4 Keys to Designing a Successful Healthcare Secret-Shopper Strategy

healthcare mystery shopping benefits

What Is a Secret Shopper?

A mystery shopper or a secret shopper is a person chosen by a market research firm to pose as a casual shopper and measure the quality of service of a business. Their job is also to report on the customer’s interaction with the employees about products and services.

Mystery shopping helps organizations and businesses gain more traction in the marketplace. This program allows business owners to get high quality and reliable feedback from the customer’s perspective. This feedback will help you understand the Experience your customers are having with your brand so that you are able to make strategic decisions about where to invest in improvements.

Who Can Benefit From Mystery Shopping?

Mystery shopping helps companies understand the impact customer experience has on their business. By having a person secretly interact with their employees, they are able to learn how their customers are truly treated.

Using a mystery shopper allows you to collect unbiased results on how your employees and staff interact with customers while also receiving both positive and negative feedback on how you can improve the customer experience.

Companies use secret shoppers to measure service level improvements and increase adoption of best practices. They help companies to gain competitive intelligence by shopping your company and your competitors simultaneously, to understand gaps in service levels, and take advantage of the competitors’ shortfalls. We recommend your secret shoppers to also measure potential liabilities and defects.

Healthcare organizations that want to boost their customer experience can also use secret shoppers effectively. The secret shoppers will constantly report on performance so you can learn how to make improvements that keep people within the system.

4 Keys to Designing a Successful Secret Shopper Strategy -- Featured

Improving customer experience in healthcare can be simple. The shoppers pose as patients or patients’ family members and friends to measure the quality of patient experiences. In this way, you can improve the patient experience by getting valuable insight into how patients are being treated. By making sure to eliminate any poor treatment a mystery patient finds, you can ensure your patients will be satisfied with their experience and recommend you to family and friends which helps grow your business.

How do mystery shopper services work in healthcare organizations?

The healthcare environment continues to become more competitive and patient-driven, thus some medical practices hire their medical mystery shoppers to stay ahead of the curve and improve the healthcare customer experience. Baird Group President/CEO, Kristin Baird, in a blog post on LinkedIn, says that mystery shoppers in healthcare environment “give a clear idea about the first impression a hospital or medical practice gives when a caller makes contact”.

Mystery Shopper Services in Healthcare Organizations

Instead of responding to online doctor reviews and patient satisfaction surveys, doctors hire secret shoppers to gain insights that could improve ratings and patient satisfaction. These programs deliver actionable, objective, and service performance criteria.

The mystery shoppers are asked to meticulously note everything they notice concerning the patient areas, physical surroundings, and staff interactions.  They also evaluate what they see of teamwork, salesmanship, customer service, and staff behavior.

The mystery shopper’s evaluation includes an objective and actionable record, with a thorough summary from the customer view but without a customer bias. This narrative is a significant element of sales assessments. They enable management to see the complete customer experience and recognize all service gaps.

SeeLevel HX’s Chief Client Officer and Partner was recently interviewed by Strategic Health Care Marketing and shared 4 keys to designing a secret-shopper strategy for healthcare.

From the article:
““Mystery shopping gives you a good objective mirror of what is really happening,” he says. For instance, you may get data from customer surveys that show people are particularly delighted with your service at one location, but you may not know exactly what is working. Are staff members calling your patients by name? Are they offering them a glass of water? It’s important to find out what is working so you can make sure to continue using this method and then be able to share it with other locations where the service isn’t receiving the same high marks.”
Read the entire interview here.

Short-term or ongoing need

Improving customer experience in healthcare with secret shopping programs fall under two categories:

Addressing a short-term need
This is used when you want to ensure the staff is accepting the new policy or procedure you are implementing. You would need to first make sure people are informed of the particular changes and then mystery patients can tell you whether those changes are being executed.

Addressing an ongoing need
Ongoing feedback is essential if you want the best experience for your patients. With this program, you can completely understand the organization’s performance, including its weaknesses and opportunities. It helps you make the necessary improvements to live up to the patients’ needs and provide them with the services they deserve.

4 Questions to Direct Your Efforts

Question #1: What are YOUR objectives?

You need to have clear goals for this program to be successful. The best secret-shopping strategy starts with a vision of what the organization wants to achieve. In addition, it is crucial to know how the customers fit into your goals. Without this basis to lead your efforts, the information alone would not be sufficient in helping you make the changes needed.

During the process, find out what is working to see if a particular method is successful. If it is successful, you can share it with the other facilities where the service is imperfect. The mystery shopper will tell you where you need to make improvements and what methods to continue.

Mystery shopping gives you measurable information and lets you see the full picture. For instance, some patients may perceive the wait time at your practice as very long and report it as such. Mystery shopping will know exactly how many minutes an average patient was waiting.

It might be that the wait time was not long, but it felt like an eternity to the patient because they were not engaged while they waited. A takeaway could be to implement an engagement strategy so they feel that the process is moving along. The secret shoppers can also report micro details such as what reading materials were available in the waiting room, how the staff members inform the patients of wait times, and how close the restroom was.

These are elements that are often overlooked when determining whether wait times are actually too long or not. Mystery shoppers are asked to pay attention to these details, so you don’t have to. They will inform you on every detail that a customer may perceive as negative and we can provide suggestions on how you can fix it.

Question #2: What is YOUR best scenario?

When using mystery shoppers, clearly explain to them what your best scenario would be. Do you want your customers to feel valued and welcome? Do you want to ensure that client wait times are acceptable? Or you may just want to make sure that your employees are carrying out your new policies.

Or maybe you want to have your mystery shoppers evaluate both your business as well as your competitors to see how you stack up and get valuable insight into how you can provide better experiences for your customers.

You need to explain point by point the obligations of your secret shoppers. Only then, can you design the best program for your business. Mystery shopper’s tasks involve talking to employees, experiencing exactly what a customer would, then providing detailed reports on their experience.

If they buy items or use services during the program, they use their own money to pay, but they are repaid the amount they spent once they finish all required duties. Within 24 hours, they write a report about their experience.

After writing the reports, they deliver the reports via email, mail, or fax to the SeeLevel HX team for review. Along with the reports, the secret shoppers send copies of the receipts to get repayment for the items and services purchased.

Sometimes, the best scenario is that your staff members get excited when they hear they’ve done an excellent job. When your personnel appreciate getting high marks for their service from shoppers, it means they are happy to do their job. Consequently, you know your customers get a better experience when your employees are happy and honored to help.

Question #3: What is YOUR questionnaire?

You need to design the type of questionnaire that will give you the most accurate operational evaluation. You will come up with the questions your mystery shoppers need to ask, and the best way to ask them. This will help you the most to boost healthcare patient experience and to determine employee rewards as well.

4 Keys to Designing a Successful Secret Shopper Strategy -- Healthcare Patient Experience Feedback

Determine what questions will help you best understand what steps to take to perfect your company, so you can make strategic choices about the future. During their experiences, secret shoppers follow a feedback form with criteria formed in part by the organization they are visiting.

Secret shopping criteria are usually based on an organization’s existing customer service standards. Nevertheless, mystery-shopping criteria are presented in specific terms. They range from very simplistic to highly complex undertakings.

Most importantly, avoid requests or questions that would reveal the customer is actually a secret shopper. Instead of using a vague question like “Did the organization welcome you properly?” secret shoppers need to seek answers to questions as, “Did some staff members greet you within one minute of entering the door?”

Due to the detailed nature of the questions, mystery-shopping results are helpful in making better-trained employees who deliver better service to the customers.

Question #4: How will you USE the data?

It is crucial to determine what resources are required for the secret-shopping program and to assure ROI on your program. In addition, before implementing this program, you should decide how you will use the data from it.

The results from these programs are presented to the clients in a written report, explaining what changes are needed in the organization and any missed opportunities. In addition, there will be tips to help address gaps that need to be closed. The key is to speak with the staff about the reasons behind the specific issues.  Also, the employees need to be rewarded for the things that are done well.

This concrete feedback is important to help organizations accomplish their goals. The secret shopping programs should improve the organization’s performance and help it gain a competitive edge.

Conclusion – Mystery Shopping And Your Business

Now that you have all the needed information about what it’s like using a mystery shopper, you can decide how to implement one in your organization’s strategy.

It is important to choose a company that will give you a consultation on what to do with the program’s results. Choose a company that will be your partner and will help you move forward in meeting your expectations and goals.

If you are interested in talking with us more about how a mystery shopper can help you improve patient experience in healthcare or in your business, contact us here or call 404-351-7888.

We look forward to helping you improve your business!