Mystery shopping programs provide a wealth of information, from staff performance to competitive intelligence. Having an objective, third party vendor providing this information is more valuable and effective than trying to conduct an in house program.
That being said, there are limits as to what a mystery shopping program can provide. One example is the case of an inquiry for emergency room evaluations. The inquiry seemed simple enough – evaluating the effectiveness of an urgent care triage system. However, the criteria that was to be used required mystery shoppers to feign a medical emergency, ranging from a potentially sprained ankle to chest pain. This went beyond the scope of what is possible on many levels – in this situation, it would require shoppers to go beyond what is typical of a shop and put themselves in an unwanted situation. Furthermore, in the case of medical care, mystery shopping programs cannot interfere with the health of the general public.
Another example is the case of theft. There are times when parking facilities or event businesses that offer valet parking will ask if shoppers can leave money or other valuable items in their car to evaluate if they are still there when they return. Again, this puts shoppers in a precarious situation, especially if their valuables are NOT there upon return, and it also creates a legal situation that goes beyond the scope of mystery shopping.
If there are situations, especially in the case of potential theft or fraud, that are of concern, it’s wise to speak with your mystery shopping provider to determine what can and cannot be done. If it falls outside of the range of the program, the company can offer recommendations in the way of a PI firm or other avenues in which to monitor for these types of concerns.
Companies who engage in social media sometimes struggle for content – of course you don’t want to continually self-promote, but what else can you do?
One trend I’ve seen a couple of companies use not only provides information to customers who are engaged in a company’s social media program, but can also help with customer service. Simply put, it appears as though companies will take a look at call center data, specifically what type of questions are coming in during a particular day or week, and provide that information on their social media sites.
One company Tweeted: “We’ve noticed a high call volume this week related to questions about our new mobile app. Here is some information on the app and how to use it.”
I thought it was great that they used the data to make the most of their social media content. This is a good tip to consider when creating social media content – evaluate your consumer touchpoints, specifically the questions and concerns posted online, via customer feedback channels, and call center/chat conversations, to see what topics are trending. From there, create content around these topics. It’s likely that if there are many similar calls or questions surrounding a specific topic or product/service, others who are not calling/inquiring may need the same information.
This also shows social media users that the company is in tune with what their customers need and that they are truly listening.
This is a win-win situation in that you have content to work with and you demonstrate excellent customer service to the public.
We first saw this happening around Halloween time – your local, empty storefronts all of a sudden become “Halloween headquarters.” Only staying for a short time, these retailers take over empty storefronts to sell Halloween costumes and related items.
This week we’ve learned that this concept is coming to the back to school time – notably, Target and Toys R Us are testing it out this season, as people gear up for back to school shopping.
Target’s plan is most interesting – they will be featuring pop up stores in five universities. These stores will display dorm room settings and if students like what they see, they can simply scan the bar codes on the items they’d like to make a purchase with their mobile device.
Pop up stores are on the rise, with an increase of 16% since 2009. This can be a win-win situation, as the empty space is leased out, even for a short period of time, and retailers can use the space for not only additional sales, but also to test new markets and offer products and services in areas where they don’t currently have a presence. By making it more convenient for the consumer, it gives retailers another opportunity to increase brand awareness and gain additional customers.
Parents will be in full shopping mode for back to school items very soon. It will be interesting to see the success in the pop up stores and if this is a trend that will continue in the future.