the Summer Blockbuster season right around the corner, the time is ripe for the public to head to their local movie theaters and take in a show or two. Despite the dismal economy, job losses, and cut backs, theaters are still packing ‘em in! In fact, historically, people have flocked to the movies as a way to escape the imperfections of “the real world” — movie ticket sales actually rose during the Great Depression and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Not only do movies give us a “two-hour vacation,” they bring us together. In a world where technological advances drive us to isolate from one another, movies allow us the chance to be close with each other. All this, for eight dollars.
As a theatre owner or manager, you recognize that consumers come to you to escape and have a good time. However, if they have a bad experience before that good time starts, how does that impact your business? What are the highlights of your business, and how can you accentuate them? Could there be areas for improvement you haven’t yet identified? Have you thought about how operations look when you’re not around?
Movie theaters — including your competitors — have been seeking out answers to these questions in the form of a mystery shopping program. When you hire a mystery shopping company, everyday people pose as “customers” and perform a number of tasks within your theater. The shoppers then report back to the mystery shopping company, based on the criteria you’ve selected beforehand.
For the mystery shopper, the assignment itself is pretty straightforward. Typically, they will purchase a movie ticket, visit the concession stand, and have their ticket taken. They’re usually required to watch the first couple minutes of the movie, after which they can choose to leave, if they so wish. During this time, they may be looking at (and reporting on) the following things:
- Friendliness of staff
- Evaluation of theater (ticket office, lobby, auditorium)
- Service at concession stand (staff interaction, quality of food, pricing)
- Overall ambience inside the theater
- Clarity of film presentation
- Compliance of theater personnel to specific guidelines and training
- Management’s ability to resolve issues
- Comparisons of your customer service with that of your competitors
Mystery shoppers can perform a full gamut of tasks, from simply performing patron counts to evaluating the efficiency of sneak preview events. As a client of the mystery shopping company, you’ll have your own unique set of data based on your needs. The mystery shopper is there to measure his or her overall movie experience as a guest of your theater.
The information a mystery shopping company can provide gives invaluable customer perspective. The more shops you invest in, the more patterns and trends you can find in the collective data. Moreover, mystery shopper reports can give you opportunities to recognize and reward the employees who offer exceptional customer service; you may even include it in an incentive program.
Meanwhile, you can address areas that need improvement and tweak training programs accordingly. Mystery shopping is a cost-effective way to say to your staff and management: “Customer service is the foundation of this business, and we will always work to develop and improve upon it.”
Make customer service a priority, and the benefits — increased profit margins and revenue — are likely to follow. Mystery shopping can help give you a snapshot of what level of service you’re currently at, and point to clues about where it needs to go.
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