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Mystery shopping’s history can be traced back to the 1940s when it was primarily used as a tool to assess employee integrity in the banking and retail industries. Today, the benefits of mystery shopping far exceed its function of being an employee assessment tool. Retail mystery shopping companies like SeeLevel HX offer a range of functions that can be used to improve your organization’s overall customer experience delivery.
Businesses often spend a lot of money in their advertising campaigns but skimp on their budgets for assessing customer experience. It’s like executing a business plan without analyzing whether or not it’s effective in the end.
Many organizations often think that to be successful, they simply have to get higher profits by selling more merchandise. This oversimplification has led them wondering why they’re getting left behind by the competition.
The current trends show that consumers are giving equal weight to customer experience and product quality. This shift has made retailers heavily consider subjecting their stores to a mystery shopping program to make sure they provide a satisfactory customer experience.
As a retailer, what can your business gain from mystery shopping? Below are a few benefits of mystery shopping you can take advantage of when you hire a secret shopping company and market research agency like SeeLevel HX:
1) Improve staff efficiency.
One of the benefits of mystery shopping your store is the ability to rate the efficiency of your staff from the perspective of a customer.
While this task is usually under the responsibility of the store manager, their familiarities with the job may work against them, leading to the development of blind spots in their assessments.
Mystery shoppers, on the other hand, are new to the store setting allowing them to grade staff efficiency objectively from a fresh viewpoint without bias.
Retail mystery shopping is an effective way to monitor and measure employee performance. Mystery shoppers offer honest feedback using first-hand experience with your brand, making them an invaluable part of the evaluation process.
2) Compare store performance.
Businesses often face the problem of degrading quality as they expand. This is especially true for organizations which have a franchising structure. Conducting a series of training and quality checks on a routine basis can mitigate the effects of this issue that could affect the whole brand.
By conducting a mystery shopping program on each of your store locations, you’ll be able to compare which store excels and which needs your attention. It will be easier to maintain quality throughout the whole chain with this increased visibility across the network.
3) Identify problems in their early stages.
Mystery shoppers can spot problems in your store, whether regarding branding, the staff, the environment, the management or other factors affecting the CX. There will be times your staff might miss spotting small issues because they’ve become used to it. But from a third-party’s perspective, even the smallest problem can negatively impact customer satisfaction.
By hiring a mystery shopping agency like SeeLevel HX, you’ll be able to take a proactive stance in resolving issues before they become significant enough to affect your brand. This applies not only to store condition but also to staff behavior, marketing efficiency and merchandise quality.
4) Develop training and reward programs.
Customer needs and consumer trends are continuously evolving. To keep up with the constantly changing demand of consumers, you have to focus on improving not only the quality of your merchandise but also your customer service. This can be done through training programs that can enhance the way employees deliver your brand promise.
You can conduct training programs to help employees become more familiar with the products they’re handling. Customers enjoy talking to employees who are highly knowledgeable of the products they’re selling. Not only does this help them get more info about the items they’re looking to buy but it also encourages them to develop a better relationship with the brand.
The reports provided by retail mystery shopping companies like SeeLevel HX pinpoint areas of strengths and weaknesses in the way you deliver customer experience. With the actionable insights from our comprehensive reports, you can formulate training programs to improve employee performance. In addition to helping them develop ways to respond to difficult situations, you can teach them how to spot opportunities to cross-sell and upsell.
Most of the time, employees forget that they represent the brand when working with customers. Retail mystery shopping can help you see if employees are still performing according to brand expectations. Hitting set objectives is important in ensuring the business is progressing as planned and there’s no better way to do this than with the help of a mystery shopper.
Incentive programs can be formulated to further motivate employees to perform better. A mystery shopper can help spot who among your staff deserves recognition and who needs help to enhance their skills.
5) Check store conditions.
Performing a scheduled assessment of store conditions won’t reveal the usual state of your shop. Because it’s planned, employees have time to present the store in a pristine condition. This defeats the purpose of the inspection since you see it in its optimal state and not in its everyday form. A surprise visit is also an undesirable alternative as it may hinder business operations.
What options are left? One of the many benefits of mystery shopping in retail is being able to inspect your store’s condition from the perspective of a typical customer without your staff knowing. This way, you capture the store’s everyday condition without disturbing daily operations.
6) Know what customers are thinking.
One of the most important benefits of mystery shopping is knowing what your customers think about your brand. Increasing customer retention is the objective of every business even outside the retail industry. Understanding brand perception has become more important than before, especially in today’s highly competitive environment.
Brand perception does not end with a customer making a successful purchase. The buying process, the business interaction and everything else that makes up the customer experience affects the way consumers view a brand. With one of your bigger goals being to win and retain more customers, it makes sense to get their feedback on how you can serve them better.
7) Check the efficiency of procedures.
A great customer service can improve customer retention and help attract new customers to your business. One of the benefits of mystery shopping is being able to keep an eye on your best practices to ensure it remains consistent throughout the whole network of operation.
Are your standard operating procedures working as expected? Is your staff able to remember policies and implement them with ease? Retail mystery shopping can help identify loopholes in your protocols. To keep up with the ever-changing customer needs, you have to continuously improve how you deal with every situation to ensure customer satisfaction.
8) Analyze the competition.
Nothing’s better than staying ahead of the competition. Another one of the biggest benefits of mystery shopping is being able to analyze your competitors. Retail mystery shopping companies like SeeLevel HX can conduct a competitive analysis to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your competition.
Study their methods and strategize ways to capitalize on their weaknesses. Identify why people choose your brand over them. Strengthen these areas to stay ahead of the game.
Whether you’re running a brick-and-mortar shop or an online store, it’s important to regularly assess your performance and know that business objectives are met. The benefits of mystery shopping in retail can’t be disregarded, especially now that it has become a critical tool in measuring customer experience and satisfaction. With the help of SeeLevel HX, not only will you receive a comprehensive assessment of specific areas of your business, but you will also obtain actionable insights from our team of CX experts.
If you want your stores to take full advantage of the benefits of mystery shopping, let’s discuss how we can further improve your business.
By Lisa van Kesteren
Lisa van Kesteren is the founder and CEO of SeeLevel HX, top mystery shopping agency for Retail, QSR, and Financial Services brands. SeeLevel HX has more than 650,000 professional mystery shoppers in every nook and cranny of the United States. Lisa is on a mission to help brands improve the human experience of each and every customer interaction.
Lisa started her career as a Private Investigator and is considered one of the pioneers in mystery shopping. After building 2 different global divisions for large corporations, she launched her own company. Lisa is a widely coveted panelist and speaker on customer experience, best in class data collection practices and the evolution of the On-Demand economy.