The concept of secret shopping has been around for decades. It’s used by market researchers and loss prevention companies but is most often associated with evaluating a company’s customer service. Secret shopping, or mystery shopping, is a booming business, with organizations ranging from luxury hotels to local churches using the strategy to improve customer experience. You may want to consider hiring a secret shopper company, but secret shopping your own business can provide valuable insights, as well. We’ve put together a list of dos and don’ts to help you secret shop your business.
DO consider the following aspects:
- Greeting. How is your customer welcomed when they walk into your store or business? Are they immediately acknowledged? Are they greeted as if they are a friend, or are they acknowledged with indifference, or worse yet, not greeted at all?
- Atmosphere. What does the customer experience when they walk in? Is your business attractively lighted? Is the floor clean? How are you using the structure of space — entrances, display height, floor plan — to help your customer easily navigate? Are displays neat and attractive? What sounds, noises, or smells does your customer encounter when they walk in?
- Employee availability. Are your employees easy to find if a customer has a question or needs assistance? When encountering a customer, do your employees stop what they’re doing — stocking shelves, cleaning, chatting with other employees — to offer assistance?
- Customer service. Observe how employees speak to customers over the phone. Are they courteous and professional? Do they speak to customers in a way that makes the customer feel valued?
- Product inventory and availability. Is your customer able to find the item they’re looking for? How do employees handle a situation in which the item is out of stock?
DON’T cause your employees to feel they are being judged. Ensure that your employees feel supported. When discussing your observations, it’s important to note areas for improvement, but also point out things that are being done well.
DO look at your business through the customer’s eyes. Try to remove yourself from the day-to-day tasks.
DON’T expect things to fix themselves. When you meet with your employees regarding areas for improvement, you should also have a plan for improvement. Take the time to analyze your observations so you can determine the underlying causes for deficiencies. Inadequate training, failure to convey expectations, and lack of standards can be contributors to an unsatisfactory customer experience.
DO write it all down. Make a contemporaneous record of your observations so you can provide employees with a detailed explanation regarding areas for improvement.
DON’T procrastinate. Get started with implementing improvements as soon as possible after completing your assessment.
DO invest in hiring outside secret shoppers and compare your own observations to theirs to determine where there is alignment.
DON’T ignore your marketing bridge. Ensure that the message delivered in your advertising is supported by the experience your customers have when they visit your store.
DO ensure that your marketing matches your product. Your marketing message should be reflective of the actual experience in your store, as well as the quality of your product and customer service. If you advertise that your product is a good value, your employees must be able to support that message by being knowledgeable about the product and its benefits. Zimmer Radio & Marketing Group can help ensure that your messaging clearly represents your product or service, and get that message in front of your target customer!
When you secret shop your business, you are able to view your business through your customer’s eyes and gain a different perspective that will help you accurately assess your customer’s experience. You can then use your assessment to identify areas for improvement and develop a plan to address weaknesses.