Shining a Light on Mystery Shopping

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					Shining a Light on Mystery Shopping
You may not think your customers are always right, but seeing things the
way they do can be key to unlocking your franchise's potential. The
perception a customer holds of your brand, your store and your service
are vital to your success. As customers expect consistency from location
to location, a poor experience at one store reflects badly on the entire
chain.
Limitation of Customer Feedback:
There are several options for franchisers who want customer attitudes to
improve. Unfortunately, many are satisfied simply with a voluntary
customer feedback program. While such programs are an important way to
keep in touch with customers, they are only a small part of the entire
picture. Being voluntary, customer feedback typically highlights only
those aspects of the franchise that provoke a very strong opinion, either
good or bad. However, there is much more to learn.
The Mystery Shopping Option:
A comprehensive "Mystery Shopping" program, on the other hand, provides a
view of what occurs in the service environment at a given moment, seen
through the eyes of a real customer. Mystery Shoppers are trained to be
observant, providing information tailored to the exact standards
established for your brand. For example, if you expect customers to be
greeted within 30 seconds of arrival, Mystery Shoppers can prove how long
it really takes. Perhaps you insist that a customer ordering a small
drink should always be offered a larger one? Mystery Shoppers will order
in exactly the fashion you like and record the response. Should you be
concerned your employees are less customer- service oriented on the
weekends, Mystery Shoppers can evaluate your franchise at a specific day
and time.
A good Mystery Shopper will be reliable, responsible, service-oriented
and possess a keen eye for detail. While some of the companies offering
this service will interview potential employees before hiring and train
them thoroughly for specific jobs, others are less vigilant. As with most
service industries, you get what you pay for.
Mystery Shopping is best conducted at regular intervals over a set
period. Most companies receive monthly reports, though some prefer
bimonthly or quarterly reports, so franchisees and employees will be able
to track their progress continually. Mystery Shopping results are often
used as a basis for rewarding employees, even in unionized environments,
and are rarely used as a disciplinary tool. The best ones are developed
ahead of time, with management and staff each providing input. Employees
know the evaluation is coming, and even know what is on the evaluation
form, allowing them to consider things and prepare.
Of course, Mystery Shopping isn't only useful for larger franchisors with
numerous stores. Many newer, smaller franchisers find it equally
valuable; in fact, having a Mystery-Shopping program is an excellent
selling point to would-be franchisees, as it shows concern for quality
and brand strength.
Some franchisees also run Mystery Shopper programs independent of the
franchisor. This is often done to prepare for franchiser inspections,
though it may simply reflect concern for their own business and a desire
to improve it.
Criticisms of Mystery Shopping:
Critics of Mystery Shopping often claim it is nothing more than a
"snapshot" of a business on a particular day. However, Mystery Shopping
is not meant to reflect statistically-valid sample sizes. Instead, it
observes how customers are actually treated, and helps extrapolate best
practices for that location and its staff. Others ask why a company
should pay for a Mystery Shopper instead of several hundred surveys or an
online comment card. While these methods are valuable in their own right,
they are not replacement for Mystery Shopping. As mentioned above,
comment cards are usually completed only by very happy or very unhappy
customers. One might complain, "I stood in line too long," but not
necessarily "I stood in line for more than 45 seconds." What if your
brand boasts a 45 - second wait time or less?
Preparing for the Mystery Shopper:
Before you set about finding a Mystery-Shopping provider, there are
several questions you need to ask:
1. What information can you gain from the Mystery-Shopping program and
how will you apply it?
2. Have you consulted with your employees about the goals of your
program? (This is recommended, depending on its purposes.)
3. What types of evaluation will be most effective for your franchise?
Examples include in-person visits, telephone calls, email and website
evaluations, competitive inspections or combinations of these.
4. How will you arrange your Mystery Shopper's schedule?
5. What is the desired demographic profile for the Mystery Shoppers being
sent? (The Mystery Shopper will typically embody the profile, although
occasionally, employers send in someone who doesn't fit, as this too can
be a test.)
6. What kind of costs are you willing to incur?
Choosing the Best Provider:
In order to get the most out of your program, you will need to find a
provider with enough expertise to guide you along, and enough flexibility
to meet your needs. There are many companies offering Mystery-Shopping
services, so when it comes time to choose one for your franchise, you
should keep many things in mind:
1. The provider should be seriously focused on client care and respond
immediately to client needs. A specific team should be dedicated to
serving you as a client, providing the attention your company deserves.
An effective Mystery Shopper program requires an efficient supplier with
excellent time management.
2. A provider with an easy-to-use, Internet-based program will reduce the
administrative burdens of Mystery Shopping. Using the Internet makes it
quick and cost-effective to make changes to your standards, instructions,
tasks, timelines, questions, etc. For security reasons, some companies
still rely on traditional mail, fax or couriers to deliver results.
However the information that would be leaked through the web is almost
never scandalous anyway.
3. The Mystery-Shopping provider you select should possess a proven track
record for handling clients in your particular industry, as this can help
them identify pitfalls early. A good company can develop effective
shopping scenarios, straightforward evaluation forms/checklists and
proper statistical reports. The data made available to you through
charts, graphs, and questionnaires, must be easily digestible so problems
are clearly identified.
4. The provider should be flexible enough to accommodate client
capabilities. While an Internet based program is of great help, a quality
provider can deliver information in other ways if the franshisor requires
it.
5. Mystery Shoppers should be profiled, selected, trained and
continuously monitored for quality by their provider. They may need to be
rotated to avoid being recognized over time and to maintain an objective
viewpoint of your brand and customers.
6. Insurance coverage is extremely important. The provider you choose
should have current professional liability coverage. Should any legal
actions be initiated as a result of the information your provider
collects, you must be protected.
7. The information you receive must be timely, accurate and useful. You
must work with your Mystery-Shopping provider to ensure that targeted,
task-specific information gets to the people who need it. Various user
groups within your company may require information in job-specific
formats, e.g. operations people will be interested in standards and
procedures, while human resources (HR) people are more concerned with
training effectiveness. As such, the information must be provided in an
intuitive manner for each user.
8. The provider should not burden you with the same administrative
hassles and high costs a customer feedback program would cause. Once
again, the Internet proves useful, as it allows your company to nearly
eliminate program administration costs.
9. The provider should always push your organization to continuously
improve. More detailed evaluation procedures, tougher scoring and greater
demands on your employee's will challenge them and instill a culture of
positive change.
10. A good Mystery Shopping provider should also offer a range of
complimentary services, like analysis of competition, on-line electronic
comment card programs, traditional on-site comment cards, onsite exit
interviews, customer satisfaction and follow up surveys and telephone
programs. Any of the services offered should be customizable, and the
standards entirely at your discretion.
When competition is fierce, customer relations are the one thing
separating a successful franchise from an unsuccessful one. For
franchises, then, a proper Mystery-Shopping program answers questions far
too important to ignore. While early results may be disappointing, they
can do much to start a store on the right path and maintain great service
over time.
MyShop by SQM is a division of SQM that conducts market research. MyShop
by SQM is a new and exciting concept that allows small and medium-sized
businesses to easily operate their own Mystery Shopping Program. MyShop
uses state of the art market research procedures and technology to offer
programs at an affordable price. The easy-to-use website allows a
business owner to sign up in three simple steps: register as a user,
build your own program and then login to pick up your results. Access to
this online market research service, is a cost-effective way to monitor
and improve your company's productivity, efficiency, customer service,
and ultimately, profitability. MyShop by SQM gives you the necessary
information to successfully run your company in the increasingly
competitive business world.
For additional information, please visit the website at
http://www.myshopbysqm.com or contact:
Mr. David Lipton
Sensors Quality Management Inc.
895 Don Mills Road
Suite 400, Tower 2
Toronto, ON M3C 1W3
Phone: 416-444-4491
Fax: 416-444-2422
Website: http://www.myshopbysqm.com
E-mail: davidL@sqm.ca

				
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