Mystery Shopping Cures “Growing Pains”


We’ve had the pleasure of working with companies of all sizes in many industries. Often, when speaking to potential clients, one theme we hear revolves around “growing pains” as companies expand. During the initial growth, if it’s slow enough, it can be managed easily by visits from management and support as needed. However, as growth continues, or if it happens quickly, it can be much more difficult to ensure operations run smoothly and are consistent across locations.


This is perhaps the best time to utilize a mystery shopping program – when you’re at the point of expanding your presence. By using a mystery shopping program, companies reap many benefits:


1. Especially when expansion goes nationwide, programs give insight to ensure that things are running smoothly as new locations are opened.


2. Implementing mystery shopping can be cost effective. When expansion occurs, the task of monitoring new locations often times falls to District or Regional Managers, who are required to travel from one location to the next. This can be very costly; employing a mystery shopping program is less expensive and can be very effective in assisting upper management with new location maintenance.


3. Brand consistency is maintained. By incorporating the right observations, companies can be assured that new locations are maintaining a consistent brand presence, whether this means uniform compliance, store signage and messaging, or operational expectations.


4. Snapshots provided by mystery shopping reports can quickly indicate challenges and issues that can be resolved before they get out of control. This measure is extremely helpful to ensure that new locations are successful and support your mission to expand while keeping “growing pains” to a minimum.


Below are some tips for companies who are in the process of expanding and would like to use mystery shopping programs to monitor progress:


1. Plan ahead: start by initiating a program on your “core” locations, ideally prior to expansion. Develop a program that evaluates the core operating procedures and expectations to gauge performance at this level. Identify any challenges or opportunities for improvement prior to expansion.


2. As new locations open, implement the same program to ensure the new locations mirror the core group in terms of performance and expectations. When do you start shopping the new locations? We’ve had clients who prefer to give the new locations a couple of weeks up to a month to “work out the kinks” before incorporating mystery shopping, while others prefer to start right away. Whatever you decide, ensure that the schedule is followed so new locations can be evaluated as soon as possible to ensure success.


3. Because expansion is costly, and adding the expense of mystery shopping can be one more thing to add to the plate, consider a schedule that complements your goals. While a regular program is ideal, it may be best to focus on new locations that may show signs of struggling.

In this instance, programming can look something like this:

* Schedule monthly shops at “core” locations to get a continual snapshot of performance

* As new locations open, schedule weekly shops for the first month to gauge performance; after the initial month, if there are no issues that are apparent, change this schedule to monthly shopping.

* When any locations show potential issues, increase shopping frequency for a short period of time to determine if the issues are isolated or a symptom of a larger problem that needs attention or additional training. This can be achieved by dispatching an additional shop for any location that receives a performance score of 79% or below, for example.


While growing pains can be expected during any expansion, keeping them to a minimum is a challenge. Incorporate tools and services to alleviate these growing pains in the most cost effective manner possible – you’ll be happy you did in the long run.


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