Mystery shopping services have been around since the 1940s. Back then, the focus was more on identifying and proving fraudulent behaviors by thieving employees. Retail stores, insurance agencies, and banks benefited the most from this kind of service.
Nowadays, more businesses see secret shopping as a vital element in assessing their organization’s overall performance face to face. In addition to that, the point of contact between customers and businesses has expanded from the usual face-to-face interactions.
Customer contact isn’t just limited to in-store visits anymore. The modern B2C relationship includes interaction using digital channels, demanding more from organizations to maintain consistency in delivering customer experience across all channels. Now, more than ever, the services of a mystery shopping agency are needed in order to keep up with this development.
So, what exactly are the advantages of hiring a mystery shopping agency like SeeLevel HX? Understanding how mystery shopping works in improving a company’s overall performance can guide you in deciding whether it’s really worth hiring their service for your retail business.
Benefits of Mystery Shopping
Here are some of the areas where mystery shopping services shine the most in improving business performance.
1. See things from your customer’s perspective
You can have your employees act the part of the customer and pretend like they don’t know anything about your business. But despite all the effort, you’ll still get biased results since deep in their minds, your employees know what buttons to push in order to get positive results. Not to mention that they may fear the repercussions of their perceived whistleblowing.
Mystery shoppers, on the other hand, are actual customers who don’t know anything about your processes. They don’t know how employees will react to their presence, which replicates the same situation that occurs when a stranger enters the shop. Read 5 traits of a good mystery shopper here.
Letting your employees do the mystery shopping will always create blind spots which are the very things you’re trying to eliminate. Hiring a mystery shopper from SeeLevel HX is the optimal choice as they’ll give you the neutral and professional perspective of an outsider.
No data is more reliable and relevant. Mystery shoppers are real customers who can assess factors that are often left out in evaluating business performance, namely customer satisfaction, brand perception, and consumer experience.
2. Assess employee performance
Are your employees acting the way they’re trained to? Or are they disregarding protocol when there’s no one watching them?
Oftentimes, the primary objective of retailers in hiring the service of a mystery shopping agency is to see how their employees are doing. Organizations want to make sure their employees are performing as trained and that they don’t do anything unnecessary that may negatively affect the customers’ perception of the brand.
Employees also react differently when placed under certain circumstances. No matter how much you train them to handle tough situations, they may still fumble on occasion. That doesn’t mean you can’t change their behavior and the way they handle stress. In fact, the feedback from a mystery shopper can proactively identify those circumstances, allowing you to help coach and support your employees before a real customer puts them in the same position.
Through mystery shopping, you’ll have a clear picture of employee behavior in certain situations. With this, you can plan your next training strategy and include methods on how to handle pressure better.
If you’re running an incentive program for your employees, a mystery shopper can identify who among them deserves a medal. The same goes for those who may think they can get away when no one’s looking.
3. Ensure proper brand representation
How can you be sure that your employees are doing their part in promoting the brand? Are your expectations and viewpoint on your brand the same as those of your customer?
Your employees should uphold brand value under all circumstances since they are responsible for carrying out the standards your company has set in providing products and services to consumers.
4. Evaluate protocols and programs
With the help of mystery shopping, you’ll be able to assess the efficiency of new CX programs and SOPs in their earliest phases. There will be times that no matter how well thought out a protocol is, it will fail when it reaches the store-level simply because it’s not what customers are expecting. Projections and assumptions may not hold true when they’re tested on the ground compared to when they’re being planned out on paper.
Mystery shoppers can be your test subjects to assess newly implemented protocols or initiatives. This will allow you to immediately evaluate its effects and revise or pull it back as needed. This will also lower the risk of affecting a large number of customers before identifying any undesirable effects it may have.
5. Compare your performance with your competitors
Do you know that you can hire the market research and mystery shopping services of SeeLevel HX to know more about your competition? You can send secret shoppers to gather information on their strategies, protocols, and behavior in dealing with day-to-day customers.
How is your business doing compared with your competitors? Benchmarking your performance with the market average will help you identify your strengths. With this, you can further bring out your business’s unique offers that will get you ahead of your competitors.
Reports from our mystery shoppers can also help you discern the strengths and weaknesses of the competition. This can be used to further improve your customer service programs and offer products or services other businesses don’t have.
6. Check facility conditions
You can’t deny those first impressions last, especially in the retail industry. A customer will surely have doubts about entering a cluttered shop littered with unsold items.
Are the heaters turned up on your store during winter? How is the air conditioning doing? Does the shop smell nice and new throughout the whole week?
Employees may already be used to the current shop conditions which prevent them from noticing things that may cause discomfort to customers. For example, they may already be used to the temperature when in fact, it’s too cold or too hot for customers to enjoy.
Customer experience is not only a matter of what people see or smell but also what they feel when doing business with you. Mystery shoppers can take note of your store’s conditions and report the findings to you so you can immediately take the necessary action to fix things up.
7. Personalization and attention
It’s common practice for those in the retail business to have their customers attended to in a matter of seconds. Every moment counts which is why even minor delays can leave customers walking out the door.
Customers often leave the premises when they’re not immediately attended to. This often happens during peak hours where a lot of people come into the shop but still, this is no excuse to remain complacent and just leave things as they are.
How do they greet customers entering the shop? What happens when they leave? The last thing a customer wants to experience is being ignored by the staff, especially when they’re very interested in making a purchase.
People want attention and if you don’t give them within a matter of seconds, they’ll simply exit your store and go to another shop where they’ll be given more attention as customers.
8. Improve Loss Prevention
Loss prevention refers to the practices businesses employ to prevent theft -of time, products, money and more. These practices protect profitability and reduce losses.
Shoplifters know when to strike and that’s when employees are least attentive to new customers entering the shop. According to data from the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), one of eleven people that enters a shop have the tendency to shoplift. Their favorite targets are retail stores and that includes department stores, supermarkets, retailers, and convenience stores.
Mystery shoppers from SeeLevel HX can observe the attentiveness and record the promptness of your staff in dealing with customers. From there, you can train your staff to improve their response time and the way they welcome clients. This way, you’ll resolve both instances of loss prevention and even gain more customers in the process due to the prompt customer service you provide.
Hurdles in Conducting Mystery Shopping Programs
The usual chokepoint in implementing CX programs is the failure of the management to see the importance of improving customer service. Stakeholders should understand the benefits the business can gain from focusing their resources on CX improvement.
By enlisting the help of a mystery shopping agency like SeeLevel HX, you can back your proposition with data showing the significant changes we’ve brought to our other clients. Showing them how focusing on customer experience can lead to increased sales will earn you their full support in engaging the whole organization in CX programs.
Mystery shopping helps in evaluating your organization’s customer experience (CX). Companies that have established CX programs enjoy better customer relationships which translate to increased brand loyalty and future return trips and more transactions
Improving customer service is the ultimate purpose of hiring a mystery shopping agency like SeeLevel HX. We completely understand the importance of our services in improving retail business performance. We’re equipped to handle the task of knowing your customers and your business inside out. Our only objective is to bring your organization closer to its goals.