Are your employees treating customers the right way? Does your competition “out service” your customers and prospects? There is only one method to find out — market research. Research is exploratory and often driven by the researcher’s curiosity, interest or hunch. Evaluating employee performance through mystery shopping is one of many ways market research will contribute to the greater success of your company.
“The purpose of mystery shopping is to help businesses increase sales and improve employee customer service awareness, ” according to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association.
“Mystery shopping allows a company owner to keep his or her finger on the pulse of individual employee performance and overall customer service, ” said Liza Cirlot Looser, CEO of The Cirlot Agency, an international corporate communications firm. “By setting up a mystery shopper program, you can learn more about how your customers are treated in just one week than you have learned since your business opened. ”
Mystery shopping began in the 1940s as a system to measure employee reliability. It has developed into a globally used marketing strategy with approximately 1.5 million mystery shoppers in North America alone. Mystery shopping allows businesses to improve customer service by gaining insight into employee performance. Tools used for mystery shopping assessments can range from simple questionnaires to complete audio and video recordings. Companies can then utilize the results of the mystery shopping program for employee improvement and management initiatives.
Looser created a multi-disciplined educational CD containing step-by-step directions, examples and resources for companies to do their own market research, advertising and public relations campaigns. It is named, “Your Ad Department. ” The market research module identifies key elements and guides to establishing a mystery shopping program:
1. Design your mystery shopper evaluation form based on your employee’s job requirements and the overall impression the customer should be left with after an encounter with an employee.
Recommended elements to the mystery shopping evaluation form:
2. Let your employees know they are being mystery shopped throughout the year.
They should not know the date of the actual shop, but they should be made aware of the program in an effort to convey your commitment to customer service excellence and the importance of individual employee performance.
3. Actual repeat customers are excellent mystery shoppers. Acquaintances and key prospects are also effective. By asking to participate, you should gain customer loyalty and new customers.
4. Be sure to discuss individual evaluations privately with each employee. This discussion could be part of a quarterly or annual review. Be sure to keep a copy of each review in the employee’s file for future reference.
5. Recognize your top performers in front of all employees. Mystery shopping can be used as a key element to any employee incentive program. It is important to remember that excellence should be rewarded and areas of improvement should be identified with a set of objectives and clear tactics to accomplish them.
A common misconception about market research is that it equals big spending. Although there is no guarantee of short-term practical gain, many businesses need to understand that a small expenditure on research may mean bigger bucks in the end.
Mystery shopping is just one of the many ways businesses can utilize market research to their advantage with just a small expense. Utilizing a combination of market research products such as focus groups, mystery shopping and competitive intelligence gathering will provide your business with the information and direction it needs to move forward.
The findings of a market research program can help businesses grow by taking customer feedback and applying it to developing and boosting employee performance, which would, in turn, improve customer perception and brand equity. Research gives businesses the ability to look at their performance through the eyes of their customers. Although the results may be a wake-up call, they will help businesses reflect on their past performance in order to increase future success and stay ahead of the competition, while also revealing which employees are making the grade.
Amy Sullivan is the editor of Broker Newswire the leading news source for today’s mortgage originator. Broker Newswire provides its members with the latest industry news and business analysis and serves as a forum for connecting the mortgage origination community. Broker Newswire is a publication of October Research Corporation the nation’s premier provider of real estate industry news and analysis.