Do you ever wonder about how clients decide on the questions that appear on mystery shop reports? In theory, mystery shopping measures what is most important to the business. However, if care is not taken in the design of the shop report, the information the client gets (and the message they send to employees about what matters) will be way off base.
A few years ago, Office Depot hired a new CEO. He immediately noticed that sales were declining although scores on mystery shop reports were incredibly high. What is wrong with this picture? It turns out that the mystery shopping program was measuring the wrong things. According to CEO Kevin Peters, “Our mystery-shopping scores were correct, but our scoring system was not. We were asking the wrong questions.” The report was full of questions about whether the floors and restrooms were clean, and if the shelves were fully stocked. They were doing great at those things, but no one was taking care of the customers.
The CEO visited 70 stores in more than 15 states to see firsthand what needed to be done. He didn’t tell anyone he was coming and, with one exception, he didn’t let the stores know he had been there.
The CEO/mystery shopper was shocked by many of the things he saw and what he heard from customers. “In one store,” he said, “I watched an employee argue with a customer about whether or not we carried a calculator that her son needed for first grade. An employee arguing with a customer—it was unbelievable.” As a result of what he learned from these store visits, they made several changes:
Office Depot streamlined the stocking process, so that employees spent less time putting merchandise on shelves and more time serving customers.
They modified the sales process from a five-step process to a three-step process called ARC, for “Ask, recommend, and close”—and trained employees to implement it.
According to Peters, “Our research indicated that in certain departments—such as furniture—sales go up by more than 100% when associates with really good product knowledge are assigned to those zones. So in addition to sales training, we invested in product training.”
Another metric that spells success or failure for the office supply giant is how many people leave the store without buying anything. Although you go to some stores to browse, people usually go to an office supply store with a specific need in mind. If they leave empty-handed, the store failed to offer what they needed. Making even a small reduction in the number of people leaving without shopping bags could have a big impact on the bottom line.
By identifying what they need to do to be more profitable, Office Depot identified what they need to measure. Instead of making sure the shelves are full and the bathrooms are clean, they need to make sure employees are available and engaging with customers, that employees know the merchandise and that they are properly implementing the sales process.
Most of the time, the questions on a mystery shop report are there for a reason. However, if the client has not figured out what they really need to measure, the information they get may be useless or even counter-productive.