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What Is Mystery Shopping?

People are most honest when they know they are not being observed or tested. Mystery shopping is a method of experiencing customers’ experience from customers’ perspective. In mystery shopping, this experience is staged but without the knowledge of the subjects. The objective behind conducting mystery shopping is to improve customer services, ascertain scope of product development and identifying areas of training for employees. In many countries like the US and UK, mystery shopping is bound by ethical standards to prevent its misuse.

 Mystery Shopping Looks Like….

In ideal situations, mystery shoppers mix up with other customers and conducts accordingly. They perform specific tasks like visiting a store, evaluating products, asking questions to employees in the store, speaking to other customers, registering their grievances or complaints etc. The information collected by the mystery shoppers is recorded for study and analysis. Mystery shopping is commonly used for improving services at retail stores, cinema halls, restaurants, financial institutions, gyms, hotels and hospitals etc.

 Audit and Mystery Shopping

Mystery shopping can be a very powerful tool for auditing purposes. When people realize that their performance is being observed or monitored by an authority, they may act differently from the way they act most of the time. And in this endeavor, their regular strengths and weaknesses do not appear clearly. Also, other aspects like adherence to laid down code of conduct and service oriented behaviour are everyday requirements in a place of business. Mystery shopping overcomes these psychological barriers and helps a business study the state of its retail operations in the stores. This ability of mystery shopping makes it an immensely helpful audit tool.

 Mystery Shopping as an Audit Tool

Leaning about customer shopping experience

Customers’ shopping experience is of paramount importance to a business. It begins with need realization, ends at need fulfillment and the cycle repeats with repurchase. However, there will be no repurchase if the product or service is unable to fulfill the realized needs and meet customers’ associated expectations. For example, a customer decides to buy a pair of jeans. Before making an in-store purchase, he checks out several brands and their prices on the internet. After having some knowhow of the brands and their prices, he visits the stores of different brands. At this juncture, a retail store (who did not know about the customer till he checked in) must acknowledge that the customer has already mapped his product and price options and only has not decided where to buy the jeans from. A customer stepping into a store signifies that he is evaluating his place of purchase option. A retail store has to convert this opportunity into a delightful shopping experience for the customer so that he not only decides to buy the jeans from the store but also return home with a positive goodwill of the store.

Mystery shopping can play a crucial role here. Mystery shoppers, as first time visitors, can reveal perspectives which might have previously gone unnoticed by the regular visitors like employees.

  1. How does the store appear from outside? Does it look inviting and welcoming?
  2. Is there a necessity for an air door at the entrance?
  3. Was there a staff to welcome the customers or help with baggage, if any?
  4. How’s the interior design of the store?
  5. Was the sitting accommodation available for customers and was it comfortable enough?
  6. If there was a rush in the store, did any staff offered to sit or offered water?
  7. Was the room temperature cool and comfortable?
  8. Does the store maintain cleanliness and hygiene? Anything to the contrary noticed?
  9. How appealing and useful was the merchandising at the store?
  10. Were the employees clement, knowledgeable, informative and pro-customer?
  11. Were there any hassles in making the purchase payments? Did you get proper bills and papers?
  12. Did you leave a feedback in the feedback form? Why?

 Learn about areas in which employees may require sensitivity, product and service training

The skills and attributes required for the vanguard staff is different from those in the back office. This is because the retail store staff deal with customers directly. They are like the face or representatives of business. The things they say; the way they behave; their demeanor’s, are often construed as a direct reflection of the managements’ attitude towards customers or its seriousness about service orientation.

Mystery shopping studies can throw new light and new perspectives on the strengths and weaknesses of employees deputed at stores. Because of the nature of mystery shopping, it helps companies observe and assess the performance of the employees in the light of field realities. The information derived from mystery shopping audits can be used to improve the performance of the store employees –

  1. Was the welcome warm and receptive?
  2. Were the employees properly dressed; with a neat and tidy appearance and not shabby in any manner?
  3. Were the employees able to communicate clearly? Was the language fluent?
  4. Did the employees give adequate time and attention to individual customers?
  5. Did the employees possessed accurate product knowledge and information?
  6. Were the employees cooperative and prompt in handling queries and grievances?

The information and insights derived from mystery shopping audits is gold to businesses with retail service operations. By learning more about customers’ perspective and employees’ service orientation, businesses can make a huge difference in the way they manage their service platform for the customers. Mystery shopping audits can help businesses create customer delight and brand loyalty. As a caveat, it is essential to maintain ethical standards in mystery shopping audits and restrict its usage to positive applications.

To know more about “How mystery shopping can help your organization?” get in touch with our Retail Experts on [email protected] OR refer YRC Mystery Shopping

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Author Bio

Nikhil Agarwal

Chief Operations Officer

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