Mystery shopping - create and sustain a competitive advantage

How mystery shopping can help your company

Mystery shopping provides valuable insights to help you improve customer satisfaction and gain extra sales through excellent service. Excellent customer service has at least four prime benefits:

It creates a bond between an organisation and its customers that will result in customer satisfaction and loyalty
It widens the sales base - a satisfied customer is much more likely to consider buying a new or additional product/service from the same source
It measures the effectiveness of staff training

It monitors compliance with legal regulations

To meet the criteria of excellence, it is important to monitor, measure and analyse the service functions your business provides, and if necessary, to take immediate corrective action.

Mystery shopping works because it focuses on core factors – it is relevant; it is precise; it enables you to monitor if good practice procedures are followed; it identifies poor performance and training needs; it shows if your expectations are realized and shows trends; but most importantly it delivers information to help you take relevant, focused action. It can also investigate how your business compares with the competition.

Mystery shopping can include personal visits, telephone calls, mail, web-based services (site accessibility, product ordering, accuracy of order, confirmation and delivery, correspondence).

What you need to know

The exact content of an assessment is developed by Precision Research International in conjunction with the client and can cover a wide range of issues, including:

- positioning and visibility of display material
- appearance/appeal of a branch, is everything working properly
- stock availability and price marking
- product knowledge, presenting benefits, observing regulations and procedures
- selling skills, cross selling, up selling, returning goods and complaints
- staff attitude, happy welcoming, interested in and listening to customers
- service levels, the atmosphere, length of queues and paying for goods
- comparisons with other leading retailers

Checking that goods are not sold to young people is a growing area of our work. Products monitored include alcohol, cigarettes, digital content and sharp items.

Mystery shopping ‘disabled issues’ is an area of increasing focus: was access satisfactory; was it easy to move around; were any staff patronizing; were aids available and working; was information provided in a helpful and considerate manner?

How mystery shopping works

Mystery shopping is often used in conjunction with other market research techniques, depending on the issues being evaluated, but here we concentrate on the specific technique of mystery shopping.

Our 'shoppers' are trained assessors and are thus able to provide an objective assessment. They are profiled on our data base so will fit your customer profile.

A programme of telephone and/or email mystery shopping could also be run in conjunction with shop visits.

Displaying results

Analysis can be provided at company level, by area and down to individual branch level. Results can be in your hands within days of fieldwork.

We recommend using a weighted index score for each question: this is summarized to show an overall performance out of 100. So, for example, a branch manager could easily recognise that with a score of 76 for his/her branch compared to an overall average of 84%, his/her branch is definitely underperforming. Displaying the index score by sections into, say, branch appearance, selling skills and other criteria, is also advisable.

All our reports are to clients’ needs - for example, the chief executive will require a different level of detail from the store manager. All our reports can be multi-level. We make specific recommendations telling you what we’d do if we were in your place.