As a consumer, have you ever wanted on occasion to walk away from an establishment for poor service or products? For example, if the apples look unappetizing at the grocery store or if the clothes boutique clerk refuses to help you, you may leave. The company may notice the loss in their profits along with customer complaints and will hopefully take action. Companies use mystery shoppers to do something that some consider sneaky: anonymously observe the store and report back findings to its owners and management. This practice was started in the 1930s and has gained in popularity due to its effectiveness in the 1980s. While this undoubtedly helps the company manage its people and products, how does it benefit consumers?
1. First, it informs companies about the performance of their employees. Employers use the reports to change poor employee behavior.
2. Mystery shoppers take a critical look at the physical store and grade it, and that informs retailers of places to change the appearance and remove things or even address issues with cleanliness that may be impeding consumers from a happy shopping experience.
3. Mystery shoppers also perceive problems in business practices and suggest obvious solutions that management may miss, so the consumer in effect has an advocate if they notice the same problem when they visit. Some problems have simple solutions.
4. A mystery shopper can tell the company what a service does or doesn’t do, whether it lives up to the hype and gives useful information about the service offered. Aside from monitoring people, mystery shoppers can also testify to the worthiness of a company’s offerings.
Shoppers Commit Details to Memory
Mystery shoppers carry along a mental checklist when they go on an assignment. They immediately count the employees on the floor, and they mark the seconds or even minutes before an employee greets them. They commit to memory the name of every employee working and note whether they have appealing attitudes or their dress seems appropriate. They query employees about products with canned questions and check the responses closely. They judge the products shown and how persuasive employees are at selling it. They know beforehand what the company expects from employees in up-selling and closing sales, and they take mental notes. When they leave, mystery shoppers closely watch to see if employees invite them back.
Mystery Shoppers Point Out Poor Service
This clearly benefits consumers. Mystery shoppers, as a rule, do not work for the consumer, but for the company providing the service or product. Companies use mystery shoppers’ reports to correct employee’s behavior and comply with policies and best sales practices. If you’ve ever been amazed at a clerk’s horrible service, don’t worry too much, if the company uses mystery shopping regularly, management will be made aware.
This can result in retraining and in some cases, termination. Jobs that demand little skill and low pay don’t give employers much room to retrain. A newly hired employee may correct the issue with a bit more training, on the other hand.
For consumers, the benefit of the mystery shopper is better service and shopping experience. The company is able to identify “blind spots” and correct these issues and in some cases, turn a problem location into a place where a customer would want to shop regularly.
This guest post contribution is courtesy of Sentry Marketing Group. SMG coordinates mystery shopping for restaurants, hotels, retail and Competitive Analysis in Dallas as well as many other cities in the U.S.
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