Unless you are superhuman, you can’t be in more than one place at a time. How can you know if the store you are running is efficient in customer service, cleanliness and product availability?
A lot of people can be put off by rude staff, but unless you catch someone in the act, it can be pretty difficult to work out if there is a problem. You can’t stop doing your job, just to monitor everyone and everything else, so what can you do? If sales have dropped recently, or a product is not selling as well as you thought it was, or you have had customer complaints about staff, or even if you just want to make sure everything is being done as it should then maybe you should try having a look at hiring a mystery shopper.
What is a mystery shopper?
A mystery shopper is usually a person hired externally by market research companies, such as Tactical Solutions, to shop in secrecy at a selected store. They can also be used by watchdog organisations, typically if a consumer has made serious complaints about services or products, or you can choose to hire a company in order to measure the quality of service at a particular store or chain, as well as see if all the rules and regulations are being adhered to.
It is a great way to also gather specific information about products and services. If an external company has brought in a mystery shopper, the store will not know about it. The identity of the shopper is kept secret so that the store cannot change the way it operates to suit the shopper. This creates a more accurate picture of how the store is operating.
What do they do?
A typical mystery shopper is hired to perform specific tasks, such as purchasing a product, asking questions, listening out for complaints with other customers and investigating them subtly, by taking notes or even making recordings a mystery shopper may be asked to behave in a particular way to see how the store reacts.
Whilst walking around the store, they will be looking at certain areas, of which they will make a detailed report and provide feedback about their shopping experience.
Setting it up
When a mystery shopping agency supplies a store with its shopping services, there are several steps that need to be followed before the mystery shopper can go ahead and start. A survey model will be drawn up and agreed to by all parties involved before the shopper is introduced.
This will contain what information and improvement factors you wish to measure. This will then be split into assignments and given to each mystery shopper, depending on how many you wish to use. Typically you will not use more than one at a time, but it is good to get perspective from a few different people. To do it fairly you could have someone come in on different staff operating days.
Mystery shoppers will take note of various different details, of which include:
- The number of employees, visible in the store on entering.
- How long it takes before they are greeted or asked if they need help, if at all.
- The names of the employees, so that praise or complaints can be made about the right person.
- How the greeting sounds, whether or not it is friendly or could do with improvement.
- The questions asked by the shopper to find a suitable product.
- The types of products shown.
- Is the employee doing everything they can to sell a product?
- Whether or how the employee attempted to close the sale.
- Did the employee try to sell extra features; were they supposed to?
- Whether the employee invited the shopper to come back to the store
- Cleanliness of the shop floor, displays and presentation of staff.
- Speed of service.
When mystery shopping, the shopper will usually do their best to blend in with other shoppers. If they are found to be a mystery shopper it can taint the results and the whole thing would need to be conducted again. They may need to take photographs, return things or count how many people buy a particular product.
After the visit
After visiting the store, the mystery shopper will submit all of the data collected to the company that has hired them, if you yourself have hired them, then they will report to you with their findings. You can then review and analyse the information and compare it with other stored results, or even previous results to see if there is an improvement or how your store differs from another store. Checking out how another store did, may only be possible if you use an external marketing company though.
Image: Fruit Store by Wiennat Mongkulmann on Flickr