Mystery shops were a hot topic at a conference last week. A retailer wanted to know if they were worth the effort. We think they are; in fact we do more than our fair share of mystery shops each year. And we often morph into the typical customers that you see in your store every day. We’ve been well-dressed and complete slobs. We’ve been wealthy and cash-challenged. We’ve been nice and we’ve been downright self-absorbed. We’ve shopped with one of us in a wheel chair, in a suit that added 100 pounds, and we’ve even had professional make-up artists turn us into 70-somethings. When we can’t pull off a disguise, then we hire someone who can. But we’ve never purposely set someone up with a ridiculous request; we believe that there is more to it than judging what a retailer is doing wrong.
Using a mystery shopper service is a good idea because it let’s you uncover how the average customer perceives your business. And we all know that the customer’s perception is our reality, whether we like it or not. Most mystery shoppers are hired by the shopper service to anonymously shop the business, make a purchase or a return, and report back to the service on how they were treated. Mystery shoppers also rate the business on cleanliness, merchandise and merchandise presentation, policies, and more. Even how the telephone is answered. Good mystery shopping reports include more than just a numerical rating, they also include the shoppers personal feelings about how they felt in the store.
Our mystery shopping report covers these areas: Exterior Appearance, Interior Appearance, Customer Service, Associate Abilities, Purchases, Refunds, and Overall Store Visit. We also include a demographic profile so that the shopper can describe the store associates who helped them. You can hire a mystery shopping service, or you can do it yourself, by asking friends to objectively shop your store for you. You might even hire mystery shoppers on a temporary basis for pre-determined number of visits. Drop us an e-mail and we will send you more information about conducting your own mystery shops.
Your overall focus, of course, should be to assume that every customer who walks into your store is a mystery shopper. If you treat every customer equally, well then you’ll have nothing to worry about. These five tips will help you set the focus:
1. Offer each customer a warm and sincere greeting. The sincere part is important; according the body language gurus, we take 55% of our cues from a person’s body language, 38% from their tone of voice, and only 7% from the words they use.
Instruct your associates to acknowledge each customer every time they encounter them in the store. This acknowledgement might only be a smile and eye contact, but it makes the customer feel valued. Implementing our 7-Tile Rule TM – acknowledging each customer whenever you come within seven floor tiles (7’) of each other – is always a good idea.
2. Offer to help each customer. You can smile and say hello, or you can start a conversation about a current event, or talk about new merchandise that has just arrived. A great ice breaker is to ask, “What brought you to our store today?” If the customer is looking for a specific item they’ll tell you, and if they are just there to browse, they’ll let you know that, too.
3. Your sales floor needs to be clean and easy to shop. Make a list of closing duties that need to be completed before everyone leaves. Each night take a copy of your closing list and assign an associate to each task. In the morning, make a 60-second pass through the store, noting anything that needs to be done before you unlock the door for business.
4. Unless they are talking about something that pertains to the store, encourage your associates not to engage in idle chit-chat while they are on the sales floor. Customers do not care what they did on Saturday night. They do, however, care that the associates are discussing Saturday night when they could be helping them.
5. Sincerely thank every customer for stopping by, and invite them to return and shop again. Even if they leave empty-handed. We know a retailer who gets upset when a customer merely comes to her store to browse. Her frosty, “Thanks for stopping in.” is not lost on these potential customers. She seems to have forgotten that the customer’s last impression is just as important as the first.
The bottom line is that every customer may not be as picky as a mystery shopper, but they are definitely evaluating your store at each visit. The big question is this: Will your store pass their test?
© KIZER & BENDER . ALL RIGHTS RESERVED . 2008