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 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.