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It’s Just a Snapshot….


That’s exactly what a mystery shopping report is – a snapshot in time. Sometimes, especially when a lower overall percentage comes to you, it’s hard to remember this. Carefully reading the report, talking with the staff, and looking at the big picture is all good advice to remember.


When you receive a report where there were issues, it is a good idea to read through any narrative/comments carefully and pinpoint where things didn’t go as they should. Depending on the circumstances, you may want to have a conversation with the employee and take a look at past reports that involved this particular employee or employees – is this a recurring issue? Are the areas that weren’t done up to standard consistent with this employee?


At any rate, when using mystery shopping reports to pinpoint areas of strength and areas to improve as it relates to the customer experience, using the analytical reporting capabilities of your program is paramount. Looking at the overall numbers, rather than one particular report, will give you the insight you need to determine a call to action.


Not all businesses fully utilize analytical reporting. If you fall into this category, here’s what you may be missing…..


1. Exception analysis: want to see how your locations stack up? Run this report and it will rank your locations from highest overall percentage to lowest. You can choose to do this for a month, quarter, or entire year.


Similarly, if you want to rack locations based on performance on one section of a report, maybe customer service, you can do that as well.


2. Survey summary: this report takes each question on your mystery shopping report and shows you how it was answered over time. Again, you can choose any date range you wish, and then look at the data as a company, just for a particular region or district, or even drill down to one single location.


This is an excellent report to view overall strength and areas for improvement, and lets you see trends for each question of the report.


3. Trending analysis: this report allows you to see performance over a six or 12 month period of time. This is great for viewing progress in your mystery shopping program and can help you determine if the company is reaching its goals for customer service levels.


4. Head to head: If you’re using a mystery shopping program coupled with a feedback survey program, you can use this report to compare questions that are similar on both. For example, if you use the Net Promoter Score rating on both reports, you can easily take a look at how the average customer rates your business compared to a mystery shopper who is trained in making key operational observations.


Keeping focus on the big picture is key when it comes to a successful mystery shopping program. Individual employee performance is important, and the data collected can be used for additional training, performance reviews, and incentives.  It’s a good idea though to remember that it IS just a snapshot in time…




How to Lose a Good Customer


Sometimes customer service isn’t about making sure customers are greeted when they enter your store, upselling, or making sure customers wait no more than 2 minutes in line before being assisted. Sometimes it’s those minor moments that can go a long way in not losing customers.


I read this article entitled, “How to Lose a Good Customer or How to Create a Lifelong Customer” which illustrated the importance of true customer service, not necessarily the standards set in place by the company.
From the article, imagine this situation..


I was in the bank Saturday morning, waiting in line behind the cutest 4-year-old and his mommy I’ve seen in a long while. It was a long line, and Junior was getting restless.

“Mommy, I have to go.”

“Go where, honey?” (mommy was distracted)

“I have to pee, mommy.”

“In a few minutes, sweetie, we’re almost done”.

“Mommy I can’t wait, I reaaaaallllyyyy have to pee pee.”

“Honey you’re going to have to wait. They don’t have a bathroom here.”

“I can’t wait mommy, I need to pee RIGHT NOW.”

Junior really had to pee. He couldn’t wait. You know how it is. When you gotta go, you gotta go. Just ask any new mother, post childbirth give or take 3 years. There is no gray area, and it’s no different for a 4-year-old who’s just getting it down in the first place.

I, of course not minding my own business, and not wanting to be used as a fire hydrant (I was wearing red… who knew how he’d been potty trained) sidled up to the mom and quietly said, “I’ll wait on line with him if you want to go up and ask if you can use their restroom.”


The woman goes up to the manager and explains the situation, and the mom is told that the restroom is not for public use.




This manager created a situation that could very easily cost a customer. While it’s possibly understandable that a restroom may not be for public use, I’m sure there would be no issue with the manager allowing it this one time for a toddler who really needed it. Had that happened, it would have created a positive experience for the mother. Instead, the poor child ended up having an accident, right there in the bank lobby, now making it a poor experience for the mother, toddler, and any other customers in the area.
Imagine how many of those other customers, in talking with friends or family after that bank visit, shared the story: “You’re not going to believe what happened…I was at the bank this morning…”


Empowering employees to make decisions and bend certain rules when needed can go a long way in creating a lifelong customer, as the article suggests. One simple act such as this one can be the difference between losing and keeping a customer.






Undercover Boss, Or Is There Another Option?


I’m a big fan of the show, Undercover Boss. This show depicts company CEO’s who go “undercover” for a week at some of their locations, acting as a new hire, to see how operations are run and where their strengths and weaknesses are. I know it’s scripted, as all reality shows are, and there’s always a formula – they run into an employee who has financial or family hardships, one outstanding employee, and sometimes an employee that is not up to company standards. At the end, the CEO reveals himself/herself and discusses the experience, rewarding the good ones and helping the others do better.


There are two recent episodes I’ve seen that gave me pause. In these episode, the details were different, but the theme was the same. One episode featured White Castle, while the other featured the 7-11 convenience chain.


In the White Castle episode, the CEO learned through talking with employees that they were generally worried about being fired if they didn’t strictly adhere to company standards. Of course employees should be following standards, but the point was driven home when the one employee shared that she came to work every day hoping she wouldn’t do something to cause her to lose her job. This particular employee made the CEO realize that this was the message corporate was sending to its employees, or at least that’s how the message was being perceived.


In the 7-11 episode, there was a scene where a manager was cleaning up the bakery items since the company wants to serve fresh items. All was fine until the manager started throwing away donuts, bagels, and the like. The CEO was upset about this, and the manager shared that he wanted to find a way to have these items donated to a food pantry or similar charity, and has tried to express this to corporate, but has gone unheard. The CEO was upset by the fact that so much food was being wasted and this employee felt that his opinions and thoughts were overlooked by corporate.


Not every company can afford to have corporate be an “undercover boss” for time and financial reasons. However, this show (especially these two episodes), drive home the fact that companies, whether you have five or 5,000 locations, do not typically know what their employees are thinking. They may not be asked, or employees may feel as though they cannot share their opinions, or it’s not worth the time because they won’t be heard.


Since most cannot employ the “undercover boss” methodology, you may wonder what other options are out there….there is one simple program that you can implement to let your employees know you care.


Employee feedback surveys can be a useful tool to gauge employee sentiment, pinpoint common themes that might need attention, and gain valuable insight and suggestions for improvement. This should be an anonymous program so that employees feel they can share freely, and if it is handled by a third party, it gives the employees a comfort level because they are less likely to feel that corporate will try to figure out who’s leaving the feedback or “punish” those who do not leave all positive feedback about their work.


It can be a simple survey asking about their satisfaction level with their work, what challenges the see as being a barrier to being successful as an employee for the company, and if they have any suggestions for improvement. Leaving an open ended area for comments may also encourage additional feedback. Keeping it general, especially the first time out, will give managers a sense of the overall sentiment and give them a starting point for working with employees to create a mutually successful work environment.


If you haven’t watched Undercover Boss, I highly recommend it, especially if you are in an upper management position. You might get inspiration for employing a feedback system or talking with your employees in another manner to see how they’re doing. Nothing ruins customer service like low employee morale!