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Sometimes Mystery Shopping is not Enough

Employee Theft

Mystery shopping has been used by a variety of businesses for decades. Most of the time, mystery shoppers are used to make key evaluations of employee behaviors and to evaluate the customer experience. They evaluate what employers train for. This is used to make sure training is effective and that employees are following guidelines and policies of the company for which they work. It is very effective when done properly and it actually incentivizes employees to do a great job. It is the best feeling in the world to be rewarded for a job well done! Getting a 100% mystery shop report from your employer can mean a lot.

From time to time, hiring a company to send in mystery shoppers is not enough. When employee theft is suspected, it is best to refer to a Private Investigator.

During the past year, we engaged the services of Private Investigators twice. The very first time was for a retail store who sold high end suits. The owner of the company felt that a Sales Associate was “stealing” customers by showing them suit options, and then steering them toward his own online store for a less expensive alternative.

Why not send in a mystery shopper?

Several reasons. The most important reason is the legality. Investigators are trained in the law and know exactly how to gain information that can be used in court if necessary.

Secondly, the gathering of evidence. Private investigators are allowed by law to gather evidence of employee dishonesty and fraud. This is very important because in some cases, it can actually save the company money if the case goes to court.

A Private Investigator has knowledge on how to obtain information on a suspected employee by watching behavior in person (surveillance), and online. We work with Investigators across the United States to assist in the timely online collection of information on a person of interest. Our service, e-chatter, researches online information that is publicly available. If an employee is stealing retail goods for example, many times they will use easy, online ways to sell that merchandise. This breadcrumb can allow the Private Investigator to attempt to make a purchase or attempt a meet up.

Employee Theft

Two-thirds of all US-based small businesses fall victim to employee theft, according to employee fraud stats.(National Federation of Independent Business)

According to Certified Fraud Examiners, a typical company can lose up to 5% annually to employee fraud. In fact, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners conducted a study in 2018 titled, “Report to the Nations: 2018 Global Study on Occupational Fraud and Abuse.” The study included 2,690 known cases. Many do not get reported due to the stigma and bad public relations to the company itself.

The study goes on to reveal some other commonalities.

  • The overall amount of loss by men is 75 percent larger than those caused by women.
  • The most common way employee frauds are discovered is via tips.
  • Internal control weakness is responsible for nearly half of frauds.
  • Employees committing fraud who have been with their companies longer stole twice as much.
  • Small businesses lost almost twice as much to fraud per scheme as larger ones.

Contact us if you need direction as to which way to go if you have an internal employee issue. We can get you in touch with the right Investigator for your business.

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Social Media Post Scolding

Last December, a Facebook social media post by an unhappy customer triggered anger among employees. Lidl in Tavistock, Devon had an alleged incident that the company is now investigating. This may be a situation where reputation management went a bit too far.

Customer Service & Social Media

Plymouth Live broke the story about a customer shopping, minding her own business in a Lidl Grocery Store, when suddenly she was asked to step in the back. The shopper first discussed how during a visit, she had her bags looked through by a staff member. The staff member used the excuse that they have had a lot of mystery shoppers in the stores during December. She was very upset and chose to write about her experience in a local Facebook group asking if anyone else had that experience in the store. Her post went too far according to a store employee.

Next time she shops, she is confronted about her Facebook post. During the conversation, she turned on her mobile audio app to record the conversation. It went like this, according the the publication:

The Facebook Post Scolding

“Ana provided Plymouth Live with a recording of the alleged conversation.

In the recording, a person says: “First of all, are you aware we’ve got a customer service number to contact for any issues you might have in store?”

Ana responded: “Sorry?”

He continued: “Are you aware we’ve got a customer service number to contact for any issues you might have in store?”

Ana replied: “Yeah possibly.”

“Lovely. So what I’m going to speak to you about is that you chose to use social media to complain about an individual, one of our members of staff.. You failed to contact a member of staff about an issue you had.

“We’ve got it all documented and passed on to our HR department. So what I’m here to do today is to make sure you’re aware we have ways of dealing with issues. What you failed to do was mention to a member of staff or anyone about the issue.”

Anna replied: “You can’t tell me what I failed to do or what I have and have not done. What I post on Facebook is my choice, and I suffer the consequences. I’ve already sent an email.”

The worker responded: “Perfect, lovely, that’s fantastic. So what I’m saying to you is that I would ask you not to directly put abuse about a young woman on the shop floor who you upset by doing that.”

Ana hit back: “My post is not directed at her. There’s no mention of your member of staff, I can show you my post. It’s asking if other customers experienced the same things. My post is not directed at anyone there’s no name.”

He then said: “You’ve posted something that has incited comments against an individual. What I’m telling you, what I’m asking you to do is to not open abuse to staff who are working through this pandemic..

“What I’m speaking to you about is that there are means and ways of speaking to members of staff. I’m informing you, I’ve never said you’ve done anything other than what you can and can’t do. You can call members of staff if you have any issues.”

What Happens Next

What happens next is that Lidl is investigating the incident and has issued an apology.

A spokesperson for Lidl said: “We were very sorry to hear of this incident and would like to sincerely apologise for any distress caused.

“We can confirm that this is currently being investigated by our regional management team, and that our customer services team are in direct communication with the customer, who will inform them of the outcome.”

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The Importance of the Customer Greeting

customer greeting

How important is the customer greeting? When a customer walks into a place of business, how soon should they be acknowledged with a greeting? This is an area most businesses have struggled with for years.

When we begin a mystery shopping program for a client this question is always front and center. When measuring the time it takes for the customer to be greeted upon entering the store, we must consider a variety of things. Staffing the store with the correct number of employees is key of course, but there are other things to consider. Exactly how much time should management allow for a customer to be greeted? In our experience, most retail clients use between 20-30 seconds.

Timings

A retail paint store client (chart above), measures the time it takes for the customer to walk in the store until the customer is greeted. In this case, they allow 20 seconds to be greeted. This is what they train their staff to do. In the chart above, mystery shoppers scored this question among others in the customer experience evaluation. At a glance, the client can see how often this is happening correctly in their stores company wide. One quarter of stores did not meet the company’s requirement of greeting a customer within 20 seconds when entering the store.

That may sound like a short amount of time until you try this. Count up to 20 by thousands, 1001,1002,1003, etc.. By the time it takes you to reach 1,020 you will be very close to the 20 second mark. See the difference? It feels a lot longer when you really “feel” what 20 seconds is like in the real world.

 A brief statement, such as, “Hello, I will be right with you,” can encourage a customer to browse the store until an employee is free to provide help. Once the employee is available, he should approach the customer and ask if they need help finding anything. This opens the lines of communication and it creates instant credibility.

Customer Greeting & NPS

In a recent blog post, I wrote about how a business can improve NPS for a better customer experience. Perfecting greetings plays an important role in the overall customer experience and can improve NPS scores.


While it might sound obvious, how consistent is your team with their hellos and goodbyes? The greeting is your customer’s first experience with your company, so make sure the call starts out on the right foot – keep it informal, ask them how their day is going, be interested in them as a person and show how you value their business.

J.D. Power Reports Immediate Customer Greeting Key to Aftermarket Service Satisfaction

In a just released report, J.D. Power reported on the importance of the greeting in a recent study conducted by the company.

Greeting customers on arrival at an aftermarket automotive maintenance facility can improve customer satisfaction, according to the results of the U.S. Aftermarket Service Index Study released today by J.D. Power in Troy.

Satisfaction scores decline when customers wait more than three minutes before they’re acknowledged at full-service maintenance and repair, quick oil change, and tire replacement businesses, says the data analytics and consumer intelligence company. As a practical matter, greeting customers as soon as possible at any business will provide benefits.

Greeting can be measured quickly and efficiently my utilizing a mystery shopping program for your company. When you see the impact of what just one question makes in the overall customer experience, now is not the time to dismiss this important measurement.

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