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Blog : Revolutionising customer service using the mystery shop


Revolutionising customer service using the mystery shop

Sometimes there are programmes you watch or articles you read and you find yourself saying to those around you ‘Of course! Why has no-one ever done anything about this before?’

A recent example of this was the ‘Big Fish Fight’ on Channel 4. A selection of the UK’s top chefs joined forces in a campaign which attempts to over-rule the law where fishermen are not allowed to land any over-quota fish. If they accidentally catch them, which they can’t help but do, then they must throw them back into the sea before they reach the dock. This means that almost half of the fish caught in the North Sea are thrown back overboard dead. I’ve found myself telling everyone about this campaign and I’m shocked that it’s only now people are speaking out about this.

I’m also surprised that it has taken two primetime television shows to get people talking about, and attempting to overhaul, customer service in the UK. Both Michel Roux Jnr and Mary Portas have recently had series looking at service in their respective industries: hospitality and retail.

I’ve found the ‘Mary Portas: Secret Shopper’ series fascinating. Just in case you haven't seen it, London’s leading retail marketing consultant, Mary Portas, is taking a stand against bad service on the high street. By being typically British and polite, Mary believes we are choosing to ignore bad service and are letting stores ‘get away’ with long queues at the cash desk, shop employees ignoring us, using jargon to confuse us, and sales people approaching us with the hard sell and not helping but merely overloading us with things to buy. As a country, she wants us to come together and demand better service from our stores before spending our hard earned cash in them.

In order to help us do so, she has placed a simple survey on her website where you can vote on how good the customer service was in a recent trip to a high street shop. Here you can also view the scores and comments people have given some of the top brands and there are some surprising entries. At the top of the table you’ll find Waterstone’s where the price per item is much smaller than in many retail stores. Bottom of the list was Fitness First, a company that on average takes more than £700 from each of its clients every year.

The television programmes concept is based around mystery shopping. At the start of every programme, we see Mary going ‘undercover’ in her target store – the ones with the worst customer service track record. Using this tactic she experiences the service culture through the customer’s eyes. She obtains detailed insight, along with taped footage, about the service offered in the stores which she then presents to the business owner and convinces them to change.

In my view, the best episode was when she concentrated on the mobile phone company, Fonehouse. After going undercover, Mary found that the ‘top’ sales people didn’t actually listen to the customer’s needs or wants. In one incidence, one salesman was using the hard sell to persuade his customer to take a landline package deal with their purchase even though the customer had clearly stated they “never used their landline”.

Because of this episode, it was really clear to see that the key to being a good sales person in any industry is the skill of asking the right questions and listening intently to the response of the customer, your customer. By getting this right, and satisfying their individual needs, they will be completely happy with their purchase thereby trusting your organisation and brand, returning for the same service regularly and, most importantly, recommending you as a great place to go for your products and service.

Whether your company is within retail or any customer/sales based industry there is something to learn from the ‘Secret Shopper’. Have you ever mystery shopped your own organisation? If not, why not look into doing this as it is a fantastic way to find out how your company is portrayed and how good your customer service actually is. It also helps you test the questioning and listening skills of your sales and customer facing people, making sure they have the ability to truly uncover the customer’s needs.

And if you need a helping hand, why not give us a shout. Our Training Director Mary-Jane Flanagan and her team are customer service experts and they can help support you with your mystery shopping and people development needs.

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