Mystery shopping is a brilliant tool for auditing customer experience as it happens. There are over half a million mystery shopping trips carried out every year in the United Kingdom (according to the Mystery Shopping Professionals Association).

Retailers are becoming increasingly aware that shoppers who visit physical stores demand an experience they simply cannot get online, and mystery shopping can help to gain valuable insight into what is going on in your store – as well as those of your competitors.

Here are two short snapshots of customer experience selected from our recent collaboration for the Top 50 Retail Experiences 2017 with Insider Trends.

The sports shop

I begin by walking into a grand foyer. It displays lots of flashy promise. Signs, balls of all kinds and aspirational images of athletes are everywhere.

This all looks great, but where are the people to welcome me? I can’t see a single human who works here. I try upstairs. Bingo! At least I think they work here. I find it hard to tell. Those advisors I do see are chatting among themselves happily.

I finally approach a friendly-faced assistant and explain that I would like to try something on. I wave a running shoe at her smiling face. She asks me the size and promptly disappears to find my number 11s. She returns with a box shortly after and sits me down quietly. No words exchanged. Leaving me to sort out the confusion of laces, she walks away.

The shoes don’t suit me at all, but at least they are very springy. I look for my assistant. She has vanished. I do some lunges while I look about the shoe section to find her. Or anyone, actually. Finally, with no other option, I just leave the shoes on the floor and wander off to look at different section.

I feel that I have been here long enough to evaluate the customer experience.

The perfumers

Standing outside, I check my notes and prepare to walk in. Immediately as I enter, my eyes lock with those of a well-dressed gentleman. He gives me a couple of moments to orientate myself to the luxury surroundings and bottles of scents then he asks me how I am today.

I note that he asks me how I feel, not what I want.

I have been welcomed before any conversation moves towards the topic of their products. It is explained that this is a perfume store and I am taken on a journey of discovery that covers the company’s history, ethos and story while tailoring a perfume solution to my particular needs so that I also become part of that narrative.

I am asked questions like ‘Do you cook?’ and ‘What do you do in your free time?’ This all feels like less of a presentation, and more an actual conversation that wants to get to the bottom of who I am and what they can do to help me with that.

I feel educated and part of the club. I also now smell of oak and white sage.

When it finally becomes clear that I am not going to spend money today, the advisor, with a conspiratorial wink, invites me to a special sale in two weeks and insists that I keep in touch on their mailing list.

This is all done with theatrical storytelling, and I am totally hooked.

Mystery shopping can give such immediate and powerful insight that its use is superbly suited to gauging your own customer experience effectiveness and also learning brand new powerful tricks from other retailers that you can try out yourself.

Next time you walk into any retail store, use Imparta’s own measurement tools to assess the customer interactions you have. Ask yourself these following four powerful questions to see how effective the customer experience is right now.

Has customer service:

  1. Welcomed me?
  • Acknowledged me, made me feel comfortable and welcome
  • Used positive language to spark interest and create excitement
  1. Understood me?
  • Understood my communication style and adapted their style to match
  • Asked me questions to find out my needs and wants
  1. Guided me?
  • Inspired and educated me about the product
  • Understood my buying criteria and made recommendations matched to them
  1. Made it easy for me?
  • Made me feel good about my choice of product
  • Tried to gain commitment and overcome my objections

These were just two of the many customer experience journeys that our team enjoyed while mystery shopping and working with Insider Trends on the Top 50 Retail Experiences. Try it out yourself – and be sure to let us know what you think about how the industry is succeeding today.