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Plant a Shopper, Watch Your Business Grow


This was a tag line we’ve used to roll out our Plant a Shopper program, which we started a few years back. This is a great program to use in banks, park districts, fitness centers, and similar industries.


At its most basic level, you can “plant” a shopper into your customer base where they remain for a period of time. During this time, they will act as a normal customer and evaluate various touchpoints of your business. At the end of the period of time, they will provide a more thorough, overall summary of their experience.


Let’s look at a couple of examples to see how this plays out:


* Banking: we would start with a non-customer who will visit a branch to say they’d like information on opening a checking account. This first visit evaluates the experience as a potential customer and how smoothly the account opening process goes. They will keep the account open for a period of time during which they will make transactions both inside the branch and at the drive thru, and perhaps call the customer service line to resolve issues. They may even track if promotional calls or emails are utilized and how this is perceived as a customer. Finally, at the end of their timeframe, they will talk with a Personal Banker and explain that they’d like to close the account to see how it is handled. Does the baker attempt to ‘save’ the account or simply start the closing process?


* Park Districts: many park districts would like to evaluate their instructions or guest presenters at various events. However, sending in a shopper once or even twice during a class schedule may not be enough to get a true picture. Shoppers will start by registering for the class or program to see how it is handled, actually take the class, and at the end provide a full summary regarding their experience.


* Fitness centers: some facilities have a reputation for providing misleading information when customers join, and others are known for making it all but impossible to cancel your membership. Find out exactly what your company is saying and doing to gain new customers and retain them. Shoppers can go in as a potential customer to get information, then not make a committment at that point, but do so if follow up is done. From there, they can be members for a short period of time, and, like a bank evaluation, go into the facility to say they would like to end their membership to see how it is handled.


This is a great program to use when you’d like to see the full lifecycle of a customer. It can give you insight into areas that may need improvement, and may even help tweak your traditional mystery shopping programming, as you could find that what you’re measuring may be fine, but there are areas you haven’t considered in the past that are “falling through the cracks” and need to be addressed.


At any rate, mystery shopping has evolved into a flexible method of covertly evaluating businesses through the eyes of a customer. Utilizing a Plant a Shopper evaluation is just another way to view your service levels.