Workplace trust: Taking mystery out of mystery shopping – The Experts Say…

Ottawa Business Journal, January 2007. David Lipton

We don’t tell companies how to operate, we just tell them if what they want is being done. Our clients range from doctor’s offices, law offices, restaurants, hotels and - it’s a hard job but someone’s got to do it - I’ve even gone to Club Med.

People sometimes have the misconception that mystery shopping will solve their problems. You have to have the right culture in the workplace and hire the right people. You can train someone to put salt on the fries but you can’t train someone to smile.

I don’t think that mystery shopping should take the place of customer satisfaction surveys or that customer surveys should take the place of mystery shopping. If you want it done right, you have to do both because a customer might not have the same standards as the company.

Mystery shopping is all about detail and brand standards. Those standards that we’re measuring are part of the brand. For example, years ago, one of my first jobs was working at McDonalds. Back then, no matter where you went in the world, you could always rely on the food to be hot and fresh, the service to be fast and the bathrooms to be clean. In their quest for profitability those standards have fallen in recent years. There are still customer satisfaction surveys, but those don’t ensure that the brand is remaining strong.

In the U.S., there is more of a feat that mystery shopping is all about “big brother” spying on employees and managers waiting in the wings with a stick ready to whack their employees for messing up. Here in Canada, I find it tends to be more coaching and developing skills for employees and finding problem areas.

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