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  • Writer's pictureService Performance Group

Command Your Brand

Somewhere, right now, your customers and employees are telling your story

By now most know about the runaway success of the burger franchise Five Guys.

What's one of the big reasons Five Guys is wildly successful? They send mystery shoppers out twice a week to all locations. The brothers who run the operation also constantly visit the restaurants.

Five Guys knows you need to inspect what you expect. Exacting standards every day ensure the right employees do the right things.

Training new retail employees to 100% competency and then making them work for managers who don't run the shifts up to that specific high standard is the same as spinning your company’s wheels and lowering the brand perception in customers’ eyes. That means it destroys profits. There’s only one way to avoid that: an ongoing program of secret shops.

A top 5 comment retailers will say is, “I just need more customers.”

Actually, you need them to return and spread the good word about your company. You can’t attract your whole neighborhood to try you, then deliver lousy results and expect just getting “more bodies in the door” will work. You can burn through a neighborhood with bad word-of-mouth and, without having random shoppers checking on it for you, you may never know how to improve it let alone know about it. Five Guys franchise with over 1000 locations see’s the value in over 50,000 shops in a year. Shouldn't you?

Oh right, the money.

You might not blink at spending $1,000 per month in advertising, but balk at spending a fraction of that on measuring customers’ experience in your store. That’s short-term thinking. The profit comes from the people wanting to return over time, not the discount promotions you run to entice new shoppers this month.

And don’t mystery shop as merely a way to spy on employees for compliance. That’s what they’ll think if you don’t present it correctly. If you want to fire someone, you don't need a shopping report to prove it.

Here's the thing, if you aren’t servicing your customers the way they believe you should, you open the door to a competing retailer eager to take your business. And one shop every quarter or six months is so random that it reveals little. Why? Because a mystery shop is just a moment in time. You aren't that good if you get 100% and you aren't that bad if you get a 50%. But over time patterns emerge that make managing your customer experience much clearer.

Ten Benefits of Mystery Shopping:

  • Monitored and measured service performance

  • Improves customer retention

  • Makes employees aware of what is important in serving customers

  • Monitors facility conditions

  • Ensures product/service delivery quality.

  • Supports promotional programs

  • Allows for competitive analyses between locations or the competition

  • Identifies training needs and sales opportunities for individuals and chain-wide performance

  • Ensures positive customer relationships on the front line.

  • Enforces employee integrity and knowledge.

Not all mystery shopping companies are the same. Far from it!

A client of Service Performance Group said she’d tried secret shoppers but it “didn’t work.” When I looked at her survey it came screaming off the page why it wasn’t successful because every question was subjective. “Did you feel valued as a guest,” “Did they attempt to meet your needs,” “Did you feel welcomed?”

Your shop questions need to be objective in addition to subjective. The employee either did or didn’t say, “Good morning, good afternoon or good evening.” They either described a product using features with benefits or it didn't. In addition, you need a narrative so compelling you can “see” the transaction in your store. A child can complete a scorecard, but quality narrative is what mortar is to brick; it binds the entire report together.

The final three questions I always ask at the end of the survey are the most important section. One of mine is, "Would you be willing to drive past a competitor to return to this location based on the service you received today?"

Service Performance Group works with clients to get their shopper surveys tailored and actionable. One client with 14 locations is now tops in her franchise; another's average check continues to rise. Is it a mystery? Nope, a mystery shop.

Yes, you can try to save money by putting those surveys on your receipts and training your cashiers to "circle the web address and tell them what the prize is" but that's not a true judge of the experience. Those who had a rotten experience will be looking for some compensation and many will quickly checkoff whatever radio buttons they need to qualify their entry for the prize.

Oh, and one more thing…When you use a secret shopping company and receive a report, don't just print it out and stick it on the employee bulletin board. Good or bad it should be reviewed with a supervisor in private with who was written about in the report.

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