For years Mystery shopping has been a tool used by companies to take a snapshot of the service their staff were delivering to their customers. Often targeted around specific sales campaigns, products or services, it has helped businesses measure their staffs’ knowledge levels, skills and ultimately provide a temperature gauge of the level of customer service being delivered at that moment in time.

The original mystery shopping surveys gave the shoppers a set of bespoke questions which had very clear and targeted outcomes for the company commissioning the mystery shop. For the data that was to be gathered to be accurate, it required the businesses to provide shoppers with very specific questions and clear guidance on conducting the survey and recording the answers.

This method was particularly effective at targeting specific product sales and service processes, however, perhaps what wasn’t captured so effectively was the nuances of the actual interaction. For face to face situations, the ‘fly on the wall’ scenario, where businesses could see and hear more than just the schematics of the interaction, but could gauge for themselves, against their own brand measurement and standards, how these processes had been delivered from a customer service position, was not truly evident from the objective questionnaires alone.

I have been on both the receiving end of mystery shoppers, having managed a number of Bank branches, as well as being involved in the design of mystery shopper surveys and the subsequent interpretation of the data whilst working for The Head of Customer Service. I know the sense of anticipation that both those who are due to be mystery shopped and those who are waiting on the results of the mystery shop feel. Very often staff in my branches would run through to see me, certain that their customer had been the mystery shopper and berating themselves for what they now wished they’d done differently. If only we could have captured their encounter on video and watched it back. That’s why the introduction of video mystery shopping is such a great leap forward.

Video Mystery Shopping is the latest and most powerful way of experiencing the reality of the service being delivered to customers. It provides an accurate account of the interaction between staff and customers and is a performance evaluation method that enables businesses to examine results from a customers’ perspective.

One of the best outcomes of video mystery shopping is it captures both the really great things that customer service staff are doing, as well as those things that can be done better. However, as with any assessment method, the only thing that matters is how that information is used and the action that is taken on the back of it to make a positive difference.

So let’s hope that those businesses using this latest technology are using it wisely and doing what we all are passionate about and that’s making ever increasing improvements to the service that their customers receive.

Michelle Head shotMichelle Holmes is a Director of New Chapter Learning Ltd, a Customer Experience and Training consultancy based in the UK. Having spent 26 years in banking she decided to use her expertise in Training and Customer Service to set up her own training consultancy in 2012.

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