Mystery Shopping

Written by Patricia Skinner
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Despite the fact that hiring the services of a mystery shopping company is not unusual, the business of mystery shopping itself is surrounded by mystery. This is perhaps because many of the stores and individuals that hire the services of a mystery shopping company do their best to keep their activities secret. All they want is accurate information about the running of their business quietly, quickly and efficiently.

The employees of a mystery shopping company are known by a variety of names. These can include mystery shopper, secret shopper, or secret customer. The activities of these undercover employees is always the same: to act like a member of the ordinary public making a purchase in order to gauge ever level of service and attention of the target store.

Spot the Bad Service

Other less well-known names for secret shoppers include spotter, anonymous auditor, virtual customer, and employee evaluator. Again, their task is always one of seek and find. During the past decade or so, the merchandising business has become highly competitive, so companies are constantly looking for new ways to give themselves the edge over competitors who may have equally fine locations, stock and pricing.

Truly exceptional customer service has become the key to survival for many stores, and mystery shopping companies are their best weapon against the malaise that bad service can produce in a retail business. Customers are precious to any business. In the retail business, it has been shown statistically that to get one new customer costs ten times the amount required to maintain an existing customer, so pleasing customers is a vital part of keeping business volume high.

Why Customers Leave

Another aspect of unsatisfactory customer experience is that one unhappy customer will talk about their experience, and on average each one will tell at least five others. Poor customer service is by far the most common reason why a customer will stop using a particular store or service, at 69 percent. Poor product quality is far less common at 13 percent.

Only 9 percent of customers have been found to change the way they shop due to competitive reasons. So keeping standards as high as they can possible be in the customer service department is definitely the way to go in today's store. Mystery shopping can not only indicate to an employer where service needs to be improved, but can also help show the employees themselves the importance of first-rate customer service and what can be done to improve it.

A mystery shopping service can keep an employee away from bad relations with staff, and in fact can go a long way to help in the administration of a reward incentive program to encourage employees to give the kind of service you want for your customers. This kind of system will be self-perpetuating, because after a while, good customer service will become second nature to your employees, and the incentive program will serve to keep them loyal to you. It's a win-win situation.

Little Known Aspects of Mystery Shopping

Mystery shopping can even help you test the security of your business, and in a time when shoplifting can be a serious drain on company resources, this too can be an invaluable business asset. All aspects of business security can be checked with mystery shopping, safely and amicably. You will be able to monitor any security issues without alerting staff to the fact that you're doing it.

Don't forget that you can even use a mystery shopping service to monitor the performance of competitor outlets too. This will allow you to get the best possible picture of how your store or company is doing in the competition stakes. It will let you know exactly what your weak points are, and what are those of your competitor, so you can even use some of this information in promotional material to let your customers know why you're the best.

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