Are you listening?

An indepth look into mystery shopping

By Robert Brocklesby BSc

I get asked all the time by clients, how can we ensure that a higher percentage of our customers make purchases? My answer is always the same: you must first ask your customers why they are not purchasing, understand what wants and needs you are not fulfilling, and act.

Reports indicate that anywhere from 50 – 82% of customers leave retail stores without purchasing. For most retailers, increasing the percentage of purchasing customers by a very attainable 5% could make a tremendous difference to the bottom line. The example I always site runs as follows: if 50% of a store’s 200 daily customers typically make purchases, and this store’s average sale per customer is £40, raising the store’s purchase rate to 55% (only 10 more purchasers per day) would equate to an additional £400/day and £146,000 annually. If that store was part of a 100-store chain, and they all raised their purchase rates from 50% to 55%, the additional annual sales would equate to almost £15 million!

I truly believe that in an age where customers willingly share their experiences with family, friends and the social media world it’s not surprising that they may be just as willing to share their thoughts, experiences and preferences , if asked, with retailers.

This is where Retail Maxim’s ‘Real Customer Surveys’ can help. Both Exit Surveys as well as ‘Online’ based surveys consult ‘real’ customers who have either bought or not, with a focused questionnaire to discover their views.

Retail Maxim’s surveys are an effective form of gauging Real Customers’ honest thoughts and opinions. We also charge a fraction of the price compared to other Market Research companies who often create lengthy, complex surveys which can aggravate customers. So, are you reading this and need to know the answers to the following sorts of questions?

  • What are your customers’ unfulfilled needs?
  • Why are customers leaving your locations without purchasing?
  • Are your promotional materials bringing customers in and making an impact?
  • Where else are your customers shopping and why?
  • What do customers think about your new concept store?
  • And much, much more…

If the answer is ‘yes’ then call Retail Maxim today to discuss how we can help.

Robert Brocklesby BSc

Joint Managing Director at Retail Maxim Ltd

Mystery shoppers’ wanted by Thames Valley Police

Thames Valley Police are calling for hundreds of “mystery shoppers” to go undercover and test the service it provides to the public. Volunteers are being asked to go incognito and quiz policing staff regarding matters like missing pets and asking for directions.

Anybody who signs up and volunteers for the scheme will each be handed a separate task – requesting different things from the police and in turn, filling out a survey which will give vital feedback to the Police on how they perform when dealing with public figures.

A message has been sent out by the Thames Valley branch of the Police, which reads: ““The purpose of the Mystery Shopping Programme is to assess how Thames Valley Police perform (including our strengths and weaknesses) and to identify any areas where we might need to make changes or improvements.”

They later added to the message that they were “not able to offer any incentive or reimburse expenses” of things like petrol used by volunteers in the mystery shopping programme, though this doesn’t come as a major surprise to those interested.

The scheme comes after a newspaper in Oxford (The Oxford Mail) had reported that 12 people had completed questionnaires that were used to measure the impact of cutbacks on Police Station opening hours.

Three years ago, Thames Valley Police brought back the amount of public access hours to their police stations by up to 70 per cent. Though this may seem a considerable number, it’s allowed savings of over £600,000 since its beginning.

Natalie Wallace, Spokeswoman for the Police Force, believes that the scheme will assess the performance of front counter services, allowing the force to identify potential shortcomings in their service. She added that the Police Force were looking for anywhere between 300-500 new volunteers across the Thames Valley area.

She said: “They will be given the task and they will have 28 days to get their results back in so they are able to choose when and to which station they go during that time. They won’t be required to do anything like report crime or stolen property.”

The tasks are set to include asking the front desk for advice when reporting a lost dog/item, or when asking for directions to a building or place in the local area.

The mystery shoppers will supply the Force with general feedback regarding the levels of customer service they received, whether that be from the Front Counter or whether the information they received by information, helpful and friendly.

If you’re interested in helping the Thames Valley Police Force, please visit their website here.

What’s the true cost of poor retail customer service?

Is poor customer service in retail leading to lower sales in the sector?

The retail sector is one of the most used avenues of customer service worldwide, as customer interaction is more common with staff of the big brands compared to various other industries. Though it’s one of the biggest customer service sectors, companies on the high street seemingly suffer from poor levels of customer service. So, what can be done to combat this and if nothing is done, what effects can it have on the customer service industry?

Big brands on the high street are suffering from customer service woes whilst their online counterparts are enjoying continued growth. What can companies do to ensure survival in an ever fierce battle between the high street giants for customer service dominance? What makes a loyal customer?

Below we give you 4 top reasons to that’ll keep a customer coming back for more, ensuring that a customer stays loyal to your brand.

Be sure to monitor and analyse all forms of customer feedback

Mystery shopping is completely designed around doing just this. Need to monitor how your staff are performing in store? Just how helpful are they to the customers that visit you most? Find out all of this and more through our mystery shopping scheme. We can deliver over 10 different forms of customer service analysis, from video mystery shopping, to phone call analysis, exit surveys and more! It’s the best way to gain an insight into what your loyal customers think of you.

Consistency of information is key

Your customers will often call you for an information query, so be sure that you’re giving them consistent information across the board. There’s no point telling one customer one thing and relaying a different message to another: consistency is key. Your levels of consistency can be monitored by our telephone mystery shoppers. It’s a great way to see how you’re performing!

Give answers in a precise and timely manner

Have you made it easy for your customers to find vital information at the drop of a hat? It’s a good idea to have an FAQ section of your site (pictured) as it will usually answer all of the questions that could be asked by your customers. This will reduce customers calling up your store, so it’s a good way of keeping the communication process open without having to speak with your customers directly.

Mystery Shopping FAQs
Mystery Shopping FAQs

Multi-channel engagement

Customer service should be available anytime, anywhere, regardless of the platform that it’s being delivered on. Offer a multi channel service to all which allows a wider audience to interact with you!

What do you think of our ideas? We want to hear from you in the comments below! For more on customer service and mystery shopping, please visit our website.

Why are mystery shoppers still a big deal in the age of critical data?

Mystery shoppers are important to your business more than you know

Businesses can get a feel on their performance in a number of ways, yet few avenues will provide the same unique, experience that mystery shoppers can give, providing an in depth insight into how your staff perform.

Even in an era that is dominated by ‘Big Data’, physical businesses still need to gain feedback from their customer activity and mystery shoppers fill this void of need for businesses across the world. Mystery shoppers can operate undercover to give the right people a significant view of their business.

So, even though big data is still a big part of customer service, to get a real sense of the customer experience, you require the services of a mystery shopper who can tell you what needs to be changed.

Mystery shoppers are important to your business more than you know.
Mystery shoppers are important to your business more than you know.

The alternate view

Shoppers will look for different factors in different industries. For example, those who work in hospitality will be judged on their customer service that they provide to the mystery shopper and the speed in which the mystery shopper is seen to, seated and served. The mystery shopper will look for chances to get a sale out of staff, with teamwork and engagement both coming under review in this period. Little factors such as cleanliness, order accuracy, quality and temperature of food and presentation are all included in the mystery shoppers report.

Alternatively, drive-thru mystery shoppers will often focus on different factors as the experience is different to that of a sit in restaurant. For example, wait and delivery times will both be reviewed compared to casual dining, where the focus lies on team work and wait time.

In order for mystery shoppers to have as big as an effect as possible, restaurants should consider scheduling a number of visits per period, so you get a real look into how your employees operate and perform under pressure, during the busiest and most profitable parts of the day. They should also be scoping out weekday versus weekend operations, the bar service and the dining area.

A mystery shopping program can help with any marketing ideas that you may want to implement into your business. For example, mystery shoppers can ensure that a campaign is delivered on time, without any delay, and it ensures that a consistent delivery is given across the brand. They can also make sure the new menu offering is being promoted on site by staff.

The follow up process

Once the experience has been recorded and reviewed, our mystery shoppers will give us a detailed report of what kind of service they received. The restaurant will have a follow up as soon as possible.

The feedback that our mystery shoppers give us will then help us to help the brand further facilitate any necessary training or particular follow up that may be needed.

For more on mystery shopping, please visit our website.

How can mystery shoppers improve your customer service?

Mystery shoppers can give you a service unlike no other, but why use it?

Mystery shoppers are, quite simply, those who carry out the services of improving customer service for companies across the world. Acting as a customer, they test the customer service department as some form of auditor. Mystery shoppers worldwide carry out tasks at the places of business, on a company’s website or simply over the phone.

Unlike most real customers, these mystery shopping professionals are trained to look for specific qualities in the customer service that they’re analysing. They measure the qualities in your customer service representatives, offering feedback on the level of customer service that they receive, giving suggestions that raise the bar on customer satisfaction levels.

With these handy tips below, we help you determine whether mystery shopping is a step in the right direction for your business:

 What are the benefits of mystery shopping?

Before you sign up for a mystery shopping programme, you should consider what the benefits would be to your company. Work out what exactly you’d like to reap from the process. Some of the benefits of mystery shopping vary, but here’s what’s included:

• A different perspective! You’ll gain the ability to view your business through the eyes of the customer, learning just what your clients think of you at first impression. This is the only way to gain this perspective, as trying to gain this from someone within your company won’t convey as effectively.

• An overview of your customer service! A gifted mystery shopper can tell you what exactly works in your customer service programme and what doesn’t, allowing you to make the relevant changes.

• A spot on evaluation of what your customer service offers. Mystery shoppers will display whether your employees offer a valuable customer service experience, allowing your employees to earn the correct skills, providing a positive impression on your clients.

Mystery shoppers can accurately assess the state of your customer service, finding which area of your customer service should be corrected in your customer experience. This allows for you to fine tune any deficiencies that exist in your staff training.

Mystery shopping is of great importance to customer service
Mystery shopping is of great importance to customer service

Starting a mystery shopper program

Given the benefits above sound like something you’d wish to incorporate into your customer service experience, it’s time to start your mystery shopping program! Take these steps in order to get ready for the experience:

• Tell your employees that you are starting the program, just to make sure that they don’t feel blindsided after the program takes place. Tell them it’s not something they’re doing wrong, rather a training tool for could be used to raise the level of service offered by your staff.

• Discover what you want to get out of the mystery shopping service. Setting particular benchmarks will allow for you to monitor just how well your program is going.

• Find out which mystery shopping service will best meet all of your needs and budgets. For example, you can hire a larger company that can operate in a number of outlets nationwide but this isn’t exactly necessary if you have just one store.

Mystery shopping can be used as one of the most effective ways to evaluate your current state of customer service that’s available to your audience. A professional in the mystery shopper service will give your company guidance in ways to raise the standards of your employees, giving you a level of service that pleases all.

For more on mystery shopping programs, please visit our website.

Who would best suit a Mystery shopping Job?

Mystery Shopping is a tool used to anonymously evaluate customer service, operations, employee integrity, merchandising and product quality.

Mystery ShoppingI’m sure you’ve heard of them, but what do you need to get a mystery shopping job? It’s not necessarily qualifications you’re required to have but they are advised, it’s mainly down to a number of different skills and knowledge behind an individual’s character.

To get a mystery shopping job you must be at least 18 years of age or older which is a minimum requirement. The individual should have knowledge of how to use the internet, don’t worry you don’t have to be a PC guru, just enough knowledge where you can simply access emails and create/send reports from the mystery shopping experience.

 

Qualities needed for a Mystery Shopping Job

 

Reliability in the individual

Reliability in an individual is essential the majority of the time due to the fact a mystery shopper has to be on time and punctual once turning up to any briefing or task, usually this is if the client has asked for a mystery shopper to be in store at a specific time.

Confidence

Confidence is key, always remember that! this is because any real customers will behave naturally and their opinions expressed with what they dislike or like, with any mystery shopper job you are ‘acting’ or posing as a customer once in store, you then have to monitor the store based on a criteria in which has been requested by the client.

Accuracy

Delivering truthful and honest feedback is essential meaning any individual must be 100% accurate when performing the mystery shopping tasks, high level of detail is usually needed in any report stating your opinions, experiences with staff and their performance in certain situations.

Having a good memory

This is an essential and yet basic skill, but any mystery shopper is required to have good memory and the ability to recap experiences to be able to write a detailed report, this is why memorising certain details in accuracy and clarity will help when noting down each task.

 

Access to a camera device/scanner

With every mystery shopping job you’re required to have a camera or any device with a camera as well as a scanner, this is due to the fact that receipts of purchases or photographs which are required for evidence will need to be sent in with the report in order for it to be complete.

 

What is a Mystery Shopper

What is a Mystery Shopper and what purpose do they have?

Mystery Shoppers also known as a Mystery Consumer is an individual(s) who are hired by market research companies such as Retail Maxim and others like Watchdog organizations but also can be internal, their key role is to measure the quality of service, gather specific information about products & services as well as check the compliance with regulation.

What are mystery shoppers

The obvious role of a mystery shopper is they perform specific tasks such as purchasing product(s), asking questions about the product or service, registering complaints or behaving in a certain way, and then provide detailed surveys or feedback about their experiences.

So what about mystery shoppers today?

Mystery Shopping Surveys

Since around 2010 onwards, mystery shopping has become abundant in the medical tourism industry, with healthcare providers and medical facilities using mystery shoppers to asses and improve the customer service experience.

In the United Kingdom mystery shopping is increasingly used in this day and age to provide feedback on customer services provided by local authorities, and other non-profit companies such as housing associations.

To find out more about the criteria to be a mystery shopper or the common FAQs to becoming a mystery shopper then please click one of the two links.

Common FAQs of becoming a Mystery Shopper

Criteria Of a Mystery Shopper

Customer service: which brands actually get it right?

The customer service industry was created by mistake, seemingly.

It’s been outsourced to companies for the past decades and since the evolution of the internet customer service has become widespread across all mediums of contact now. Online customer service is often ill-suited to meeting customer service needs and here’s why:

  • New channels of communication have been adapted to slowly by companies.
  • New channels bringing the challenge of a single customer view has been difficult to handle.
  • Single customer view brings the challenge of data centralisation.
  • New devices and consumption habits (the Smartphone) have made older web assets somewhat redundant, proposing more problems for companies.

Yet, in 2013, many companies seemed to wake up and smell the ‘coffee’. The coffee of customer service being something that needs tackling head on as when it’s completed well it can be unbelievably important to the resulting level of customer happiness, augmenting the final product you sell.

There are many avenues in which customer service lives where seamless customer experience takes away the reliance on call centres, improving conversion and customer happiness.

Aside from the web giants making a virtue of customer experience, which brands have made recent commitments to customer service?

Besides the web giants making the customer experience difficult to match, which brands have been making increased commitments to customer service in 2013?

Self-service

A majority of customers now expect a self-service options for customer service, with many actively preferring it in modern business. Smartphone usage is high enough to influence the efficiency of any customer service operation. As self service options are digital, it’s much easier for companies to keep records of customer interaction.

Anytime Fitness

24 hour service is naturally a fantastic USP for Anytime Fitness, as the name of the company so subtly suggests. The brand’s sites have ’24 hour’ featured in title tags to avoid any confusion to customers.

Anytime Fitness makes it clear about being 24 hour

You may think that 24 hour access for Anytime Fitness customers isn’t really an example of customer service as it’s essentially the product offered, yet this isn’t the case.

If this doesn’t give you enough satisfaction, Anytime Fitness produce instructional videos to take the personal trainer out of the equation, allowing customers to maintain a fitness regime when the specific staff aren’t around. These videos are accessible in the Gyms or on the website, so it’s great for all customers. These videos are also accessible to non-gym goers, for a fee, opening up their market massively by adding a new revenue stream.

Anytime Fitness believe in 'convenience + culture+

All of this is based on the company’s commitment to their audience’s convenience and culture. Check out the membership page for ease of use and beautiful design.

Giffgaff

Giffgaff, rather famously, do not operate call centres. There’s a significant cost struck off to start off with. Naturally, some customers will ask for a phone number on support forums, but the stats for their customer service responses are great.

Giffgaff offer help online

Answers on the support forums are given by fellow customers, which is similar to the model developed by Sky, where customer service ‘champions’ are rewarded for their efforts through free stuff, product testing and sometimes an occasional meeting with the Sky team themselves.

This thread just shows the customer reaction and true feeling when one customer displayed their dismay at Giffgaff not having a phone number.

Crowd-service or P2P

AirBnB’s customer satisfaction is much higher than the classic hotel chains like Hilton, treating this as an indicator of the power of crowd service. The idea is that when it comes to P2P products in particular, the customer service is often provided by the property owner, who is more invested in the product than an outsider.

Of course, this can sometimes mean it can be harder to ensure consistency of experience for all, but nevertheless the culture is fantastic in providing good, wholesome customer service.

Barclaycard Ring

Barclaycard Ring is a similar concept to that of crowd sourcing, but it’s often on a larger scale in this instance, taking onboard customer feedback on what the service do for its customers, both small and big. These can vary from reward programs to charity work.

Barclaycard Ring rewards program

The service is currently still in infancy, nearing two years old, yet it has increased customer retention level by 25%, with Barclaycard estimating a return so far of $10m.

Becoming a Mystery Shopper in the UK

Mystery Shoppers in the UK and what they do

mystery shoppers in the uk

Mystery Shoppers, for bigger corporations and retailers these mystery shoppers serve a massive purpose when it comes to finding out how much they really do value their customers. With great customer service becoming an absolute key these mystery shoppers are everyday looking employed people who come in-store and grade each store with ratings of their customer service.

How to become a Mystery Shopper

Becoming a mystery shopper isn’t as complex as you may think, in fact Retail Maxim specialises in mystery shopping and customer experience services. Throughout the UK thousands of individuals are required to help mystery shop in many outlets and they get paid to shop.. yes that’s right!

Here’s just a key factors we look for in people:

  • Confidence
  • Accuracy
  • Reliability
  • Staying Calm
  • Having a good memory
  • Access to a camera device/scanner

 

Mystery Shoppers: The Benefits to Businesses

With customer service becoming a must in today’s retail sector the benefits to businesses are massive! Mystery shoppers are used to collect useful information and data across as many stores as required helping businesses gather a clear view on how their staff have been trained to aid any customers and their enquiries in the correct manor.

If you’re a business and you wish to find out how mystery shoppers and other services dedicated to providing you information on your company’s customer relations then head over to Retail Maxim for more information.

 

Top tips for making your customer service amazing

TOP Tips for making your Customer Service AMAZING

Nobody wants to be ordinary and everybody wants to feel special at some point. Valued customers are the greatest customers; they recommend you to friends, family and colleagues whilst being repeat buyers. Here are our top tips for making your customer service amazing and creating a fantastic customer community:

Listen to your customers and their feedback: When a customer gives you feedback, whether it be positive or negative, always consider acting upon it. You’d be surprised how often a company will disregard the words of their customers only to lose them later to competition. Always remember to let your customers know that you appreciate their comments – after all, you’re getting free advice from the people who you’re trying to sell to!

Reliability is key to repurchases: Make sure you and your staff know what the customer expectations are and be sure to live up to them. Don’t think that you’re going to make every customer you ever have happy, but aiming to do so isn’t bad for the company. Leave yourself some slack to be certain that you can deliver in the stated deadlines – never risk a delay. The old saying comes to mind here – ‘under-promise and over-deliver’. We can think of a company that lost a customer by promising a 5 day window and completing it in 3 days…

Honesty is the best policy: nobody likes to think they’re being misled or sent away with poor excuses. Always aim to help your customers, not to just force a sale or get a complainer off the phone. Honest businesses will always be successful – building good reputations and getting repeat business is a reward for honesty.

Be positive, feel good about your business: a friendly, can-do attitude goes a long way, especially in the workplace. If there’s a problem, don’t complain or worry about it, you’re going to resolve it – that’s a positive! The customer should leave your establishment feeling good about any interaction with your business – that’s how word-of-mouth was born many years ago and it lives on today.

Be professional: if you’re dealing with an unhappy customer, the temptation to get defensive is too much for some – ‘well, it’s not our fault, this happened and then that happened, our suppliers let us down, it was out of our hands’, and so on. Don’t think for a second that this’ll be what the customer wants to hear – the customer doesn’t want to hear excuses; they just want a resolution, just like you would in the same situation. Throwing in a little extra always goes down well too, especially if it ‘wasn’t your fault’.

Fast paced service has become the norm: In the age of instant online communication, people expect queries to be answered twice as fast as they would’ve 15 years ago. As technology advances, so does the options they have to contact you on. Due to modern global use of the internet, they could be contacting the company through several different social media channels besides being on the phone and typing out an email. Neglecting one for too long will result in unhappy, unanswered customers.

Have a heart: The ‘script’ doesn’t come into play now, talking to customers as the individuals they are is important. Local, smaller businesses can do this better than any big company, as they have a better level of customer knowledge and personalisation. Use it to your advantage – it’s a big selling point for customers tired of the same sales script and the constant ‘you’re important to us, so please wait in a queue for the next 30 minutes.’

What do you think is the key to amazing customer service? Share your tips in the comments below.