Jim Coyle, president of Coyle Hospitality Group, recently took the time to answer some questions about mystery shopping for Coyle Hospitality. Founded in 1996, Coyle Hospitality Group provides mystery shopping and market research services exclusively for the global hospitality industry, including hotels, restaurants, spas, cruises and venues worldwide.
Describe the ideal shopper.
Because we serve upscale and luxury clients, Coyle Hospitality Group’s mystery shoppers must have experience as consumers in the categories that they cover. Coyle clients are already clean, well-run, and successful. Shoppers have to bring relevant and useful market perspective to truly identify variances between what the client promises and what they deliver in the value proposition. After that, excellent observation and reporting skills are most essential. Finally, secret shoppers have to be resourceful and wholly dedicated to the client. This means they arrive at the client location fully prepared and ready.
Does your company recognize MSPA certification? What advantage does a Silver shopper have over non-certified? Gold over Silver? Do you recognize any other certifications?
Coyle considers every aspect of a potential secret shopper, and, certainly, certifications demonstrate that these shoppers have invested in themselves.
What types of shops does your company do? What types of reports are used?
Coyle Hospitality conducts mystery shopping evaluations exclusively for hospitality companies, including restaurants, bars, hotels, spas, cruise lines and sporting venues. Coyle’s shopper reports include standards checklists and detailed narratives.
What is the best way for a new shopper to get in the door and get a first assignment?
Start by filling out a survey at Coyle’s website: http://www.coylehospitality.com/evaluators/user-agreement/. Our screening process for mystery shopping providers is rigorous and competitive. Some of the things that immediately disqualify a potential shopper are poor grammar and incomplete answers. Once accepted, secret shoppers are offered several hundred evaluations per month that they can do from their home, so there is always an opportunity to get started.
How can shoppers qualify for your best shop assignments, such as luxury hotels and cruises?
Luxury hotels and cruises are extremely competitive. The best way to get these evaluations is to build up a portfolio of work in all of our categories. Each completed assignment is scored; mystery shoppers with consistently high scores differentiate themselves.
How long after a shop are your shoppers typically paid? Do you use/require PayPal?
Coyle Hospitality pays its secret shoppers on the 15th of each month for the previous month, exclusively through Paypal.
What is your biggest problem/pet peeve with shoppers?
The client being shopped is always the most important part of the equation. Secret shoppers must always act on the behalf, and to the benefit of, the client. Some secret shoppers forget this or put other needs before that principle. The biggest let-downs are shoppers that do not completely prepare for the assignments and/or do not meet the submission deadlines, or they submit very general observations. This indicates pretty clearly that something else besides the client was a priority.
What do you see as the future direction of mystery shopping?
Social Media is the newest ‘big thing’ in market research, and Mystery Shopping as a discipline has to find its way into this realm. Some aspects of social media are very complementary, others oppose the value of what mystery shopping does to complete the customer satisfaction measurement model. Mystery shopping is also in its infancy in many industries, so customer needs will continue to be a moving target.
What do you want shoppers to know–what will make them more valuable to your company?
The most valuable evaluators are the ones who are always ‘on’ during the evaluation and the report clearly conveys that. Noticing something that wasn’t on the checklist or uncovering and then detailing a nuance in a staff member’s behavior that will help them (and their colleagues) achieve greatness are the things clients love. At the upscale and luxury level, it is all about achieving perfection, not just being good enough. Mystery shoppers that can get into and quantify the things that separate the good from the great is a HUGE value.
Anything else you want to add? Advice? Funny shopper stories?
Surf the web! The easiest way to start the customer experience is view the clients’ websites. Check out the online menu, read the chef’s bio, try to reserve a room online, look at the pictures, read the travel blogs. By doing so, the mystery shopper is acclimating themselves to the role that they will soon play, and they will have a good reference point for what the client is hoping to deliver. Some of the most useful observations to the client are simple observations like this: “The website said the pool was open until 10, but it actually closed at 9.”
If you would like to be a mystery shopper for Coyle Hospitality Group, go to http://www.coylehospitality.com/evaluators/user-agreement/.