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Getting close to the action

Posted by Gina Mayhead - 24 October, 2019

I’ve had a bad week. Well, Tuesday morning was bad. By lunchtime on Tuesday things were looking a bit rosier, and by Wednesday I was back to my default “glass (at least) half-full” state of mind. Let me explain. Being quite new in my role here at Yomdel and wanting to get closer to our operational processes, I volunteered to do a video mystery shop for one of our clients. Reader, I messed it up… Without going into too much detail, it basically failed to record (turned itself off in my pocket) and all the rich insights I’d gathered and worked hard to engineer into the visit were wasted.

As I sat outside, swearing in my car, I realised that I’d actually gained more from this experience than I’d lost. OK, so my team back at HQ were going to have to re-assign the job and I looked a bit of an idiot, but crucially, I now knew what it really felt like to be one of our mystery shoppers. I knew how important it is to practise with the equipment and research your scenario; I understood the churning stomach feeling as you get into character; I knew how important it is to have a supportive office team behind you; and I knew how important a well-designed questionnaire is. First-hand experience of the tasks you are asking your staff to perform is invaluable and leads to effective and empathetic management, which in turn leads to motivated and high-performing staff.

Mystery shopping is a practical short-cut to this. Maybe you’re a Director whose selling days are a distant memory; maybe you’re a senior manager from a non-sales background; maybe you’re a Sales Director with little customer service experience; mystery shopping gives you that in-the-moment feedback on every step of your sales and customer service processes. Detailed reports and audio-visual footage mean you can observe, first-hand and unfiltered, the challenges your sales teams face and how they deliver your company ethos and hopefully top-notch customer service to boot.

The first time you use mystery shopping you might find your scores are less than perfect. So what? That’s the whole point. Using the detailed feedback from a variety of scenarios and a variety of shoppers you can pinpoint the areas you need to work on and celebrate the things you and your team are already doing well. Repeat visits over time help to build a robust picture of service and track improvements. Reinforcing your company culture via mystery shopping demonstrates commitment to your staff and your customers.

Remember, thinking you know what it’s like to be on the sales frontline, or even further removed, what it’s like to be a customer, is a country mile away from the reality of actually knowing what that feels like and recalling accurately the emotive and practical aspects of the journey. Watching the customer react to your staff member; listening to what the customer really wants can be a game changer. A well-designed questionnaire helps to capture those nuances through the open comments sections and video footage is the ultimate tool in drilling down into the details of what happened and why. Insights gained can be applied at a macro and micro level within an organisation driving sales opportunities and high-quality customer relationships.

Mystery shopping analysis can also trigger innovation. It could be as simple as realising your staff can’t access stock information easily whilst on the shop floor talking to a customer. Solution: light, hand-held smart device rather than a heavy laptop in one area of the store. Or, maybe some members of your sales team aren’t confident enough to upsell extra products or services, or they don’t instinctively spot those opportunities. Unless you witness the interaction “live” you might miss out on beneficial tweaks and changes you could be making to your training and sales processes.

Knowledge is power: Shop yourself, but also consider shopping your key competitors. Not only do you find out how they do things (and you might just pick up some tips and tricks), you can explore where you sit as a brand within a customer’s frame of reference and how they think about you compared with the competitors when they’re making their purchase decisions.

If you’re wondering how I re-filled my virtual glass of optimism, the answer is I had a meeting with an inspiring client, someone who really ‘gets’ insight and the value of mystery shopping. Oh, plus finding out I’m not the only one who fluffed their first video mystery shop in the team 😉.

Topics: Customer Insights, Mystery Shopping