Monday, August 25, 2014

Mystery shoppers

     Not selling anything--just free daily tips, information and advice to help you run your small business, all from personal experience starting-up, operating and expanding businesses over a lifetime.

     Your business can benefit from doing a little test. Have a friend call your business and report back to you. Or have them make an appointment, or come into your shop and see how they're treated by your employee.

     Businesses big and small use mystery shoppers to check up on the operation. How was the phone answered? Was the employee knowledgeable? Was the experience helpful to the caller/customer/client?

     By doing this little check-up, you can improve your relationship with customers and the general public. The feedback can be eye-opening. 

     I am not suggesting that you go out and hire a professional mystery shopper. A trusted acquaintance can get results that will be useful to your business.

     Example: Marisa runs a hair salon. She decided to check up on her receptionist--how the employee made appointments, suggested salon services and products, and generally handled customer concerns and questions. Marisa asked three friends to call. Two reported back that the receptionist promptly answered the phone, cheerfully took their information, fielded many questions and was knowledgeable about services. The third friend reported that the receptionist curtly said that she was very busy and couldn't take the time to go into detail on products for sale. With these mixed reports, Marisa looked at the receptionist's work schedule and knowledge of products sold off the shelf. She made one change--pass all calls about products to Marisa herself who was familiar with product details. This helped the operation run more smoothly and contributed to the bottom line.

     A professional mystery shopping business can charge big bucks for their services. But small businesses can get good results using friends and acquaintances to do an informal job.

     Example: Joe owns and manages a small restaurant, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He is on site for dinner, but not for breakfast and lunch. He made arrangements for several friends to report back to him after having breakfast or lunch. Everyone who reported back on lunch gave good results, but just about everyone who ate breakfast had nothing good to say about their food experience--the omelet was runny, the sausages were cold, and the bacon was burned. Joe replaced the morning cook. When he checked again, everything had improved.

     Sometimes, a little mystery shopping can ferret out an under performing employee. Other times, it can confirm that you have a smoothly running operation.  

     Example: Eugene is a busy chiropractor. He has an older lady who handles the reception desk and other duties. He asked several friends to call and report back to him their experience. They were instructed to ask about shoulder/leg/back pains and how these might be addressed by chiropractic, together with questions about charges, evening appointments, and more. All reported back positive results. Eugene took his receptionist out to dinner and gave her a raise. 

     Checking up on your operation can help you run a better business. When problems are uncovered, solve them immediately. Later, check again.

     You can "mystery shop" your operation easily and inexpensively. I've hired mystery shoppers in the past, and I've done mystery shopping myself--what you look for is an honest opinion from a disinterested shopper or caller. Their report can improve your operation in ways you might not be seeing yourself.    


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