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How has the Economy Affected Mystery Shopping? February 27, 2009

Posted by Ann Michaels & Associates in Uncategorized.
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As we well know, we are experiencing tough economic times, often leaving shoppers and companies wondering how this will impact the industry overall.

We’ve seen a few trends, some good, others not so good. Companies have suspended programs, others may have closed their doors. While belts are tightening, you may see less shops, or a slightly lower fee. We have seen an increase in inquiries from people who want to become mystery shoppers for extra income. This does impact the mystery shoppers and mystery shopping companies; however, we have also seen signs that the impact may not be as negative as some worry about.

As a company, we’ve seen a fairly steady request for new mystery shopping programs, which is a good sign. Because of the economic times, the bright side is that customer service is becoming even more important to businesses – what better way to measure service levels than through mystery shopping?

I had an interesting conversation with a potential customer a few months back, who was in the new construction industry. She was learning more about starting a mystery shopping program to evaluate her sales staff when people visit the sites. After talking with her for some time, I had to ask what made her decide to start a program now, especially with her industry hurting. She replied, “I need this program more than ever; I need to be sure my sales staff are doing everything correctly and doing all they can to encourage a sale. I can’t let one potential customer walk away because of something my staff did or did not do.”

While it may be slower than usual right now, we believe that the industry is still strong and a much needed resource for businesses.

Until next time…happy shopping!

Keep it Objective & Remember Your Audience February 19, 2009

Posted by Ann Michaels & Associates in Uncategorized.
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The goal of mystery shopping narratives is to give the client a detailed description of what transpired during your visit. Some reports require a full narrative, asking you to detail everything from the time you walk in the building to the time you leave, while others only want details regarding your interaction with the employee. No matter which type of narrative you are writing, you need to remember one thing: Keep it Objective!

Mystery shopping reports are not asking your opinion (unless, of course, there are specific questions asking for this – in most cases though, they don’t). The whole point of mystery shopping is to track and measure key aspects of the service provided. There are many ways to write about your experience in an objective manner.

Let’s take cleanliness for example. You may enter a store that is in total disarray. Instead of writing, “The store was an absolute pigsty. I have never seen anything more filthy than this store” you would be helping the client more by providing objective, detailed information. You may write, “As I entered the store, I noticed that the merchandise was not stocked properly. Opened boxes of merchandise were stacked in the aisle, two of which posed a tripping hazard. The floor contained multiple areas that needed to be mopped. Finally, the windows and entry door contained significant smudges and fingerprints, which needed attention.” The second entry helps the client know exactly what issues needed attention and what was dirty.

Another area of caution is employee descriptions – of course, these need to be detailed and specific so that the client can figure out which employee was evaluated (if name tags are not worn), but it is important to remember- and some shoppers don’t – that someone, especially the employee in discussion – is reading this report. While it is good to be detailed, objectivity is key – you don’t want to hurt feelings.

Years ago a male shopper provided us with an employee description that I still remember to this day – he wrote “woman with blonde hair, obviously a dye job, extremely overweight, crooked teeth, and generally had a sloppy appearance.” Of course we had to go back to this shopper to get a more accurate description, but I felt awful for this woman had she read that description of herself! Employee descriptions should be general but descriptive – that may sound like an oxymoron, but I’ll give you an example as a guide: gender, approximate age (in his/her 20’s, 30’s, etc), approximate height, hair color and length, facial hair (for men only please!), and any other identifying characteristics (eyeglasses, earrings, tattoos, etc).

In short, keeping your report detailed and objective is best and will most benefit the client, your audience. If something is dirty, ask yourself “What exactly was wrong with this?” If the employee didn’t do something, such as attempt to upsell, what did he/she do instead? One response may be, “He did not attempt to upsell, but instead asked if the order was complete.” Anything you can provide to the client will benefit their service levels and also make you a stronger shopper, which will lead to more work.

Until next time…happy shopping!

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