Mystery shopping research is the most basic and in the same time a completely objective tool for measuring the quality of customer service.
Jeff Hall, the Former President of Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) North America have said:“There is not a single smallest store in USA which does not use the mystery shopping in its daily management process”. Intensity of application of the mystery shopping testifies to the predominating old high-level customer service traditions.
The process of service (POS) is often hardly visible to the manager. The manager can observe the situation only from close distance, but here another problem arises: when the manager is somewhere in close proximity, employees tend to brace themselves up and try to do their best more than when the manager is far from them.
So how to control the situation if it is actually invisible and unknown? How to know where the weaknesses and strengths of the company lie? To what aspects attention should be drawn during the next personnel meeting? What further personnel training should be organised? Whom to award and praise and whom to reprehend? Can I be sure that the service does not bring any loss to our company? Do I control the customer service quality in our company? How do I measure the quality in my company? How many good and bad Moments of Truth (MOT) are created in my company in one business day/week/month? Do I have a system which continuously guarantees the high level of service?
If you can’t give clear, objective and unambiguous answers to these questions, you can conclude that the customer service quality in your company is not measured and controlled enough. In order to manage, i.e. measure, continuously improve and maintain good customer service or service excellence , it is necessary to launch or improve service quality management system and it’s measurement part particularly in your company.
There are many internationally used business quality management systems and each organization has to choose the measurement system which is best suited to its business or at least start from measuring certain separate segments at first. Customer service can be distinguished as the segment which must be measured, because it has material impact on the long-term success of companies and therefore it is wise not to waste time. But even starting with one part of the full circle company measurement and management system, it’s tools and results have to be combined and matched.
There are two groups of customer service quality surveys:
- Subjective – service quality determined on the basis of feedback from existing customers;
- Objective – actual measurement of the quality of customer service process in observance of requirements applicable to employees.
Non-definitive list of our services you can find from here, but more about the service we are specialized on, the widely known survey method Mystery Shopping (MS), you can find below.
What is a mystery shopping?
Mystery shopping research is one of the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) instruments. It is the most basic and in the same time a completely objective and the most widely used quantitative method/tool for measuring the quality of customer service.
Mystery shopping is like a photograph, which shows the actual situation how the customer was served at some particular time. Or, in other words it’s the facts and mainly objective facts of what the customer experienced during the contact. Subjective facts and shopper emotions can be gathered as well. However, these can’t affect the overall results, but only help to understand the objective facts and supplement to interpret a full picture.
The survey is conducted using the mystery shopping research methodology – during the survey of customer service quality which is carried out by selected and pre-trained anonymous persons secret buyers imitate usual customer’s visit at the agreed points of sales or places of customer service, directly participate in the process of servicing of customers, observe the areas indicated in the survey objectives and later provide objective and full report on their experience. The survey as a rule is used to identify personnel behaviors according to the standards established in advance in those cases when it has the main role to play in the communication with the customer.
Besides own organization’s people, products, processes etc study, Mystery shopping can be used to analyze competitor’s customer service as well, to be able to benchmark own company requirements and it’s fulfillment with competitors.
There are quite many methods of this survey selected according to the survey program objectives, both for B2C and B2B:
– mystery shop, -call, -web, -e-mail
– audio mystery shopping
– mystery incentive/reward shop
– integrity mystery shopping
Survey frequency and sample
As we see mystery shopping as not just a survey to measure the current situation and see the gap between the desired situation and reality and to see trends over time, but a tool for managers, we suggest to conduct the research periodically: monthly or quarterly. However, no matter how often it’s done, it is very important to ensure a systematic and continuous work with results and communication of results with staff.
The survey sample depends on amount of branches, departments and people as well as survey goal: just to keep on eye or to call for changes. However, it is recommended to investigate all units during one wave, to maintain comparability.
Each questionnaire is created according to organization’s needs and goals, taking also an input from organization’s service standards and internal processes. The questionnaires consist of main service blocks and are constructed in such a way that the auditor cannot freely interpret the events or employees’ utterances. All the questions are questions about facts. We suggest to add emotional questions as well, to be able to understand correlation between your standards and client feeling, but these should not affect overall score.
As mystery shopping is the survey which compares standard with reality, we suggest to use simple “yes” or “now” evaluation scale, adding “not applicable” in case the aspect/situation didn’t arise.
Reference research areas include:
- General customer service quality. Mystery Shopping covers the whole set of service criteria from the moment of the customer’s entry, start of the phone call or answered e-mail until his exit/end of the phone call or e-mail: POS, quality of the work of personnel (first contact, professional competences, sales and communication skills, ending the contact etc) and observance of business standards. Aspects and questions vary based on the client, channels, aim of the project etc.
- One or more selected business aspects. Mystery Shopping covers certain narrower and specific elements of service instead of the entire service process. For example, results of personnel training, prices of goods or services, dislocation of goods, advertising materials, observance of business standards, product range adequacy, adherence to the standardized sales process etc.
The list in not final, because the possibilities of application of these investigations are extremely wide.
The research results are delivered to you via our internet system Dive OnLine. There you can see overall company results delivered to you through system dashboard as well to read and analyze all comments and evaluations of each feedback or you can filter aspects and service points you are most interested at that moment.
We also prepare extended research reports in the form of PowerPoint presentation. The presentation contains of not only research results analysis, but also suggestions concerning the conclusions drawn from the results and repair measures needed to improve the service quality.
For the corporation top-level managers and owners we can create a written summary of current situation and trends.
To ensure the program success
It is a must to have a clear communication system, responsibilities and take action framework. It means that for example the middle-level management is responsible for the communication of results to employees and work with aspects in personnel level and higher-level managers are responsible for the follow-up, focusing on staff development and trainings etc.
To draw the attention from “control” or “catching a bad performance” to “improvement” and “getting better, becoming a best”, we suggest to create a game or competition to highlight and reword best servicer and manager of the wave or year.