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Is Mystery Shopping Good for My Store?

Karen Gomes Moore, an account representative at the nationwide mystery shopping firm Customer Perspectives, recently wrote a fantastic article about the benefits that mystery shopping can bring to the retail marketplace. Her piece was written for Baby Shop Magazine and was aimed at juvenile product retailers, but I think her advice can apply to any business, large or small, in any industry, in any city.

Mac's retail store in Alberta

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Moore defines mystery shopping as “a cost effective way for a company to objectively evaluate customer service, from the customer’s point of view.” The research gathered from secret shoppers reenacting a visit to your store can help managers determine where to focus training efforts and also assess their effectiveness. In essence, mystery shopping can provide a good “snapshot” of customer service in its current form. It can also keep employees “on their toes,” encouraging them to treat every customer as though he or she might be a mystery shopper.

But before you send your mystery shoppers on assignments in your store, you first must decide what you want the mystery shopping company to measure. They’ll guide you through the process of determining your criteria and standards, but here are some typical questions to consider:

  • Are employees greeting customers in a warm and friendly manner?
  • Are employees thanking every customer?
  • How long does it take the secret shopper to be assisted?
  • Are key products or promotions mentioned to customers according to how employee training?
  • How are product returns handled?

Mystery shopping companies will also help you determine how you want the information to be used. For example:

  • Do you want to create an incentive program for employees?
  • Will mystery shopping results affect a manager’s bonus?
  • Do you want to develop, refine, or evaluate a training program?

In her article, Moore makes a great point in stating that a store can benefit from mystery shopping both before and after a formal training program. A store can evaluate the existing level of customer service, creating a benchmark against which a trainer can better determine what’s working, and what’s not. Or, a company can use mystery shopping shortly after a training program to help trainers see what techniques and teaching methods helped get the message across, and which didn’t.

Another factor a mystery shopping company will have you consider is the timing of your shops:

  • How often do you want the mystery shopping to take place? Weekly? Monthly? Bi-monthly? Quarterly?
  • Do you want do conduct mystery shopping on an on-going basis, or a one-time “snapshot” of customer service across several locations?

No matter the size of your store, a well-thought-out mystery shopping plan can be a great investment in your company. Think of it as a way of visually supporting the idea that the customer comes first. Remember, happy customers are the least expensive advertising you can get!

You can find reputable mystery shopping companies by asking for referrals from others in your industry, or by checking with the <a href=”http://www.mysteryshop.com“>Mystery Shopping Providers Association</a> or calling them at (847) 375-4743.

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