A client once showed me their mystery shopper questionnaire and asked me what I thought about it.  I felt that the list was pretty complete, very well organized and relevant to the everyday operations of the store.  I was in fact, quite pleased that this particular store’s younger owners were eager to upgrade their service standards given that their business has been doing quite well for decades and that the older generation has given them blessings to proceed with this effort. 

I asked this client what he wanted to explore as a result of the mystery shopper survey. Clearly, he wanted to find out about compliance to standards of their various branches as well as consistency over time.    He also wanted to bring the business to the next higher level of service given that competition is tougher nowadays. 

While they were getting above average scores, the survey showed very inconsistent results per branch.  It is not unusual to have an 86% last month, only for this to fall to 78% the following month.   Total scores were focused on rather than the many individual possible sources of fluctuation that brought about the lower score.  I asked for the most common complaint and they couldn’t share what it was because they had immediately reacted to the score below 80%.  I further asked if 80% then was their passing score and they paused to settle for an 85%.  Finally, I asked what the effect was on the employees when results are out and I was told that there are “penalties” for low scores, causing the employees sleepless nights and stress.

Establish a baseline and then a standard
I asked this client to establish an acceptable standard in their business if they wanted to pursue this mystery shopper tool for getting feedback.  For example, there are restaurants whose standard for customer satisfaction is set at a perfect 5 out of 5.  They believe that a 4 out of 5 means they are only “good enough.” Setting an acceptable 85% as a standard is then dangerous because employees will start performing to reach an 85% and not a 99%.

The baseline is important to see if the branch is progressing towards the milestones they wish to achieve so the goal of excellence is realistic for both owners and employees.  If the current reality says that a store’s performance is a low 1, and then the employees are given a metric to perform at a perfect 5, you can already imagine the resistance that will occur when there are no sufficient interventions to address the current gap.

Provide the proper training, process and reward system
The hiring and training of service personnel is paramount to the success of any service company, assuming that you already have a sound value proposition.  For people to deliver what is expected of them, they will need the capabilities to make things happen.  Many employers complain about their employees’ lack of initiative or creativity in customer-handling.  Check if you have the right people with the right training and then ensure that your reward system motivates toward desired attitudes and behaviors.  Look into your processes and find out if your internal control is more company-centric rather than client-centric as this will affect service delivery and could frustrate your employees when they are not empowered to do a good job.

The Culture – way how things are done here
Have a culture that prepares employees to go for the perfect 5 rather than settle for the 4.  While it is not always economical or possible to attain for perfection (remember the balance between revenues and cost of satisfying customers), people should always be motivated to do well because it is the right thing to do, not because they will be punished if they don’t.  You want your team to be proud of being part of an excellent service organization and empowering them to deliver this standard will translate to happier employees who will be sincere in delivering outstanding service to customers – with processes that are truly client-centric.  Studies have shown the direct correlation between satisfied employees and satisfied customers.

Finally, beyond the mystery shopper, I advised this client to go directly to the customers and non-customers and find out more about their needs, wants and expectations plus the barriers, irritants, disappointments and annoyances that will not appear in the questionnaire. 

Chiqui Escareal-Go is the CEO and Chief Service Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc.  She will be conducting the 20thDelivering Outstanding Service program on July 21-22, 2016 in Makati.  For inquiries, please email info@mansmith.netor call (02) 584-5858 or (02) 412-0034.