The other day I had an odd experience in an Adelaide supermarket. I had stopped on the way to a friends house to pick up a small handful of allegedly vital ingredients. Already late and now burdened with the knowledge that I had mission-critical ingredients in my possession I was looking for a fast way out of the supermarket. This is when it happened, the odd experience, where I was confronted with three staff who just stared at me. There I stood holding a small tub of mascarpone cheese and two avocados as I looked for the shortest queue and my pathway to dinner.
The ‘less than 8 items’ queue was too long and all of the other checkouts were bottle-necked with numerous people standing in line. Then there were these three young people standing in front of some empty checkouts. They did not appear to have anything to do and were almost obstructing customers as they stood there motionless watching me as I anxiously clutched my avocados and searched for a way out.
They reminded me of a cross between a restaurant maître d’ and a hotel door-person but without the smile or welcoming look.
It turns out of course that they were part of the latest initiative in supermarket customer service where the staff proudly stand in front of their empty checkouts to welcome you to their aisle. This became obvious as I stood there and watched local customers ‘in-the-know’ pull up and get served immediately as the staff member dashed back behind their counter. Apparently, by then I was gripping both my avocados way too tightly as I watched the three empty queues fill with customers.
As a marketer I encourage all customer service initiatives intended to improve the customer experience of a brand’s target markets. However, my point in this example is that I am sure the execution of this particular customer service initiative was not exactly how the store management had intended.
A point of concern is that it is not always obvious when execution of particular initiative is not taking place as planned.
In this case the only way that store management was going to understand my confusion and hence negative customer service experience is if they either ask the customers (i.e. customer research or surveys) or if they mystery shop their own business.
Mystery Shopping is really not very mysterious at all and is often referred to by other terms such as Secret Shopper or Mystery Consumer.
Mystery Shopping is a term used to describe a form of research completed to measure or understand the quality or type of service being delivered by an entity. It can be used simply to measure the quality, compliance or consistency of service delivery or to uncover specific information such as pricing and approach to problem solving. Business operators regularly use Mystery Shopping to understand the service being delivered by their competitors and also their own operations.
Mystery Shopping is typically associated with retail outlets and consumer customer groups. However, Mystery Shopping is not limited to these categories and is often used in both Business-to-Consumer and Business-to-Business categories.
Over the years the team at Baker Marketing has executed Mystery Shopping programs for clients in a broad range of industry groups and categories including:
- Professional services
- Cleaning industry
- Building products
- Restaurants and Take-away outlets
- Health and Beauty and Skincare product categories
- Food and Beverage producers
- Education and Training industry
- Equipment manufacture
- Variety of wholesaling categories
- Variety of retail outlets and categories
3 Reasons to Mystery Shop your Own Business
1. To Take a Reality Check
Plans and Visions are critical to success but so to is effective Execution. Sometimes the only way to take a real ‘Reality Check’ is to Mystery Shop your own business and get a picture for what is really happening.
2. To Measure Consistency or Improvements
I am sure you are familiar with that old chestnut, ‘if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it’. Mystery Shopping your own business provides you with a tool for measuring the quality, consistency and compliance of numerous aspects of your Marketing and Sales Execution.
If you were to put in place a routine Mystery Shopping program you would then be able to monitor changes and improvements over different periods.
3. To Encourage Focus
There is no question that regular monitoring and feedback helps teams keep focussed on a variety of objectives and standards. An ongoing Mystery Shopping program is another tool for you to use in providing feedback to your teams and helping them keep focused on the most important elements of their roles.
Mystery Shopping – Getting it Right
There are other good reasons to invest in Mystery Shopping both your competitors and your own business. The three summarised above were those that came to mind the other day when I was standing in a queue glaring at the three checkout staff who had ignored my plight.
To make Mystery Shopping worth your investment you need to make sure you are doing it right. First of all this means making sure you are Mystery Shopping the right information.
There is no point in scoring the level of technical knowledge or sense of humour of your staff if this is of no importance to your Primary Target Markets.
Then there is the need to ensure that your Mystery Shopping is executed correctly so that the results captured are accurate and useful for you to use as part of your Marketing Planning and Decision-Making process.
If you think a refresher on Target Markets or Brand Positioning might be of use to you then please read Target Market Selection: 2014 Marketing Summer School (Part 2) or The Baker Marketing: 2014 Marketing Summer School (Part 3) in the first instance.
Feel free to contact me or the team at Baker Marketing if you would like to know more about Mystery Shopping or need any assistance in this area.