Mystery shopping: Elevating service quality and ethical standards
In the competitive business landscape, ensuring compliance with the standard operating procedures (SOP) and legal requirements is a crucial step towards providing the best customer experience. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to encounter cases of non-compliance that could tarnish a company’s reputation.
To mitigate such risks, companies must enforce strict adherence to established protocols and relevant benchmarks among all employees, particularly those directly interfacing with customers.
Mystery shopping as an early detection method
Mystery shopping serves as a powerful instrument for early detection in various aspects of business. Focusing on customer service, employee behavior, and compliance with operational standards and regulations, this method can be applied to both offline and online stores.
For offline stores, mystery shoppers—typically undercover as customers—are tasked with surveying and assessing employee performance firsthand. Elements to be considered include adherence to SOPs in serving customers, product knowledge, information accuracy, and the overall standard of work.
The online mystery shopping assessments typically encompass the website’s interface, ambiance, and navigation, along with customer service, logistics, product availability, and the overall digital experience. This provides a comprehensive insight into a company’s compliance and service quality in the online domain.
An illustrative case in mystery shopping findings involves an employee covertly pitching a product at a discounted “staff rate” sanctioned by the company. The employee acquires products at privileged prices and subsequently resells them through an e-commerce platform, undercutting the market price. Such an ethical breach, unearthed by the mystery shopper, falls under the category of non-compliance with company policy.
There are several other acts of misconduct that can be revealed through mystery shopping methods, including:
- Non-compliance with company policies. This occurs when employees fail to adhere to internal company policies or standards, breach the code of ethics, or disregard ethical guidelines set by the company.
- Inadequate customer service. Common signs include rude or disrespectful behavior towards customers, delayed delivery of goods (especially in online stores), or slow handling of complaints.
- Discriminatory practices. This involves unfair treatment of customers based on factors such as race, gender, or other discriminatory criteria.
- Privacy violations. Mystery shoppers assess the company’s commitment to customer privacy, especially in the management of customer data.
Benefits of effective mystery shopping
It is highly recommended for companies to collaborate with expert and reputable third parties such as Integrity Asia when conducting mystery shopping. The following are compelling reasons supporting this suggestion:
- Data integrity and objectivity. This is the most important aspect of a mystery shopping program. As the name implies, it is conducted covertly by a mystery shopper. Maintaining the “mystery” aspect is crucial for its success, ensuring those being assessed—sales employees, store managers, and retail staff remain unaware.
- Independence. Mystery shoppers should have no affiliations with the company under evaluation. While internal staff can conduct surveys, the data obtained may lack objectivity.
- Professionalism. Ideally, a mystery shopping program is carried out by trained individuals capable of conducting thorough investigations.
Proficiency in photography and videography is essential for capturing evidence of non-compliance findings. Integrity Asia’s mystery shoppers possess these highly trained skills, enabling comprehensive inspections and assessments of various aspects.
Mystery shoppers are also tasked with analyzing field findings, ensuring accurate and detailed report analysis.
When executed proficiently, mystery shopping allows companies to evaluate customer service comprehensively, the overall customer experience, and adherence to established ethical standards.
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