If the shopping is done online, the billing method and shipping address should all be in the name of the unknown shopper. In order to provide insights that can help you improve your operation, the secret shopper interaction needs to be meaningful. Having your shopping spy whisk into your store, grab the first item they see, pay cash, and then slide out the door is very unlikely to surface much feedback. Instead, ask your shopper to go into the store and browse a while.
That way they can see how long it takes for someone to ask if they need help. At some point, have them ask for advice under the ruse of buying a gift and not knowing the right size or style. Even a small interaction can help you better understand the experience of real customers. If your store is online, the interaction could be via chat or a question emailed to your team. Encourage your secret shopper to pay attention to the entire experience and then share those details in their report to you. When my wife was doing this for a living, she would first meet with store and regional managers to create a list of questions and things to watch for, and she would often work for hours compiling notes and creating a report.
If you're leveraging friends or colleagues, you'll need to keep it a bit lighter. Still, be sure they note whether the store was busy, how long it took for them to be helped and whether it felt too long , the condition of the store, the demeanor of employees, the names of staff they spoke with, and other details. If you're unsure of what to focus on, read the reviews past customers have left on review sites and see if there are any running themes. Secret shopping should not be a "gotcha" that turns into negative discussions with staff.
Doing that will destroy team morale.
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Instead, try to distill the feedback into a few positive steps that you can take to improve your business. Some may be training related to provide more product knowledge or improve communication skills. Others could suggest changes in how you merchandise or package your products. Whatever it is, try to involve the team in finding solutions and you may find that secret shopping becomes a secret weapon for making your store a customer favorite. The opinions expressed here by Inc. Jeff Arnold.
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