Customer service is a lifeblood of any successful retail outlet. If yours is sloppy, then your business will suffer. If yours is great, on the other hand, then you’ll likely do much better. For this reason, it’s essential that retailers ensure that their customers are well looked-after and valued.
But there’s a problem here. How can one judge how effective one’s customer service is? The task is far trickier than it might first appear. One possible solution might be to hire an outside mystery shopping agency to judge the situation. Such an organisation will be able to provide you with a customer’s perspective on your business – which you can use to make improvements and deliver a better experience next time.
Complaints are rare.
If you’re in a management position of a retailer, then you may from time to time have to field complaints.
These complaints may come in the form of a written letter, or they may come in the form of a face-to-face encounter on the shop floor of your business.
But just because complaints about your business are rare doesn’t mean that your business is performing swimmingly.
When people experience poor customer service, the reaction is not usually to pen a letter – it’s to take their custom elsewhere.
It’s only in those rare instances where the customer service is bad, but not quite so bad that you’re willing to go elsewhere. This, clearly, is only a very slim cross-section of the population.
For this reason, customer feedback, however valuable, is not something that can be relied upon for accurate information. Rather, it is just the exposed tip of an iceberg that might sink your business – it’s wise, therefore, to obtain some additional information. Mystery shoppers are able to provide you with this information.
It’s hard to keep your bad customer service a secret.
In the modern world, everyone expects customer service to be of a certain standard.
When this standard is not met, they’re more than willing to tell everyone they know about it.
On the other hand, good customer service is unlikely to be talked about so enthusiastically – unless it’s especially good.
Conversation tends to have a knock-on effect, as word-of-mouth causes a message to spread. One person might tell two people, and then those people tell two more people. News of bad customer service thereby spreads in a way that news of good customer service never could.
Mystery Shoppers are able to offer specifics.
Thus far we’ve considered bad customer service as though it always consists of a single, memorably negative incident. Perhaps a self-service till might not be working properly; perhaps a staff member might have been rude or unhelpful. But for the most part, this isn’t how it works.
The quality of a shopping experience is mostly judged by a subjective impression of how good the experience was.
This impression might, in turn, be informed by a multitude of minor touches, which on their own might go unnoticed, but together form a more pleasing whole.
For example, staff members might be clean-shaven, with clean uniforms and name badges. Less time might be spent in the queue. Aisles might be clearly marked, and assistance offered where it’s needed.
When you commission a mystery shopper report, you’re able to put together a list of more targeted questions. These will allow you concentrate on these little details, and in turn form an idea of which areas of your shop require addressing, and which do not.
A mystery shopper will be unknown to your staff and your other customers. Conceivably, it could be any person that enters your premises.
Indeed, this is why it’s called a mystery shopper. If you train your staff to treat every customer as though they’re a mystery shopper, and incentivize good reports, then the reports are more likely to come back glowing.
Moreover, you’ll have improved the customer service experience for all of your customers who weren’t mystery shoppers.
As a consequence, your mystery shopper programme will not just identify areas for improvement – it’ll motivate your staff to improve their customer service before the report has even come back!
When you hire a mystery shopper from outside the business, you have the luxury of impartiality. The mystery shopper has no stake in the business, and no real interest in whether it succeeds or fails. They’ll, therefore, be able to provide you with a fresh perspective that’s not clouded by a conflict of interest.