Mystery shopping programs have proven to be a useful tool for one of the country’s leading suppliers of women’s high-end swimwear. This nationwide client of Customer Perspectives, of Hooksett, NH, has been using mystery shopping as part of its customer service program since l999. Corporate trainer Anne Gwinn says, “With a corporate office in Florida and stores nationwide, we feel this is the best opportunity we have to view the level of customer service we are providing our clients. We are able to identify staffing issues and training opportunities through the shops.”
The retailer has 34 stores nationwide. Staff varies from 5 to 15 employees per store, depending on sales volume. Individuals are not targeted for evaluation. Instead, random shops are performed with the expectation that the majority of the staff will be shopped over time.
Gwinn says, “We offer a reward of $100 for every 100% mystery shop. We have a strong customer service and sales focus. Our non-negotiable sales standards have been incorporated into the shop. These standards are very basic, such as greeting every customer as they enter the store and bringing additional items to the fitting room. The shops are a great training tool for us.” On average, between 5 and 10 rewards are given out every month.
The mystery shops are taken into consideration for performance reviews and additional points are added for perfect shops. The district manager reviews the shops with the store manager, who then discusses the shop with their employee. The shops are tracked on a spreadsheet. Compliance on the non-negotiable sales standards is also tracked and weighted as 50% of the shop. Gwinn says she has seen consistent company-wide improvement. For example, in the past as peak season approached, a decline in service was noted as busy employees tried to handle more than one customer. That specific selling situation was targeted and employees now have the tools to cope with several customers at once.
The mystery shopping program reinforces the company-wide training program. Employees receive thorough training on service expectations during their first few days with the company. Those first few days are spent role playing with the trainer. Customer service expectations are explained and employees must demonstrate their understanding of the expectations before they are allowed to assist customers on their own.
Gwinn believes this integrated approach serves both the employee and the customer well. By rewarding positive behavior and identifying training needs, her program insures customer service remains at the top of the list for all employees at all times.