Asking The Right Questions

Mystery shops are a great way to measure if a company’s procedures and protocols are being followed by a company’s associates.  Are the floors clean? Are you greeting each customer within 10 seconds of entering the store?  How long is the average wait for service?  All of these are important quantitative metrics that provide insight into the specifics of a store’s operations and compliance (or lack of).  More importantly, how do these policies impact the customer?  Do they really care if the entire product is fronted perfectly, and if so, how greatly does this impact a customer’s perception of his/her experience?  In order to gain these insights, you must also ask subjective questions in your mystery shops.  

Simple ratings questions are one the most effective methods for capturing qualitative information.   Asking shoppers questions such as rating the friendliness of the associates with whom they interacted; rating the knowledge of the car salesman; and/or what the likelihood is that they would recommend a location to a friend based on the visit are all great questions to ask in a mystery shop.  The averages of these ratings can then been filtered against certain key behaviors or procedures to gauge their relative importance to the overall shopping experience.  Take the following as an example:

When asked to rate their likelihood to recommend a large convenience store chain to their family and friends on a scale of 0-10, our mystery shoppers gave an average rating of 8.9 in 2010 (a really excellent average).  When the shelves were not fronted, this rating dropped to an 8.12.  When the restrooms weren’t clean, the average rating was a 7.93.  When the shoppers were neither greeted nor thanked during their visit, the likelihood to recommend rating dropped to an average of 6.6.  Armed with this information, our client was then able to implement initiatives and contests that focused on fostering interactions with the customers (without diminishing the importance of keeping the stores clean and in good order), since this behavior was shown to have the greatest impact on the customer experience.

If the goal of any mystery shopping program is to create actionable data which improves performance—and ultimately brings an increase in sales and profit—you must ask the right questions to achieve that end.  Utilizing both qualitative and quantitative data, and, thereby, analyzing these two types of information in tandem, is an important method for maximizing the effectiveness of a mystery shop data, thus gaining the best tactical insights; however, to get useful answers, you need to ask useful questions.  Are you asking the right questions?