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What happens when a customer crosses the threshold of your store? What does she or he see, observe, hear, touch, smell, taste?
Let us try to imagine that this customer is a professional knowing every detail of the standard of service and of other standards of the organisation. Let us imagine that we can have a collection of snapshots of that customer‘s experience and flip through them to see the reality again through the eyes of the standard customer. The strengths, the areas to be improved, the best practices and the dysfunctional behaviours.
Percentages, indicators, qualitative comments, objective accounts of the experiences in the store. This is Mystery Shopping.
Mystery Shopping is an activity monitoring the quality of the service at the exact moment in which it is delivered. An effective tool for evaluating the quality of the service provided to the customer in an analytical and professional manner. In this method, the mystery client, the user of the service is the focus.
The Mystery Client is not an explicit control, but a method that aims to identify the type of perception of a normal "client". It therefore implies the necessary condition of "relating" to an interlocutor unaware of being monitored in that precise moment. An activity in which people are evaluated while carrying out their work requires of the Mystery Auditors substantial skills, ethics and professionalism. The Mystery Client is a professional trained to observe, detect specific parameters of procedures and relational styles coded in the procedures or Organization‘s service models.
Throughout the Mystery Auditing process, from planning to reporting and returning the results, we refer to the UNI 11312-1:2017 italian standard, which was written with the aim to thoroughly describe the process of designing and implementing the mystery audit and define the requirements for the mystery auditor‘s professional profile.
Depending on the objectives and the field of application of the research, a Mystery Auditor/ Mystery Shopper can be asked to simulate:
In summary, a Mystery Audit project can represent:
A Mystery Shopping, Mystery Client, Mystery Guest project can provide useful information to respond to the organization‘s objectives at all levels: Top Management, Human Resources, Training, Marketing, Sales Departments. This is why we plan the research together with the client and all internal stakeholders, starting with a clear definition of the objectives.
The goals of a Mystery Shopping, Mystery Client, Mystery Guest project include:
Mystery Shopping provides an accurate analysis of what happens in the network composing the monitored organisation, and particularly of what happens when the company meets the customer through the staff. It describes what a potential customer of the organization uses, observes, hears, smells, tastes, touches and lives, that specific customer being someone trained, having a specific profile and skills, aware of the standards of the organization that is being monitored.
The actual use of data deriving from the activity of a mystery research explains how necessary specific theoretical training and field experience of the involved Mystery Auditors are.
In addition to methodological training, we work to strengthen the specific skills of the Mystery Auditor such as objectivity, observation, memorisation, acting and simulation techniques to reduce subjective interference in data acquisition and reporting.
In Italy we are part of a UNI working group (GL37) which has published the UNI 11312-1:2017 standard to which our company refers for the design, planning and management of the Mystery audit. This approach allows us to methodically design and coordinate the process of mystery shopping research: attention to the details, continuous controls, efficient management of timing and resources, implementation of improvement actions on the activity in progress and customisation of the research contents. Every time a Mystery Shopper delivers a report we checked it, verify it together and complete it based on feedback. The overall data are subject to consistency and completeness checks.
The results‘ presentations are customised according to the interlocutors, the objectives and the uses agreed on in the design phase. The analyses are carried out by point of sale/ single operating unit or in data aggregate mode (groupings by area, zone, floor, etc.). It is possible to design data rankings for variables of interest, trends that visually emphasise trends over time, or performance indicators that group numbers in a weighted way.
Furthermore, the graphical representations of the data are combined with management summaries that summarise the emerged results with an analysis able to allow useful reflections to define improvement actions. The reporting of qualitative comments is provided with analysis of the detected behavioural dynamics and consistently with the emerged results: they recount the experience to allow to analyse the numerical data as well as the human behaviour behind the number.
* Mystery Shopping activities such as internal monitoring of the organisation, whether direct or in franchising, must be communicated to the monitored personnel, must not have punitive purposes, cannot require the identification of the personnel with whom the individual Mystery Auditor has interacted and no specific indications are provided to facilitate identification for organizational matters. Mystery Shopping activities for benchmarking purposes must comply with the ethical principles established by UNI 11312-1:2017 that is not to interfere with the activity of the competitor during the monitoring and must guarantee the strictest confidentiality in the use of the collected data.