In this era of communication, where a million ways exist to transfer vast amounts of information in the blink of an eye, clients always demand results as quickly as possible from their service providers. The field of mystery shopping is no exception to this, and it is very true that the internet and its various facets have changed the act of presenting reports on mystery shopping into a staggeringly fast one. But here we must stop to think: is speed more important than quality? Is the quality of the reports being sacrificed for greater speed?
In order for a mystery shopping system to be perfect, it must be designed suitably, and each module of the program must be properly implemented. It should incorporate a range of specific objectives, a form for the evaluation of the mystery shoppers (with appropriate fields), suitable shopping personnel, clear instructions, a well-planned schedule and timely presentation of reports. Presenting the report is what we are focusing on here. It incorporates everything from communication between the client company, the mystery shoppers and the mystery shopping service.
If the objectives of your mystery shopping program are to obtain a benchmark of employee performance and instigate motivation among your front-line employees, you must make sure that the employees are ready to accept the reports as facts. The client companies are very serious about having high-quality reports delivered on time. However, at times, quality and speed seem to become conflicting priorities, and in order to get the best possible report in the shortest amount of time, you need to iron out certain issues.
Validation of reports: Proper validation must be carried out for the post-visit reports of each mystery shopper. It can be done simply using a receipt from a cash register, which usually contains all relevant information, such as date and time or purchase, as well as the list of items purchased. Unless a report is validated, it will not be taken into account by any major shopping company. It is completely worth waiting for a copy of the receipt, as it can clear a lot of confusion both in the short run and the long run.
The value of the program: If your company aims to motivate the employees to provide good customer service to your patrons all the time, you must keep them on their toes so that they never ‘let their guard down’. Otherwise, their alertness may decrease over time. You can let them know about the shopping program, but never let them get any wind about when it is actually going to take place. If they get to learn its scheduled time, there is a good chance that they will remain alert only until that date, and begin to slack off after that. Many employees choose to take advantage of their employer in this way, and sometimes they do not even bother to hide it from customers. In order to keep your customers satisfied at any given time, you must keep your employees acting their best whenever they are working. On the other hand, if you do not tell them at all when they are going to be tested, they may start slacking off anyway, so it is best to subject them to ‘surprise testing’.
The quality of the program: Validating the program for factual accuracy is just one step of the quality control of the whole mystery shopping system. If you want a well-done report, you need to be ready to spend. The lower-end companies only provide basic services such as checking whether all the necessary fields on the forms have been filled up. On the other hand, the higher-end companies provide you with complete reports of high quality by manually reviewing and checking all the individual reports for errors and consistent scoring patterns before compiling the final report. In such cases, reports which do not comply with the required criteria are rejected by default and replacements are ordered for them by sending in more mystery shoppers. While this obviously takes a bit more time than it takes to prepare a report that undergoes only the most rudimentary of screenings, the extra time is well worth it because of the substantially higher quality, since it will help you to structure your future decisions better, in particular the ones which you are making based on the contents of the report.
Field-level reporting: The importance of this particular factor cannot be overstressed. Quickly bringing about change to your front-line employees’ performance requires that the client company allows reports to be delivered directly to the field level rather than to corporate offices. While this requires proper validation and screening, they nonetheless make the whole process a lot less efficient by freeing the core management team from the hassle of having to deal with reports on the individual selling crew, leaving it to the local management instead. Not only does the local management know their employees better in personal terms, but they can also make sure of the validity of the reports far more easily than the core management can. It causes fewer questions to be raised about the repots, and allows the management to always keep the employees on their toes, since they would never be sure about when the next mystery shopper will pay a visit.
The cost does matter. In certain cases, you may find that it is more expensive to go for speedily done reports, since places which do not rely on quick-service systems (e.g. furniture dealers) and encounter fewer customers per day require a new shopper to be sent for every ‘mission’ in order to avoid recognition by the employees – a noticeably more expensive procedure. However, the internet certainly has made things easier by speeding up the data collection and validation process greatly, and it saves the most time when delivering the report, since the communication is more or less instantaneous compared to postal deliveries. Even after making allowances for receipt-based validations, a vast majority of reports can be dispatched to the clients within two days of the date of shopping.