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Eight ways to make the most of your mystery shopping programme

11th Nov 2016

It’s fair to say businesses across all sectors have well and truly woken up to the vital importance of delivering exceptional customer experience. Indeed, in 2016, customer experience is now widely appreciated as a fundamental differentiator and a crucial route to achieving sustained growth.

Among the various methods of measuring customer experience, mystery shopping programmes are increasingly popular with over £1.1billion spend each year in the UK, according to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. Used far and wide by high-street and online retailers, mystery shopping programmes are invaluable when it comes to objectively measuring customer experience.

That said, many businesses aren’t using mystery shopping programmes to their full potential by linking results to the bottom line. For that, a more strategic approach is needed.

Make no mistake, a location-level customer experience measurement strategy is cutting-edge stuff. In fact, with today’s mobile apps, smartphone cameras, and online reporting, mystery shopping is more effective than ever.

At Market Force Information, we work with high-profile retailers to significantly increase their profits. Based on our years of experience, we wanted to share with you our top tips for making the most of your mystery shopping programme:

  1. Measurement is key. Multi-location companies set compliance standards and guidelines, and invest in training programmes for staff. Actually measuring the effectiveness of these is a key aim of mystery shopping and doing it to the highest standard requires expertise, investment and discipline. A good measurement system will typically look at conformance to brand standards, risk management, service levels and sales efficiency.
  2. Design your questionnaire with brand standards in mind. Your brand-standards should be completely aligned to overall business performance, and there’s no better way to measure this than via mystery shopping. You can then start to benchmark performance against retention and referral trends. Mystery shopping should be a precise tool and if you want, you can zero in on one particular aspect.
  3. Make your questionnaire as objective as possible. Yes/no answers work best for gathering factual observations. Avoid tacking on unnecessary questions that don’t reveal change drivers – short and focussed is the way to go. The golden rule is to test, test and test again – getting a cross-section of mystery shoppers to test the questionnaire will reveal information gaps, potential pitfalls and areas where you can augment.
  4. Set best-practice parameters for data collection and reporting. Mystery shopping programmes should institute best practices for data collection and reporting processes to ensure high data integrity. You should avoid allowing the same mystery shopper to shop too frequently, and implement a mystery shopper auditing programme to ensure data integrity.
  5. Review outcomes constantly. If better performance on brand standards is not leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, you should take stock and question whether you have defined the right brand standards. If that’s the case, however well your staff are delivering against these, the effect will not be felt.
  6. Combine mystery shopping with other data. When you combine mystery shopping data with other data, such as that from customer satisfaction surveys, the first gives shape to the second. Whereas objective mystery shopping tells you how you’re doing on operational factors that create customer perceptions, subjective customer satisfaction data can tell you what customers value, giving you insight into what factors to improve.
  7. Tie mystery shopping to financial results. Even more powerful is combining mystery shopping and customer satisfaction data to financial metrics by location. With the addition of financial metrics, you are able to see exactly what behaviours will give the highest ROI by location. You will see obvious differences in financial outcomes between those locations that score high on mystery shopping and customer satisfaction and those that do not.
  8. Create a plan for action. Once you have isolated those actions that drive the highest ROI, you now have a clear blueprint of the most important factors to tackle to improve the customer experience. Locations are then able to create action plans to both improve the customer experience as well as drive revenue.

The bottom line

Your aim should not just be to improve the customer experience, but to delight your customers. This will increase return visits and referrals, driving growth.

To deliver ROI you absolutely must identify the specific behaviours that increase both loyalty, and financial results. These behaviours are the blueprint for your success.

For more information on linking customer experience with the bottom line, download the free ebook.


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