There are appropriate and inappropriate ways to handle a poor rating on a mystery shop report. Unfortunately, the manager of a Cape Coral, Florida post office chose an inappropriate way.
Mystery shop reports are supposed to give companies information they can use to identify where they are performing well, and where problems exist. Appropriate ways of responding to the problems identified in a mystery shop might include providing additional training to employees or changing staffing levels to avoid under- or overstaffing.
An inappropriate reaction? Presenting employees with a cake that looks like a pile of poop, in “honor” of their poopy report.
The postal service has, like many businesses, specific service standards that are measured through secret shopper visits. Even when they are busy or understaffed, postal employees are expected to meet time standards as well as ask each customer a series of (in my opinion, mostly annoying) questions.
When the Cape Coral post office scored 48 out of 100 possible points on a recent mystery shop, the manager had a cake made to commemorate the occasion. This was not a particularly attractive or appetizing cake, as it was made to look like a pile of excrement. (If you want to see the cake, you can go to this mystery shopper story.)
The reaction of the postal workers? It was as you might expect: they were angry and insulted.
What could the manager have done to handle this situation better? Well, almost anything, actually. But for starters:
One major problem was that there was a long line when the mystery shopper arrived. Could the manager take steps to reduce the wait time by changing staffing levels, or bringing other employees to the counter when there is a line? There are limits (someone may not be authorized to work a cash register, for example) but at my post office they often bring someone out to ask if anyone is there just to pick up a package, certified letter or other item that does not involve handling cash. That usually removes several people from the line, as that employee can get all of the needed items for customers.
Are employees taking longer to handle each customer because they do not have everything they need at their stations? The manager could assign someone to make sure each work station is properly stocked before the post office opens and throughout the day.
Are there employees who continually have to ask other employees for assistance because they do not know how to handle situations that come up? Make sure those employees get the training they need to do their jobs without interfering with other employees and slowing everyone down.
Many employees resent mystery shoppers because management uses the results of mystery shop reports as a club with which they beat employees over the head. Berating or insulting employees because of a poor showing on a mystery shop report is absolutely the wrong tack to take. Using the results to find a way to improve service will not only make customers happier, it can make employees happier, too. And it works better to inspire them than a poop cake.