Most large retail chains and restaurants employ mystery shoppers. These services can be helpful for evaluating if frontline associates are following proper procedures, being polite and treating customers in a professional manner. But while they can be wonderful measurement tools, they are not necessarily effective at improving the establishment’s processes or training programs. Getting your own associates involved in the process can reap many rewards and also result in more engaged employees.
If you own a business that deals with customers face to face, I would suggest that you select a few associates who would be willing to mystery shop your competition and report back on what they learn. I might also suggest that you include associates who you consider to be very welcoming and some that may appear to be robotic or indifferent. Mixing up the team might help some of the weaker staff see how they deliver service to your customers and how they themselves could become better in their own interactions.
Here are some hints to help make the process more effective:
- Inform your associates during one of your regular store or restaurant meetings that you are looking for volunteers to mystery shop 5 of your closest competitors. Tell them it will be fun and that your company will provide a budget to actually purchase some products which they can either share or keep themselves.
- Pick a small team of 3 or 4 associates and have them develop the specific criteria to evaluate. It could be things such as – Did they give you a big smile? – Did they provide their name? – Did they try to engage you in a conversation other than just take care of your transaction? – Did they use your name at any point in the conversation?, etc.
- Develop some specific scenarios such as, “I just moved into the neighborhood and want to see what types of merchandise you have,” or compliment the merchandise the store has and see if they ignore your comment or thank you for the compliment. Tell them that you have been purchasing at their store for a long time or eating at their restaurant quite awhile and see if they “thank you” for your past patronage.
- Have them call your 5 closest competitors and ask them for their hours. If they reach a live person, assess if the person just answered your specific question about the hours or if they also tried to engage you in a conversation. Did the associate make you feel that if you went to their store or restaurant they would welcome your business or not care at all?
- Have the groups meet and share their findings with the rest of the team at the next upcoming staff meeting, allowing each team member to communicate what they learned, what made them feel special and/or what completely turned them off. Be sure to leave extra time for discussion.
Using outside partners to mystery shop your company can be valuable. Having your own associates mystery shop your competitors and learn from their experience is priceless.