Word to the RetailWise XV

Mystery Shopping Program

Should you gently nudge your customers to give you a high score on their Customer Service Survey? 

Recently, I was shopping in one of my favorite stores – they have clothing and accessories for men, women, kids, infants; they have houseware and pictures and exercise stuff, etc.

It’s a great place to shop for gifts, as well as for yourself.

Anyway, when I got to the cash desk to pay for my purchases, the cashier was unusually…and, I must say, unnaturally… sweet and I knew immediately that something was up – you know the kind of talk that is clearly for show?

I was right…something was up. At the end of the transaction she handed me my receipt and circled a website name printed on it.

She said I should complete the survey online and I would have a chance to win $1,000. She added “remember, we strive for 5”.

Also, she had stapled a small blue piece of paper, with a note on it, to my receipt. It was a reminder, to me, that they are striving to score “5” on the survey.  

So, is it a good thing or a bad thing to nudge your customers to give you a “5”? What do you think? Was this great work by an enterprising Store Manager?

Or a ploy to ‘game the data’ on the Customer Service Survey? Would you do it?

Retail Business Academy

Try Retail Business Academy for 7 Days for $7

Before embarking on a mystery shopping program, work out the ROI.

At DMSRetail, we believe that many (not all, of course) mystery shopping services give you a very low ROI.

When a ‘shopper’ – often an otherwise unemployed person who is being paid close to minimum wage to go shopping – goes into your store with the purpose of being able to complete your checklist at the end of the visit, we think it’s pretty much a waste of time and money. 

Add, to that, the havoc created in store when a less than stellar report is delivered and it’s easy to make a case against the standard type of mystery shopping altogether.

Before I continue, it is understood that many retailers, and companies that provide the standard type of mystery shopping service, defend the practice because, they say, that particular ‘shopper’ represents the average customer. 

We disagree. Your average customer has not got a checklist to complete and has nothing to gain by looking for problems.

Your average customer is not being paid to be in your store. But we’ll stay away from that whole argument at the moment and just focus on the value.

If you want to pay for someone to report on what’s going on in your stores, by all means, do it.

But wouldn’t you like to get some value out of the report rather than just finding out if the store was clean, if all of the light bulbs were working and the employees were wearing their name tags?

Really, how does having that information add value to your business?

It’s minor stuff that should already be well in hand…those standards should already be in place. Who are you hiring into Store Management positions, anyway?

And, don’t you have District and Regional Managers? Don’t you believe they can run their stores properly?

To be sure, there are many good reasons to hire outsiders to give you a fresh glimpse of your business…provided it’s valuable to you.

And, I’d like to mention at this point, that there are plenty of companies who do a great job of mystery shopping…noting exactly what the retailer wants to know.

I am, by no means, including all mystery shopping companies in my assessment.

The point is this: If you are going to pay money to have a mystery shop done, you should look further than the minor matters mentioned above. 

You should move everything up a notch or two…work at a higher level

Contract people with retail experience at higher levels, who can intelligently comment on the things that matter most to you; the things that have an impact on the revenue generated in your stores like selling skills, merchandise presentation and signage, associate positioning for service and asset protection, compliance with customer service policies, etc.

Contract people who know what they’re talking about…or just don’t bother doing it. Yes, it’ll probably cost you more but the ROI will clearly be there.

One last thought on average, run of the mill mystery shopping…put yourself in the Store Manager’s position.

When s/he receives one of these reports along with the boss’ praise and admiration or, conversely, the boss’ displeasure…what do you think happens? I’ll tell you.

If the report was above the acceptable percentage, it’s all good. Oh, great…aren’t we great? High fives, etc. And privately thinking, we dodged a bullet!

The snapshot was taken just at the right moment. 

If the report was below the acceptable percentage they’re defensive because they realize the report is a snapshot and is not necessarily representative of the way they manage their store.

Of course, they’ll want to seek out the offending associate – the one who didn’t wear a name tag, or the one who didn’t say hello at the right time, etc.

There will be the required reprimand.

All said and done, there will be a lot of money and time spent on something that doesn’t necessarily result in moving the business forward.

If you’re at a stage where you still have to hire someone to check up on lights and name tags…you are just putting your finger in a hole in the dam.

It means something is wrong somewhere in the organization. Make these small issues a thing of the past through better hiring and training practices.

It’s not that these small issues are not important…but you shouldn’t have to spend a lot of valuable time and money trying to police your stores when it comes to these basics.

Think bigger and start working on the next level. 


Join Retail Business Academy & Prosper

Retail Business Academy