Mystery Shopping Best Practices

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Introduction

“You can expect what you inspect.”

This management philosophy is as true today as it was 50 years ago when W. Edwards Deming coined it. Managers of the customer experience have several tools available to them to inspect or monitor the customer experience.  However, when it comes to monitoring employee behaviors – service and sales behaviors that drive customer experience success – no tool is better suited for that objective than mystery shopping.

Mystery shopping programs, when administered in accordance with certain mystery shopping best practices, not only test for the presence of service behaviors, but identify which sales and service behaviors matter most.  These behaviors – the ones that matter most – are those which drive either purchase intent or customer loyalty. Mystery shopping provides a vehicle to not only measure but motivate these key behaviors.  Central to the success of any customer experience initiative is understanding and adhering to certain best practices.  This white paper advances several mystery shopping best practices.

Central to monitoring the customer experience is an understanding of the brand-customer interface.  At the center of the customer experience are the various channels which form the interface between the customer and the brand.  Together, these channels define the brand more than any external messaging. Different research tools have different research purposes.   Some are designed to monitor the customer experience from the customer side of this interface; others, like mystery shopping monitor it from the brand side of the interface.  Best in class mystery shopping programs focus on the behavioral side of the equation, answering the question: are our employees exhibiting appropriate sales and service behaviors and are these behaviors the ones that matter?

Types of Mystery Shopping

Before discussing best practices in mystery shopping, it is instructive to consider how brands use mystery shopping to measure and motivate the desired customer experience.  Just about any channel in the brand-customer interface can be shopped at any point in the customer journey.

Some of the types of shops include:

In_PersonIn-Person: While distribution channels shift to more self-administered on-line channels, in many industries the in-person channel continues to be the embodiment of the brand – central to a multichannel strategy.  This role will put new pressures on store personnel as brand advocates.  In-person mystery shopping evaluates and motivates sales and service behaviors as part of this role.

Contact_CenterContact Center: Contact center mystery shopping provides managers a unique opportunity to evaluate the customer experience using predetermined scenarios.  Most contact centers employ call monitoring to evaluate agent performance.  Best in class mystery shopping programs augment call monitoring by giving managers a tool to present specific scenarios to agents to test their performance.

InternalInternal Shops: Internal shops evaluate service provided to internal customers to identify internal bottlenecks which may hinder the ability to provide optimal customer service.

Web_MobileWeb/Mobile Shops:  Across many industries, self-administered channels are increasingly becoming key to opening and deepening the customer relationship.  Mystery shopping website and mobile channels provides managers tools to test ease of use, navigation and the overall customer experience of online and mobile channels.

Life_CycleLife Cycle Shops:  Life cycle mystery shops are designed to evaluate the customer experience through the entire customer journey across a variety of delivery channels, and a spectrum of transactions, over an extended period of time.

CompetitiveCompetitive Shops:  Shopping competitors allows customer experience managers to benchmark their brand-customer interface relative to their competitors.

Click here for the next installment in this series: Defining Mystery Shopping Objectives.

Click Here for Mystery Shopping Best Practices

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About Eric Larse

Eric Larse is co-founder of Seattle-based Kinesis CEM, LLC, which helps clients plan and execute their customer experience strategies through the intelligent use of customer satisfaction surveys and mystery shopping, linked with training and incentive programs. Visit Kinesis at: www.kinesis-cem.com

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