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January 2000

Managing: Mystery Shoppers

Take the Mystery Out of Mystery Shopping

Even smaller retailers can take advantage of this information-gathering resource

Big companies hire mystery shoppers to provide an objective snapshot of what happens in their stores on a daily basis. While district, regional and corporate executives visit regularly, a mystery shopper adds the dimension of anonymity, "catching people in the act of being themselves," as TV host Allen Funt used to say.

When mystery shoppers enter stores, the purpose is not strictly to identify negatives; they also look for the good things that happen. Most often, they're commissioned to check:

  • Implementation of policies.
  • Product knowledge.
  • Window or showcase presentation.
  • Housekeeping standards.
  • Human resources guidelines.

The resulting reports are analyzed and acted on. The results often affect managers' appraisals and bonuses, so it's clearly significant in the ongoing operation of larger retail chains. But what about "Mom & Pop's Diamond Shop"? How can a smaller operation afford to commission mystery shoppers to provide an outsider's unbiased view of their business?

As in so many other ways, Mom and Pop can compete with the big boys by following their lead, with a few minor adjustments. Instead of contracting with a major mystery shopping company – usually a relatively expensive process – find a few people unknown to your staff. Neighbors, sports buddies and church members all qualify. Perhaps most effective are business or acting students from the local college. Anyone recruited is usually flattered and looks forward to the experience. Once you find someone, here's a simple four-step process to help analyze your strengths and opportunities.

1. Prepare the Shopper

Review your goals with your "snoop." Remind the person to dress casually, act naturally and be observant but not obvious. Develop a "story" the shopper can tell about who he or she is buying for, including the relationship, appearance, occupation, taste and interests, as well as the occasion, gift category and perhaps a price range. Have a questionnaire prepared for the shopper to complete immediately after his or her visit (see examples on the next two pages).

2. Carry Out the Exercise

Have your shopper go to the store at an appropriate (non-busy) time. He or she may or may not buy something –  that's up to you –  but should act like a regular customer. Most clients are not "the customer from hell" and neither should your mystery shopper be.
As soon as the shopper leaves the store, he or she should find a bench or coffee shop and sit down to complete the questionnaire.

3. Debrief the Shopper

Meet with your shopper as soon as possible to review the questionnaire. Keep an open mind and don't be defensive about any negative information; any opportunities he or she might identify are just those – opportunities –  and that's the purpose of the exercise. Next move onto Step 4, the most
important one.

4. Act on the Opportunities

Use the information to improve your business. Call a staff meeting and share the input from the mystery shopper. Create a game plan to reinforce the positives and correct the issues that provide opportunities for improvement. Once you've implemented the changes, invite a new shopper in and start the process again.

by Christine Anzell & Jack Levenson

To order Anzell & Levenson's copyright jewelry-specific client record-keeping book or sales-training manual, see their ad in Professional Jeweler's Marketplace (p. 166) or call (800) 887-8902.

Mystery Shop Report, Part 1
 Date:___________________  Day:___________________  Time____________________
# of Associates on Floor:____________________________  # of Customers in Store:____
Associate's Name:___________________________________________________________
1. General Store Appearance: Rate following areas from 1 (Excellent) to 5 (Unacceptable)
Cleanliness ________________________
Adequate Lighting ________________________
Aroma ________________________
Comfortable Shopping Environment ________________________
 2. What were sales associates doing when you entered the store? ________________________
3. How long did you wait for an sales associate to greet you? ________minutes.
4. How long did it take your sales associate to begin serving you? ________minutes.
5. What was noticeable about the greeting (good or bad)? ________________________
6. Was your sales associate dressed appropriately? YES          NO

5. What was noticeable about the greeting (good or bad)?


6. Was your sales associate dressed appropriately? YES          NO
7. Was your sales associate groomed properly? YES          NO
8. Did your sales associate do the following:  
Smile? YES          NO
Introduce himself/herself? YES          NO
Exhibit positive body language? YES          NO
Make eye contact? YES          NO
Make you feel comfortable? YES          NO
9. Did your sales associate ask good open-ended, probing questions? YES          NO
10. Did your sales associate listen carefully to your answers? YES          NO
11. Did your associate quickly bring out an appropriate piece? YES          NO
Mystery Shop Report, Part 2
Customize this section for the item being shopped. In this example, the customer wants a diamond pendant.
12. Why is this diamond more expensive than that one?  

Sales Associate's Answer: _________________________________________________________


13. How can I be sure this diamond is worth the price?  

Sales Associate's Answer: _________________________________________________________


14. Where all your questions answered directly and accurately?
YES          NO Comment:____________________________________________
15. What selling tools did the sales associate use?
Microscope: YES/NO DPS Pyramid: YES/NO GIA Chart: YES/NO
16. What tools were used to present the merchandise?  
Polishing Cloth: YES/NO Loupe: YES/NO Tray or Counter Pad: YES/NO
17. Regarding the technical part of the presentation:  
Too elementary ________ Too complicated ________ Satisfactory ________
18. As opposed to a strictly technical presentation, was romance used to sell the item? YES          NO
19. When you delivered a "buying signal" ("I love it," "Do you take Visa?"), did the sales associate immediately ask for the sale? YES          NO
20. When you raised an objection ("I have to think about it," "It's more than I wanted to spend"), how did the sales associate respond?  

Sales Associate's Answer: _________________________________________________________


21. Did your sales associate request information (address, phone number, dates of occasions) for his/her client records?  YES          NO
22. If you were genuinely interested in making a purchase, would you have bought this item from this sales associate in this store? YES          NO

If not, why not?_________________________________________________________________


23. Rate the overall shopping experience from 1 (Excellent) to 5 (Poor):  _________________________

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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