Business & Finance

By Carolyn Blackman

TORONTO - Call them mystery shoppers or corporate spies, but whatever you call them, Sensors Quality Management Inc. (SQM) is there to tell you how your business is being run when you are not around.

Owned by partners David Lipton and Craig Henry, SQM was formed just over a year ago to independently evaluate businesses. Although it specializes in the hospitality field, its services are available to all industries world-wide.

Lipton says he realized the service was needed when he began to get "a bit disenchanted with seeing Canadian businesses not doing as well as American businesses. The main difference is that American businesses spend more time, effort and money on training and monitoring their employees. A lot of U.S. companies are using quality control work."

SQM evaluates a business from the customer's perspective based on the company's own standards and criteria. "If a hotel's phone is to be answered in three rings, we'll check out the situation." Lipton said.

He said SQM is often called upon to check out a company's competition. "It is generally acknowledged in business that most companies like to see what their competition is doing. We can do their work for them and they can save their manpower for something else.

Lipton was recently a mystery shopper at several restaurants "and I was both disappointed and pleasantly surprised." At one restaurant, "things were not running smoothly," but another was doing fine.

Not that the well-run restaurant has no further need of SQM, Lipton said. "They can use this information to reinforce their philosophy and service standards. They can give one person a pat on the back and help others strive for better work. The best quality service program is ongoing."

Lipton said SQM can tell managers whether staff is knowledgeable about products and services, if employees are professional and courteous, if service meets expectations and if the staff is pro-active or reactive.

He stressed however, that SQM is not a consulting company. "Our representatives do not advise or counsel our clients on how their operation should be run. Rather, we observe and report, based on our client's criteria."

Lipton said that although clients use SQM for a variety of reasons, his company provides three major benefits. "First, clients obtain detailed feedback on how their business is performing in relationship to its own specific standards. Second, the information obtained during the study of operation can be used to isolate areas which may require attention or chantge. Finally, both strengths and weaknesses of people in the organization are identified. This can assist companies in determining areas of further employee development."

He said quality products and quality service begin with quality thinking "and it is about time that Canadian companies pulled up their socks and began thinking quality and service."

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