A mystery shopping project needs to be designed very well. Therefore Nimax has broken down the mystery shopping process into nine steps.
1. Review of service and sales standards
Mystery shopping tells managers how well their staff is meeting the company’s standards of knowledge, professionalism, courtesy, efficiency, etc. This is only useful when standards are appropriate and meaningful to real customers. Nevertheless companies often set standards without consulting customers about what is important to them. Therefore, the mystery shopping process usually begins with a review of standards. This means Nimax interviews customers by means of focus groups or surveys, include customers in the design process, or consult service experts who have conducted their own customer research.
2. Project definition
Nimax and its client need to be consistent in their understanding of the project objectives and the work necessary to accomplish these objectives. The goals are made transparent and form the input for the checklist that will be used to measure the customer experience. Some important questions that need to be answered in order to define the project are:
- What does the company want to achieve with the audit?
- Why does the company want the results?
- By when does the company need the report?
- What should be the benefit of the research?
- What is the current business situation?
- How many locations need to be visited?
- How many visits are desired per location?
- What type of visits will be used?
- What is the frequency of the visits?
- What needs to be measured and in what detail?
- Do the current performance standards still reflect the service factors that drive customer satisfaction?
- What will be the desired profile of the unknown customers?
- Does competition need to be visited to establish benchmarks?
- Who will receive the results?
- Which results will they receive?
- How will the results be used?
- What will the reports look like?
- In what format should the data be delivered?
- Is there a link between results and the employees remuneration scheme?
- What is the budget for the project?
3. Design of the evaluation tool
Unknown customers complete an evaluation after each mystery shopping contact. The evaluation tool, or questionnaire, can be simple or sophisticated, depending upon the objectives of the program. It will usually include objective observations about such things as efficiency, courtesy, needs assessment, problem resolution and other important service behaviours and skills. In addition, the questionnaire may include more subjective comments which provide context and depth. They help bringing the customer experience to life and are ultimately more meaningful than mere objective observations. Usually, the questionnaire is made up of several parts, each one relating to a particular stage in the process of serving the customer. Questions or parts of the questionnaire can be assigned weights to value their importance. Nimax always develops a research tool adapted to the client’s needs and objectives.
4. Recruitment of unknown customers
When recruiting unknown customers, it is important to make sure that they match the demographics of the company’s customers. In addition, they may need to have specific technical or industry knowledge. Therefore, they are carefully screened to ensure that they are appropriate for the project. The unknown customers are independent, critical, objective, anonymous and credible. Once recruited, they are thoroughly prepared and organised. The unknown customers are able to act naturally and do not draw attention to themselves, even when the scenario does not go precisely as planned. They are trained to fully understand and comprehend all topics and subjects covered in the questionnaire. Furthermore, they are able to write in clear, complete sentences that fairly describe their observations. They are also able to assess their own work to make sure that there are no inconsistencies in their answers and comments. The unknown customers receive a training package that provides everything they need to know about the project. They are also provided with different scenarios. Nimax always works with local people and local companies to ensure that local demands and needs are fully understood. For this reason Nimax has established a network of partners throughout Europe.
5. Field research
During the field research, every unknown customer completes the questionnaire. The first round of mystery shopping will be conducted before employees are introduced to the program. This will produce “blind” results that will reflect pre-program service levels. The data of this first round can be used as a baseline for future comparison. These baseline results are simply a starting point from which to measure change.
6. Information analysis
Nimax enters the collected data into a matrix which is tailored to the client’s needs and objectives. The matrix is used to work with the data, perform thorough analysis and prepare the report.
Reporting is determined by the objectives of the project and the client’s information needs. In general, we provide a combination of subjective and objective information. At the end of each report recommendations are made for future improvement. The location management receives feedback on the results of the mystery shopping as soon as possible after the audit.
8. Goal setting
The baseline results will reveal areas of service that need improvement. Based upon these data, Nimax will set specific, achievable goals in cooperation with our client. Goals can be set at any managerial level, and can be tied to rewards and bonuses. It is remarkable how quickly basic service levels can be improved through measurement and goal setting.
9. Repetition of study
In general, Nimax repeats a mystery shopping project to measure change and to test goals.