Using Mystery Shopping to stay ahead in the game

Using Mystery Shopping to Keep Up with Technology

As we’ve seen over the past few weeks, in the business world, keeping up with technology can be challenging. It is also vital. There’s no escaping the future, and apparently the future is all about technology. The question now is: how can businesses stay up to date with the ever-changing landscape technology creates for the customer service experience? One suggestion? By using mystery shopping.

Between 2012 and 2015, I owned and ran a small cafe in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges in Melbourne, Australia. Quaint little town, homey little cafe. The majority of customers were members of the community. It was all about foot-traffic and locals, not so much about tourist travel or city-folk visiting the Hills. That sort of clientele was reserved for the more ‘touristy’ towns further into the mountains, like Belgrave or Kallista.

In the first year, I had a pretty good handle on our customers. We knew what they liked, what they didn’t like, and how best to deliver it to them. By the middle of year two, however, the demographic was changing, the older generation that had made up my customer-base was moving away and being replaced by young families buying their first home. I was lucky, I caught on pretty quick, but two other cafes in my street didn’t, and they were gone by 2013. Tragic, because they were great little hideaways. Our survival had been simple, and I still put it down to one thing: the introduction of free wifi.

Nowadays, it seems like such an obvious thing: don’t all cafes have wifi? But we were the first in our community. While the original demographic didn’t see the need for it, the new one did. They appreciated that we understood – and answered – their need to be connected. This was our survival tactic, a simple adaptation to the change in our customers’ technological needs.

We were lucky, having only a tiny staff and not much of a set-in-stone strategy; the cafe wasn’t a big enough business to be difficult to change. Other businesses – hospitality or otherwise! – don’t have that luxury. Staying ahead of the times, or at the very least keeping up with them, isn’t as easy for everyone as it might be for a small family-owned cafe.

Which brings me back to the question: how can businesses keep up with the constant technological development?

Customers do it. Especially the Millennial customer with his/her latest smartphone and/or tablet. For the most part, customers are keeping abreast of technological changes quite easily, but that makes sense, they’re only one person. A business can’t just upgrade its systems at the drop of a hat, that sort of stuff costs money. Any business worth its salt will likely look at these changes and go ‘fine, we respect that we need to make some changes, but we can’t change everything, what are the priorities?’. This is a practical approach to a very complicated problem.

For businesses, using mystery shopping to keep regular tabs on their customer demographics is an option to stay on top of this. Mystery shoppers are ‘real’ people, so to speak, and they can judge our customer service and experience on a variety of things, including whether or not we are meeting their technological requirements. By using mystery shopping, businesses gain insights into what the ever-changing customer demographic expects to find in terms of technological ‘upkeep’.

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