It’s All in the Questions

While I was out of town on business the other week, I went to dinner at a popular brewhouse chain.

I walked into the restaurant around 5:00. The friendly hostess seated me quickly, and the server came right over to take my order.

We chatted about the basketball game on TV, joked about the weather, and I gave my order.

When the food came, I initially was given the wrong meal. I corrected the server, he apologized, and brought the meal to the correct table. My meal arrived soon after; I ate, paid the check, and left.

Why Guest Satisfaction Surveys Don’t Tell the Whole Story

If I were to take a fairly typical survey about my experience that night, it would look generally positive:

Was my server friendly? Yes.
On a scale from 1-10, how was the taste of my food? 9.
Would I recommend this location to a friend?
Do I have any comments about my experience to share with a manager?

They would never have known about the mix-up with the meal.

More importantly, they would never have known that he didn’t offer me any appetizers, desserts, or one of their signature craft beers on tap – a missed sales opportunity that a typical customer would not be likely to notice or care about.

Asking your customers about their experience is important, but it rarely tells the full story.

Why Mystery Shopping Surveys Don’t Tell the Whole Story

Mystery shoppers are primed to be watchful when they go into your business. They are provided with a survey that reflects your operational requirements, and instructed on how best to collect the data which holds your team accountable.

A mystery shopping survey would almost certainly note the absence of suggestive selling opportunities like the ones mentioned above. They would note the mix-up with the salad and how long it took for the correct order to arrive.

Mystery shopping surveys are not intended to collect subjective data about the shopper’s experience. They should not be considered statistically or demographically representative of your customers.

A mystery shop is a snapshot in time, documenting employee behavior and brand standards. It is best used as a way to benchmark performance in your operations so you can tailor your training programs and allocate scarce resources to priority areas.

Customer Satisfaction Survey or Mystery Shopping Program?

Both customer satisfaction surveys and mystery shopping programs have their place in a service-oriented business. Each can provide valuable insights for your operations.

Sometimes businesses are tempted to try to “streamline” data-gathering efforts by including customer satisfaction questions in mystery shopping surveys and vice versa. However, by doing so, you reduce the integrity of the data you gather and ultimately do yourself a disservice.

Guest satisfaction surveys should be about statistics. You need to focus on gathering data from the right population type and size. You’ll think about demographics and targeting, and work to gather enough information to identify trends with confidence. The results are intended to show you whether, on average, your guests are having a good experience.

Mystery shopping should be about making the experience better. As I mentioned before, mystery shops are a snapshot in time – and usually a fairly representative snapshot. They help you determine whether your training is working, and whether team members are improving your customers’ experience by offering recommendations.

How Customer Satisfaction Surveys and Mystery Shopping Surveys Help You

Customer satisfaction surveys and mystery shopping programs work together in business scenarios to help you succeed. Here’s a typical example:

  1. A restaurant hires and trains new team members.
  2. After training is complete, the restaurant hires a firm to measure and monitor team members’ adherence to the training, using mystery shopping techniques.
  3. The mystery shop results indicate the employee’s level of compliance with their training over a period of several months.
  4. Once the employee or employees reach 90% compliant or higher, the restaurant conducts a series of guest satisfaction surveys to find out whether the guest is having the experience the corporation is looking for them to have.  If the results from the customer satisfaction survey show positive feedback, the restaurant is okay to reduce the frequency of surveys, conducting them on a biannual basis; when a major change takes place in training; or when changes take place at the corporate level.On the other hand, if the customer satisfaction surveys are not showing the feedback that the corporation is looking for, they must go to back to training, make adjustments, mystery shop until employees hit 90% compliant, and then survey the customers again.
  5. Once the restaurant is achieving the customer experience that they are looking for, continue to conduct trainings and provide incentives programs such as Starbucks gift cards for employees hitting 90% or more. Elaborate team bonus programs can be exciting, but keep in mind that employees crave recognition for a job well done even more than money.

Smart restaurants take the time to look at customers’ needs through one lens and operational activity through another. A typical guest will not see the same things as a mystery shopper, and your mystery shoppers won’t have the same requirements as your guests. When you look at them as two distinct groups, you allow yourself the perspective to identify the trends that really matter to your business success.

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