inventoryHow to set up a low cost Mystery Shopper program that any savvy manager could create.  First, you cannot alert your staff to the mystery shopper program.  Putting them on notice will have them ratchet up to “best behavior” levels.  Second, select people who your staff will not recognize.  Then:

    1)   Identify your main competitors. Be honest and include the tough ones as well as the easy ones.

    2)   Ask for volunteers in your personal network to complete a mystery shopping survey in return for something of value. The best is to reimburse them for up to $20 of whatever they purchase at their assigned store.

    3)   Provide your mystery shoppers with specific questions to answer. (see sidebar.) And a mandatory deadline for completing their store shops – 2 weeks at most.

    4)   Assign a specific store (including your own) to each shopper. Do not tell them which other people nor which other stores are included in the study.  Each store should be visited by at least 3 shoppers at different times of the week/day.

    5)   Give each shopper the same task so that each store is tested in the same manner. (ex: ask for assistance in finding the best solution for setting up a network printer to connect 4 devices, the best printing options for a home office under $175, etc.)

    6)   Compile the answers and evaluate them analytically (in a spreadsheet or with a numeric measure that can be constant across all questions such as 1=never, 2= sometimes, 3= usually, 4=always.) Look for patterns.

    7)   Share your findings with your staff and discuss specific ways to address each issue.  Set targets and measure against the new targets every day. For example, you can institute a new policy that all customers must be greeted within 20 feet of the door.  Change how you evaluate your people and reward them to ensure compliance with new targets.  Find people who are meeting the new targets and make them heroes.

    If your business does pass the customer mystery shop experience with flying colors, it is time to do a similar survey evaluating assortment (count number of choices by SKU, brand and price points.) Evaluate promotions by comparing at least 6 months of advertised promotions to promotions in your stores during the same time. Evaluate prices by comparing prices on several dozen key SKU’s across competitive stores each week.

    If you make an effort to remove your blinders and see your stores in the same framework as your customers do, you can ascertain how you truly stack up – and determine what to change to stay ahead of the competition.