Although most of our mystery shopping research comes from the United States, we’re constantly seeking information on how other countries use mystery shopping to improve customer service for their local businesses. I recently read a great article by Stephanos Evripidou from the Cypus-Mail that discussed how Cypriot businesses were hiring mystery shoppers to address a variety of customer service issues plaguing the island’s residents.
Cyprus, like every other country, has experienced the problems that occur when customer service does not advance at the same speed as technology and ever-growing list of services. While we all welcome change, we still expect the same genuine, honest treatment when it comes to human interaction. On Cyprus, government organizations and utilities providers were notoriously hard to deal with when users contacted them for help.
In order to address this problem, companies and organizations started hiring anonymous mystery shoppers to test their levels of customer service. In Cyprus, mystery shoppers are assigned to jobs in both the private and public sector. The shoppers behave like normal customers, but are actually paying great attention to their experiences, which they report back to the mystery shopping company.
Interestingly, even EAC, the electricity provider who has a monopoly on the island, hired mystery shoppers. Why? Costas Gavrielides, a spokesperson for the company, explained that even though EAC has the best market share, there is always room to improve. Mystery shoppers identified some issues, and the company took some action to retrain their employees.
In the private sector, there is a slightly more gradual shift to customer-centric business. Experts believe that as younger, educated Cypriots grow into higher level management, more focus will be applied to customer service, as it will give their business the competitive edge.
Mystery shoppers working on the island range from young to old and consist of many nationalities. Clients look for secret shoppers who are keenly observant, of balanced judgement, and are skilled at being low-key and not standing out. In some cases, shoppers are asked to test the patience of employees at restaurants and hotels. They may pretend they can’t read the bill, ask to pay by check when they know it’s not accepted, or ask to see the manager. These actions are to gauge how employees react under pressure.
It will be interesting to see how hiring mystery shoppers will affect the various businesses in Cyprus. The lack of attention to customer service already seems well-known by a majority of the residents. If the take-aways from mystery shopping data encourage local companies to make necessary changes, it would likely be a notable and welcome change.