A successful mystery shopping program is extremely valuable in the world of business. It takes work to keep it fresh and make sure there is a general employee buy in, otherwise the program can run into challenges. Below are some tips you can use to keep your programs fresh and a true mystery to your staff!
1. It doesn’t matter when and where – many clients opt to keep the date and time out of mystery shopping reports. It’s human nature to play “guess the shopper,” and the focus can shift from evaluating employee performance to trying to recall the shopper and dispute a lower score. Set the stage early with your staff. Explain that it’s not important who the shopper was, but instead focus on what happened during the experience, noting both the good and the areas that need work. Taking the focus off of “when and who” can help if you’re seeing employees focusing too much on guessing the shopper and disputing details.
2. Don’t show employees the reports right away – there are times when a report will contain concerning information that needs to be addressed right away. However, in most cases, there is no urgent need for staff to see the mystery shopping report. When clients conduct shops on a regular basis, many opt to let upper management see the report right away, but don’t share the report with their location staff until the month is over. Why is this? If staff know each location is shopped once a month, and they get their report on the 15th, they know they are “free and clear” for the rest of that month. By not sharing the report until the month’s end, they will stay on their toes the entire month, never knowing if they’ve been shopped yet.
3. Throw them off course once in a while – because it’s human nature to guess shoppers, employees come to learn specifics of their program – they think, “Okay, we are shopped once a month, and the shopper will visit the restroom and ask a knowledge question.” Customers who do the same things as shoppers will be suspects. Change up the program for a month or two – don’t require a restroom check, or cut out the knowledge question. Another option is to change the frequency. Maybe add an extra shop a month for a while, or allow the high performing locations to only be shopped every other month. Throw the employees off a bit and it will keep them on their toes.
4. Focus on the positive – clients’ mystery shopping programs go a long way when there is a focus on the positive. Some clients will publicly share high performing shops across all of their locations. In monthly newsletters, they may highlight locations or specific employees who received high ratings on a recent mystery shopping report. A simple and public “kudos for a job well done” can go a long way.
5. Continually raise the bar – the best mystery shopping programs are those that grow with a company. Use analytical reports wisely; when you see that scores are consistently high, that signals that the staff are doing well with current standards and it’s time to raise the bar a bit. Review your program on an annual basis at a minimum and make revisions as needed to make sure you’re measuring current expectations and operational standards.
Maintaining your program takes time, but will pay off in the long run. Consult with your mystery shopping provider on a regular basis to get insight and suggestions for your program. Because they work closely with your program and have the experience from a variety of perspectives, they can often provide ideas and suggestions to keep your program the best it can be.