Mystery Shopping, also known as Secret Shopping, is a widely used practice in the sales and service industries. Staff dread it, Managers often misuse it but when it’s conducted competently and the information obtained used effectively, it can be an invaluable tool.
What is Mystery Shopping exactly? It involves a person acting as a customer, either visiting, calling or emailing a business, with the purpose of evaluating aspects of the businesses’ operations, sales and service. Often the person conducting the Mystery Shop, has a number of specific things they are on the lookout for, such as the presentation of the shop or showroom, the level of customer service provided, execution of the steps of selling and the knowledge of the person who served them. At the completion of the experience, they write a detailed report to provide feedback from a customer’s perspective, which should always be done in an objective manner.
The benefits of Mystery Shopping are many. It can be used as a baseline, to determine where a businesses’ strengths and areas for improvement are, identifying any gaps where training or development may be required. It may also be used as a way of following up on the implementation of any training provided, in regards to how and if it is being utilised by the staff. Adherence to company standards can also be observed and can be a way for Management to obtain feedback on staff’s behaviours during times they are not being supervised.
Management do need to be mindful when interpreting and providing feedback on the information they acquire from Mystery Shopping. While providing feedback to an individual on their performance can be beneficial, it should always be done in a constructive, objective and in a timely manner, praising a job well done or, with the intention of providing training or coaching in areas for development.
Where Mystery Shopping results really become useful, is looking at the strengths and deficiencies of the business, a site or a team overall, by identifying commonalities or patterns across these groups. This allows for plans and actions to be put in place to build the skill level in required areas and ultimately improve the customers’ experience.
Many people in a sales or service position fear being mystery shopped, believing it is an inaccurate time waster however, the real insecurity often lies in their exposure of not following sales and customer service standards or, showing a lack of skill. If staff treated every customer like a mystery shopper or a VIP, always utilising training, following standards, with the goal of always providing customers with a quality experience, they would have no need to worry.