Paste your Google Webmaster Tools verification code here

Mystery Shopping Programs: Read This Before Implementing Incentives


More often than not, the information gleaned from mystery shopping reports will be used for an incentive, or factored into performance reviews. This is a great use for the program, but one where companies should proceed with caution.


Before tying mystery shopping scores into performance reviews or bonuses, consider the following:


1. Have you had the program in place, or are you just starting a program? It’s an interesting thing when a company announces to its staff that they will be starting a mystery shopping program, even when it’s promoted in a positive light (as it always should be). Staff become nervous, thinking that it is a “big brother” approach to keeping tabs. Others, who may have had a negative experience in a past life, may want to buck the system and protest loudly to anyone who will listen.


It is recommended that a program be implemented and run for some time before placing incentives on it or incorporating it into your performance reviews. This will give staff time to see the value of the program and that it is truly intended to make the company better as a whole. It will also give staff time to work on areas where they need improvement before rolling out the incentive/reward program.


2. Set the bar now for employee kickback: it will happen, even in the best of programs. After all, we’re all human and it’s human nature to defend ourselves. Decide as a company how you’re going to handle employee disputes from mystery shopping reports beforehand and communicate that with your staff. If you allow employees to fight every report that is less than stellar, it will send a message that they can try to argue their way out of a lower score, which will devalue the program.


That’s not to say that there won’t be reports where clarification is needed; this can happen from time to time, but when employees try to dispute every less than perfect report, you need a plan in place for them to accept that it is what it is and the program is not going to change.


3. Make sure the report is measuring what staff are trained to do: sometimes programs need to be tweaked after the first run or two. Make sure that each question on the report measures what you train, otherwise it will not be an effective program. Don’t ask a question that records if a customer was greeted within 10 seconds of entering the store, for example, if your staff were not trained on this or it’s entirely impossible given the store layout or business model.


4. Prepare management for the initial fallout: even if you have program in place for a while and then raise the bar by implementing an incentive program, something interesting happens. Employees will become defensive, claim they “knew it was the shopper”, or otherwise try to fight reports from time to time. It’s a natural progression we’ve seen time and time again, and I always share this with clients who have had a program and are now raising the bar in this manner. It’s not an issue with the program itself, it’s just staff reacting to the change. By preparing your managers for this, it will make the transition process as smooth as possible.


Mystery shopping programs offer an excellent method of collecting objective data to measure operational standards; using it to its fullest potential will make it even more valuable to your company. By keeping the above tips in mind, it will make incorporation into an incentive program easier and help staff buy into its value as well.




Net Promoter Score & Social Media: A Happy Couple


Many companies utilize Net Promoter Score to analyze their customer base. If you’re not familiar with Net Promoter Score, it’s very simple. By asking customers one simple question – How likely would you be to recommend this company to a friend or family member – and using a 10-point rating scale, customers can easily be grouped into three categories:


1. Promoters: these customers are typically rating this question at a 9 or 10, meaning that they are loyal fans of your brand. These customers are most likely to spread the word, refer your company, and keep coming back.


2. Passives: customers in this group often give ratings of 7 or 8 when asked this question. They may be customers who return on a regular basis, but they’re not tried and true customers. Something is keeping them from becoming true fans and can be swayed to do business with your competition.


3. Detractors: these are worrisome customers, as they will typically rate this question with a 6 or below. They have been dissatisfied in some way and their negative word of mouth may hurt your business.


We’ve seen this type of question asked of customers in feedback programs, as well as on mystery shopping reports. However, many marketers are starting to realize that this data can also be gleaned from social media research.


Incorporating data collected in social media can be helpful in measuring and monitoring your Net Promoter Score. Most programs offer a sentiment rating for each piece of conversation collected. While sentiment is not always 100% accurate when done automatically, manual investigation can be a valuable time expenditure.


Social media conversations are unstructured, and people tend to be more honest when sharing thoughts and feedback with friends and family than they might be on a customer feedback survey. This is a great opportunity to find honest feedback and incorporate it into your Net Promoter Score. To improve your numbers, there are some things you can do using social media:


1. Seek out those who are in the passive group and find out what might turn them into Promoters. Are there customer service issues or policies that need to be changed? Are your product offerings lacking in some way? By finding these customers online, you can learn more about their likes and dislikes and turn them into superfans.


2. Do some competitive intelligence. By researching what customers are saying about your competition, you’ll get insight into what customers want and need from you. In the same vein, research your passive customers using social media as well – what sites do they frequent? Do they talk about your competitors? If so, what do they like more about your competitors? Take time to analyze the information and you may find the key to turning the passives into promoters.


3. Compare your Net Promoter Score from traditional methods to that of your social media sentiment.  Often times results from customer feedback surveys will be from the two polar opposites – super fans and those who are extremely dissatisfied. Incorporating social media data and gauging sentiment will let you know if your Net Promoter Score is an accurate representation of your customer base.


It’s not foolproof and not a be-all-end-all indicator of customer satisfaction, but being aware of your Net Promoter Score is important. Using social media conversations to complement your NPS collection methodology can increase your odds of accuracy and help you gain the insight needed to ensure that your customers keep returning and spread the word about your business.


How Mystery Shopping Helps C-Stores


Below is an excerpt from a recent commentary discussing the benefits of using a mystery shopping program to determine what drives customer satisfaction in the C-store industry that I find interesting and applicable to most, if not all, industries…


“The client’s mystery shopping program scores its channel partners three times year and what’s been revealed is that locations attaining high marks on mystery shops and audits sell more gas, regardless of fuel prices. In the first year of the program alone, the client’s channel partners experienced a double-digit increase in average monthly volume.”


You can read the entire article by clicking here. It’s a good read and drives home the point that mystery shopping is not only used as an objective measurement for operational standards, but can help pinpoint factors that will make companies a success.