Mystery shopping is a tool used to assess the levels of adherence to company’s standard operating guidelines by the front enders interacting with the customers. This technique not only provides insights into company’s image on field but also helps the company identify need gaps and take corrective actions with an ultimate aim of enhancing customer experience.
We, at Q&Q Research Insights Pvt. Ltd. are quiet seasoned at carrying out the mystery shopping exercise for an array of clients. We have been conducting mystery shopping since the last seven years across verticals like telecom, automobile, food and beverage, apparel, banks, personal care and entertainment.
We have become the eyes and ears of our clients, especially in those locations where it is not possible for them to reach physically on a regular basis. Our feedback is based on ‘real’ experience which has helped the clients in understanding ground realities, adherence to the SOPs, focus on service levels, and most importantly understanding how well is the customer treated.
Before conducting the mystery shopping exercise in field it is very important that we are completely in sync with our client’s needs and understand their processes in and out. We have a specialized team of experienced professionals who have mastered the art of ‘knowing the client’. We believe that the mystery shopping exercise stands on four pillars –
1. Profile of mystery shopper – It is absolutely essential to have a mystery shopper whose profile matches the general customer visiting the client’s touch point. We have a vast team of mystery shoppers (auditors) that match the whole rainbow of profiles, from low end customers to an HNI customer. We are always in process of recruitment of mystery shoppers, so that complacency does not set in.
2. Training and calibrations – To ensure that our mystery shoppers are well versed with client’s SOPs which they are going to monitor – it is mandatory for them to undergo an extensive training program. The training is conducted by our in-house TTT certified trainer team in coordination with the client.
Post completions of training, calibrations are conducted and only those who get certified are selected as mystery shoppers, hence forth known as auditors. Calibrations are also conducted at regular intervals (fortnightly/monthly) to ensure that everyone is on the same page, and any new development in the SOP is also passed down to the last line.
3. Quality Control – Maintaining the quality on field is of paramount importance to us. We have stringent methods to ensure that the information coming from the field is of the best quality. This includes spot checks, instant feedback from store audited, double filling of sheets etc.
4. Quick Feedback – In mystery shopping it is very important that feedback is given to the client at the earliest. We have a unique system of flash – “Q-FLASH” wherein the major deviations in field are immediately reported to the client so that necessary steps can be taken immediately before the main report is delivered. The feedback is also uploaded on a web based portal where the client can log in and see the latest reports coming in and plan accordingly.
MONITORING INTERACTION QUALITY
Through these studies we monitor the quality of interaction happening between a customer and the front ender. This throws light on the softer aspects of interaction including way of talking (polite, formal/casual, attentiveness, willingness to help customer) along with the quality of information given to the customer and the ability to resolve customer’s queries.
With the help of these studies the client can track the process adherence at front ender level. Need gaps can be identified as an outcome of the study and staff trainings can be planned focusing on the need gaps.
This mystery shopping exercise specifically deals with checking the branding, exterior façade, interior, elements visibility and maintenance of the branded outlets. The exercise gives insights into how effectively a branded outlet showcases the brand and how the different elements are maintained at the store. Compliance levels are also checked specifically if the outlet is franchisee run. The end result of these exercises is in terms of feedback on operational issues which need to be tackled /appreciated.
This exercise is generally conducted at automobile dealerships to check the discount the dealership is offering to the customer and whether it is within the limit defined by company or not. Generally the automobile manufacturers give some discounts (monetary or otherwise) to the customers through their dealerships. It is important for a company to ensure that these discounts are standardized across all the Company’s dealerships and nothing is given over and above the limits set by them. However to achieve the sales target, a dealership may decide to give away more discounts to customers to lure them. Hence mystery shopping at the dealerships where in a mystery shopper in disguise of a prospective buyer asking for additional discount helps in checking the compliance levels. The reports are supported by audio tapes and in some cases video recording is also done, using hidden cameras.
KNOWLEDGE CHECK OF FRONT ENDERS
Before the front ender is certified for customer handling, he/she undergoes a thorough training on soft skills and the products/processes. To monitor if the front ender is well versed with the product and process, we audit him/her in the disguise of a mystery shopper. The front ender is typically judged on his way of handling customer, skills of making sales pitch, understanding customer’s requirement and then giving correct and complete information and ensuring that at the end of the interaction customer is completely satisfied. Based on the feedback received, training needs are identified and dealt with, accordingly.
END TO END SALES MONITORING
These studies are carried out a retail outlets to know how the sales process works in terms of making initial pitch, documentation required, finances, discounts and schemes and then finally close looping a sale with product delivery and follow up call. The mystery shopping process starts with customer’s first contact with the company through phone to call centre / outlet or physical visit to the outlet till the last follow up call is made to the customer post the sale. The exercise maps the entire sales process including efficiency of the front ender in handling sales, process of purchase (simple or cumbersome) and then process for the follow up with the customer.
MBO BRAND VISIBILITY CHECK
A multi-branded outlet is supplied with the visuals and Point of Sale material by the companies. It is important to understand how an MBO owner has displayed company’s visuals and how he is promoting the brands to his customers. Mystery shopping sheds light on the visibility of the brand amongst various others present at the multi branded outlet. The mystery shopper not only observes the visibility of the brand in the outlet but also checks the knowledge level of the person interacting with the customer about the brand. The client gets feedback on how his brand is displayed and how the retailers promote his brand.