Did you go mystery shopping?

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Reality seldom meets perception. As-is business processes can be surprisingly different from planned and to-be business processes. How often do you check if everything is operated as planned? How do you check? Mystery shopping is one of the most effective ways to find out the gaps.

Mystery shopping is certainly not a new concept.

What is mystery shopping?

“Mystery shopping is a method used by marketing research companies and organizations that wish to measure quality of sales and service, job performance, regulatory compliance, or to gather specific information about a market or competitors, including products and services.” – Wikipedia

It’s pretty simple. You imitate a prospective customer and interact with your sales or service teams. Try making a purchase – online or walk in any of the physical stores.

Call the customer helpdesk number for a sales or service query.

The process lets you experience what a customer would. This is reality.

The company instruction manuals, policies and standard operating procedures are “perceptions”.

Mystery shopping lets you find out whether reality meets perception.

If yes, how close is it to the perceived quality of service. If no, what went wrong and how to fix?

The King does “Mystery Shopping”

Jordan’s King Abdullah has been known to follow his father’s footsteps and tread around his kingdom in disguise. They are said to be inspired by a contemporary of Charlemagne, the Caliph Harun al-Rashid, who ruled during the golden age of the Arab empire. Harun is said to prowl in a beggar’s cloak.

In one of the reported incidents, “King Abdullah and the head of the palace press center, equipped with a video camera, went to the industrial town of Zarka, where they visited the kingdom’s free trade zone and interviewed investors, producers and customers. The king’s aim was to investigate the overstaffed, inefficient bureaucracy. He got a tape full of complaints from traders obstructed by customs procedures.”

One Dubai businessman reportedly asked the King: “How can an export application take four days to process when there are 40 customs officials at 40 windows“?

How to mystery shop?

There is no better way to collect insights than placing yourself in your customer’s shoes.

You could choose to be the mystery shopper yourself or outsource it. You may outsource it to a friend, colleague or choose one of the agencies that provide mystery shopping services.

List down the objectives before your start the process. What are the expected outcomes? What do you want to audit? We should list down the features and services that need to be checked.

  • If you sell online, you may want to check the ease of making a purchase – searching for a product, are product descriptions helpful? What happens if you abandon the purchase before check out? How is the delivery experience once you have completed an online order? If you had to contact the customer service rep or use the online chat, how would you rate the interaction?
  • For businesses that operate out of brick and mortar stores, there could be so many things to check and report – availability of products, behavior of the store staff, wait time, cleanliness, customer service etc.

We need to ensure that the element of surprise is maintained throughout. Internal sales, operations and customer service teams should never be aware of the mystery shopping plan.

It can’t be a one time activity too. You always need insights from ground zero to consistently make changes in your business strategy.

Channelize your inner detective and set out for an adventure.

By Nitesh Verma

Founder - Business Management Blog. I am an independent business strategy consultant, helping companies take data driven business decisions. My mission is to find and implement simple solutions for complex business problems.

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