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Audits- Brand, Legal Compliance, Reveal, Price and Merchandising

Store Audit

Audits are an effective observation tool for evaluating everything from product displays and use of marketing materials, to brand exclusivity, franchise compliance, and even adherence to detailed company standards. During periodic visits, auditors openly evaluate the physical and visual aspects of the site according to your customized checklist.

Brand Audit

Brand audits are designed to protect brand image in the context of the physical sales environment. Auditors record location details (which may include digital photographs and embedded video) to confirm that the sales environment mirrors corporate expectations.

These specialized audits help:

  1. Provide visual confirmation of brand presentation and representation
  2. Document that brand integrity is maintained
  3. Appropriately confirm, realign, or reconsider relationships with sales parters.

Legal Compliance Audit

Legal Compliance audits help ensure employees are observing and enforcing the laws and regulations governing your business. Auditors perform specific scenarios to test employee compliance and may take instantly alert the company of the infractions via the Instant Feedback Results feature so that immediate can taken if necessary.

These specialized audits help

  1. Ensure employees understand the importance of industry regulations and the severity of infractions
  2. Protect your company from the repercussions of negligence
  3. Maintain corporate integrity

What is a Retail Audit?

Industry Today explains it as follows. “Fundamentally, a retail audit evaluates the condition of your retail location using hard data. Vendors, employees or a third-party scrutinise your store or pop-up shop to gather information on what’s selling well and what isn’t.

Often, retailers use profits as their main method of measuring success, but when you carry out frequent store audits, you have a lot of extra analytics that provide a broader picture of what state your business is in. There are a wide range of areas an audit can focus on including, but not limited to, merchandising audits, competitor pricing audits, inventory loss audits etc.

During a retail audit, you’ll uncover insights such as:

  • Damaged products
  • Stock levels (including stock on your shelves and stock out the back)
  • Sales volume
  • An outline on what your competitors are doing
  • Calculations on visual retailing and in-store presentations
  • Position of shelves, quantity of frontings, amount of SKUs available, misplaced/incorrect shelf tags
  • An insight into your pricing scheme
  • Where the products are positioned in store

Bear in mind you’ll also have to select the kind of audit that harmonises with your requirements most.”

Keep in mind that with all of this comes the opportunity to evaluate the customer experience.

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3 Steps to Improve Customer Service

customer service

Customer Service during the pandemic was something that was not on most people’s radar. For many small businesses, hospitality especially, they did all they could just to stay afloat. As we begin to vaccinate more and more people, businesses are beginning to open up again. With this new reopening comes some challenges. Some previous employees are not returning to work. Good help is becoming harder to find for some industries. As a business owner, you may find yourself in any or all of these challenging situations.

As crazy as it may sound, I believe this is the very best time to create a way to gather customer insights and to evaluate the customer experience. One silver lining for a reset it that it allows a business reinvent themselves. No longer should you just do the status quo. Stepping up your internal measurements by starting with how your customers see you and what they feel can be improved upon.

1. Evaluate Customer Service Levels Before You Get Busy

Unless your business allows you to be present 100% of the time, you need mystery shopping. Mystery shopping measures what you train. Training employees takes a lot of time and resources. Isn’t it worth the time to evaluate its effectiveness? This allows your employees an opportunity to learn. It can do wonders to improve your business by increasing customer service.

Sending in evaluators to measure things like initial greeting, rapport building, listening skills, cross sell or up sell, follow up, etc. can be very eye opening. Most owners believe they know what is happening in their place of business. Once you mystery shop your locations, you may find an entirely different situation. One that can cost you a lot of money.

Beginning a program now is smart because it allows you to see areas that may need improvement before you are back up to 100% capacity. Fixing those areas can be well worth the investment!

2. Gain Customer Service Insights

This may be the best time to gather customer feedback on services, programs, products, etc.. that your business sells. Most people have had to change their way of life for the past year. They are working remotely, teaching their kids at home, shopping differently, etc.. In other words, your customers have changed. How have they changed and how will it impact your business? What can you do now to insure they think of you when they do start going out more regularly again?

Listening to your customers will improve your business by tapping into what is most important to them. Once you have a good understanding of what they are looking for, you can update or add items that may influence their purchases.

3. Competitive Intelligence

Researching your competition is always a good idea and now is no different. Do you have the same competitors as you did a year ago? What are they doing differently? How do their service offerings compare to yours?

What about their pricing? Have they increased or decreased? Gaining these insights now can be of great value in positioning your business down the road.

How do their service levels compare to yours? A great idea is to send your employees in to your competition and use the same evaluation form you currently use for mystery shopping. This not only shows your employees the importance of this type of measurement, they will come away with the differences between your business and the competition; good and bad.

Just taking some proactive measure now will increase sales and profitability down the road.

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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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