For owners of small, medium, large and very large retail businesses, mystery shopper services have proven themselves invaluable over the last several decades. They’ve provided information that simply can’t be replicated through other means. But exactly what’s involved in mystery shopping, and how might the practice benefit your shop? Let’s see if we can shed some light on the matter!
What is a mystery shopper?
A mystery shopper is an anonymous person who enters a store and collects feedback on their experience. This information might be entered into a questionnaire devised by the store themselves, in collaboration with the field marketing agency hired to carry out the research.
Why are mystery shoppers needed?
Customer satisfaction is among the most important metrics in retail. It’s demonstrably far more difficult to attract new customers than it is to retain existing ones; but if you’re unaware of your poor customer service, then you’ll be unable to retain those existing customers. Moreover, we should bear in mind that word of poor service spreads far more quickly than word of good service, and so businesses should aim to be pro-active in identifying and eliminating their flaws.
Mystery shoppers provide an excellent way of doing this.
What are the alternatives?
Of course, there’s more than one way to collect information on how your business is treating its customers. Customer surveys are one such method. Simply ask your customers if they’d like to answer a few questions after they’re done shopping. You’ll be able to talk to many individuals and obtain a much broader base of information. Moreover, surveys of this sort can be conducted relatively cheaply.
This approach has several drawbacks, however. The sample of customers surveyed might be self-selecting and unrepresentative. The sort of person willing to spend their time answering questions might have a different perspective to the general customer; they might undervalue things like speed of service. You might offset this by incentivizing survey participation, but then you’ll just be distorting your findings in another direction.
What are the drawbacks of a mystery shopper?
The most obvious downside to mystery shopping is the cost. You’ll need to pay for someone to take the time to visit your store. Since visits are sporadic, they might not be representative of the average customer’s experience. If your mystery shopper catches your cashier on a bad day (or a good day), they might provide a misleading picture of what’s going on. We should also consider that not all mystery shopping companies provide the same quality of service – for best results, you’ll want to shop around for the best.
What are the advantages of a mystery shopper?
The biggest advantage of hiring a mystery shopper is that recommendations they provide will be impartial. Since they don’t have a stake in your business, they won’t be inclined to distort their findings. This sort of outside perspective can prove invaluable, as it’ll shine a light on behaviors and practices to which you and your staff might be blind.
Another plus point is that mystery shoppers will provide an incentive to your staff. If a mystery shopper report is due, you can be surer that each customer will be treated as though they might potentially be a mystery shopper. This will assuredly result in an overall improvement in service.
Mystery shopper reports can be tailored to match your business, accounting for its perceived strengths and weaknesses. So, if you’re running a bakery and you’re concerned that shelves aren’t being stocked quickly enough, you can instruct the shopper to look for empty space. Similarly, if you consider discipline and presentation to be a weakness, you can ask the shopper to check whether your staff is wearing their name badges and that they’re appropriately well-groomed. Whatever your priorities, a good mystery shopping agency will be able to provide a service that’s tailored to meet them.
Mystery shopper reports are a powerful means of identifying problems with your business – and they’re indispensable if you want to make improvements where they’ll really matter. With that said, mystery shoppers aren’t, in and of themselves, a magic bullet. For best results, they should be used in conjunction with other information-gathering techniques. A survey could be used to gain general data, and once areas of potential weakness have been identified, they can be scrutinized in closer detail with the help of a mystery shopper. Be sure to deal with a reputable company like Tactical Solutions, and that your mystery shoppers visit regularly.