How Mystery Shoppers Provide Value to Businesses
Mystery Shopping has made headlines in recent years as job seekers were lured into mystery shopping scams. Mention mystery shopping to others and they conjure up mental images of getting paid to lounge in coffee shops, restaurants and hotels with their friends. As a successful mystery shopper I find it sad that people often miss the actual service the mystery shopping industry provides.
Mystery shopping is not limited to retail shops like the Gap and Wal Mart and fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s. As a mystery shopper I have visited banks, airport terminals, computer testing facilities, police stations, government agencies and taken many trips aboard public transportation such as subways, buses and taxis. There have been water parks, restaurants, luxury retail outlets as well an indoor ski slope. All of the companies I have visited have one thing in common. The success or failure of their business is determined by how well they service you and I, the customer. Flashy ad campaigns and glittering store fronts my attract the masses but if the masses leave unhappy the business will ultimately fail.
Enter the mystery shopper. Consultancy firms that specialize in helping businesses service improve their customer service ingeniously employ mystery shoppers to gather the data they need to develop a company’s customer service plan. Shopping scenarios and questionnaires are careful devised for each company based on their specific company profile and business needs. For example, if a bank employs a mystery shopping firm to help analyze their performance a multi faceted approach will be employed that will involve multiple mystery shoppers of various profiles. Together the mystery shopping firm and their banking client will develop shopping scenarios for mystery shoppers to perform. Some shoppers will be assigned to determine how well the company handle complaints submitted in person, other shoppers will gather information about how the bank handles complaints and inquires submitted by phone or website. Still other shoppers will enter the banks an interact with tellers, personal banking officers, receptionists and even security guards. The shoppers will all have variable inquires ranging form simple account opening to more complex loans and investment products.
Another example would be an appliance brand that may employ a mystery shopping firm to determine how their brand is being represented across a variety of retailers. Groups of mystery shoppers will each focus on several different scenarios to best determine this. One group may pose as customers specifically shopping for the company’s brand. They will arrive at the store requesting this brand. A second group will pose a customers specifically requesting a competitive brand and a third group will enter stores as undetermined shoppers willing to accept any brand suggestion. After evaluating these different perspectives across several retail outlets the appliance company can understand more completely how their brand is being represented in a variety of scenarios.
Both the bank and the appliance company will have a variety of information about how their company is perceived in vastly different customer situations. This information may reveal that they have a polite and helpful staff who are not properly trained to give detailed product information to customers resulting in a lack of sales. With this information the company can target the company’s weakness which is employee product training and easily and efficiently correct this by increasing staff training which should result in improved sales.
Customers are increasingly seeking and utilizing online services and a thriving bank might come to learn, through mystery shoppers, that the competent service customers receive in person is not duplicated online. If gone unnoticed the bank could easily see a small but steady decline in customer growth because they will not be attracting customers who are increasing utilizing online services. Using the results of the mystery shoppers the bank can target this weakness and improve the company’s overall service and in turn the company’s growth.
Mystery shoppers are employed to help a variety of business improve their service. The shoppers are impartial and objective in their observations in order to uncover the actual state of the company’s service standard. Shoppers follow carefully devised scenarios in order to target what aspects of service the company wish to focus on. The observations and feedback of the mystery shoppers can then be utilized by the companies to improve the customer’s overall experience. Mystery shopping benefits each and every one of us. Businesses gain valuable and targeted information about how to improve their business and profits and customers benefit from increasingly improved