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Why It’s Important to Provide Details in a Narrative Report July 5, 2010

Posted by Ann Michaels & Associates in Uncategorized.
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Clients often tell us that the narrative portions of mystery shopping reports are outstanding. While the question portion is also great, and allows clients to see performance at a glance, and even run analytical reports to spot trends and areas of weakness/success, the narrative serves as the “meat and potatoes” of the report.

Companies rely on shoppers to be their “eyes and ears” when conducting shops. The information provided in the narrative portion, especially when there are areas that were in need of improvement, are what really help them succeed.

If you’ve completed shops for our company, you know that we advise shoppers to write narratives objectively and in detail, and make the client feel as though they were sitting right next to you during the shop. We do this so the client is getting the full picture of your experience.

The example I always use for newer shoppers is this: say you evaluate a restroom and it’s just not clean. A novice shopper may write, “The restroom was a mess. It was dirty and needed to be cleaned.” Well, that tells the client that something was wrong, but doesn’t give them much else to go on. Since the goal of a mystery shopping program is to continually improve, we need to give them details on what was wrong so they can be better next time.

A better way to explain the condition of the restroom might be, “The women’s restroom was in need of attention. The floor was littered with paper debris and dirty shoe prints. The hand soap dispenser was empty, and the mirror contained excessive streaks and smudges.”

Once you’ve drafted a narrative, it’s best to read it as though you were the client. If you come across something you’ve written that doesn’t clearly explain what was happening (good or bad), you can take another look at it and revise accordingly.

Remember, the goal of mystery shopping is not to “get” someone, or find employees doing something wrong; instead, we are objectively reporting performance within a snapshot of time. Companies are always happy to see high scoring reports, but it’s the ones where things do not go 100% that they learn from the most.

Until next time…happy shopping!

When Employees Play “Spot the Shopper” July 2, 2010

Posted by Ann Michaels & Associates in Uncategorized.
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It is human nature for employees to try to spot the shopper – once a program starts, we typically begin to hear rumblings of this six months into the program. That is when we may first hear it from a newer client – we get a call from a client who is worried because their employees let them know they know who the shopper is.

While this does happen legitimately from time to time, often due to a shopper making a fatal mistake, such as taking notes during a shop (a HUGE no-no), many times they are incorrect.

The most memorable incident occurred several years ago – a client called and said that an employee who was recently shopped knew it was the shopper and was able to describe him. I took a look at the report and the shopper information we have on file. I immediately knew they had the wrong person, as the shopper in question was a female. Secondly, I looked at the score on the report and asked the client how the employee could  know it was the shopper yet still only score a 60% on the evaluation. Food for thought.

I understand that many times there is a lot riding on mystery shopping reports – employees can receive good bonuses, or conversely, have their job in jeopardy if they receive multiple low scoring evaluations. However, if employees are too focused on spotting the shopper, they won’t be doing their jobs effectively.

Teaching employees to treat every customer as though they are the mystery shopper, and do the job right every time is the best way to be successful at their job. Wasting time finding the shopper will not lead to job success.

I came across this e-how article on how to spot a shopper. While there are misconceptions in this article, I did think the last point was most important: “Provide excellent customer service to all customers in the same consistent way.”

Until next time…happy shopping!

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