Starting a mystery shopping program without following the right steps is like baking a cake without a recipe. Sure, sometimes it will turn out fine, but often you just throw it out or feed it to the dog.
If you're planning a mystery shopping program or have one underway, you will find this checklist will keep you focused and on the right track. We have compiled the following steps after doing tens of thousands of mystery shops.
“Pick a provider based on more than just price.”
Step 1: Determine WHY you want/need a customer service program.
Develop an action plan that clearly details your reason for wanting the program and any goals you hop to achieve.
Step 2: Pick a company contact.
Decide who in your organization will commit the time and resources necessary to ensure the success of your program.
Step 3: Research the various options available to achieve your goals.
Depending on your goals, it may be appropriate to use one or a combination of a variety of evaluation tools available: mystery shopping, on-site inspections, online surveys, phone shops, website analysis, internal operations audits, etc.
Step 4: Determine your budget and frequency of evaluations.
Often companies will start with more frequent evaluations early on to get a good baseline and properly condition employees on all aspects of the program then will drop back and use the tool for ongoing maintenance.
Step 5: Decide what you will do with the results.
It doesn't matter whether you use the reports for coaching, training, corrective action, or as a performance evaluation component. The important thing is to do something with the results! Consider a rewards and recognition program, and if you do, be sure to decide what the reward will be, how it will be awarded, who will quality, and what is necessary to get the award (hitting a certain score, most improvement, 100%, etc.).
Step 6: Pick a provider.
Base your decision on their own customer service, their flexibility, integrity, communication, and your overall comfort with them. There is more to a provider than just price.
Step 7: Communicate with your provider.
For your program to be effective, it is important to discuss with your provider your company, your policies and procedures, why you need a customer service program, and what you hope to get out of the program.
Step 8: Work closely with your provider.
The most effective program will be one where you work with the provider to develop a program customized to your specific needs. Your provider is the expert, but your active participation in the process is important.
Step 9: Do a couple of tests prior to starting a full program.
Test evaluations, whether a couple of evaluations on one location or one evaluation on a couple of locations, will allow you to revise the scenarios, instructions, or questions if they are not working.
Step 10 (optional): Conduct your first round "blind".
When you conduct initial shops without anyone knowing they are being evaluated, it allows you to establish a true baseline of where you are starting.
Step 11: Plan how to roll out the program in a fun, positive fashion.
The fact is that mystery shopping is not generally well-received by most employees and management. They don't like being "spied" on, and they certainly don't like being graded on their performance. Try to put a positive spin on it and approach it from a, "it's a good thing for everybody" stand-point.
Step 12: Communicate with everyone involved.
It is important to ensure everyone is aware of the program, its purpose, how it will work, what will be done with the results (disciplinary action, rewards, percentage of performance evaluations), your expectations of your team, and your goals with the program.
Step 13: Provide contact information to everyone involved.
People need to know who in your company they can go to with questions, comments or concerns about the program.
Step 14: Post a copy of the checklist.
It is helpful for everyone to know on what criteria they are being evaluated.
Step 15: Have your management team given access to any online reporting available.
While individual reports are informative in and of themselves, one of the benefits to your managers of an ongoing program is the ability to watch trends, take action, and see the results of their coaching and training initiatives.
Step 16: Review the results with the team members involved as quickly as possible.
You want to review the report with the people identified in it while their recollection is still clear. When conveying results, make sure they understand why they lost points; what they need to do to avoid losing points in the future; why it is important they do something; how it impacts the company, the customers, and their fellow employees if they do not; and the consequences for failure to improve their performance. Reference training materials if necessary.
Step 17: Do not just focus on the negative results.
Celebrate the achievements of anyone who does well, and recognize and appreciate what was done correctly even when the result are poor.
Step 18: Listen to the employees' questions and concerns about the evaluation.
Learn to distinguish between reaching for points and legitimate discrepancies. When necessary, contact your provider to obtain information or clarification from the evaluator. Your provider should be willing to revise, re-score, and re-send the report if there were errors made.
Step 19: Post the results.
You can keep names and specifics anonymous, but it is a good idea for everyone to know they were evaluated, what the score was, and what they need to do to improve on the results. Take the report(s) to your next team meeting and encourage an open dialogue about the results.
Step 20: Work in conjunction with your training department.
Ensure anyone responsible for training has access to the information and tie the results in with your training program.
Step 21: Contact your provider with questions or concerns about the program.
If you are not getting the information you hoped or are finding issues with your reports, contact your service provider immediately. They will work with you to modify the program and keep things on the right track. Just as you want your customers to give you an opportunity to make things right if they have issues, your mystery shopping provider wants every opportunity to work with you to keep you happy.