Get in a circle of store owners and say the words “Mystery Shopper” and watch the eyes begin to roll. We all hate them or, if that’s too strong a word, think quite low of them.
The problem? Mystery shoppers tend to only take a snapshot of a single moment in your store with no regards to what is going on around them. They evaluate your entire operation based on one interaction, one done-under-false-pretenses-just-to-see-how-you-react interaction at the most inopportune time with the least talented member of your team.
The biggest problem with the Mystery Shopper concept is that most business owners are quick to dismiss the findings as being only a snapshot in time and not a true reflection of your business.
Then again, a new customer walking through your doors will only get a snapshot of a single moment in your store with no regards to what is going on around them. The only difference is that this customer won’t offer you any feedback to help you improve.
You need a fresh set of eyes. You need someone else to help you see the flaws that have blended into the landscape. You need someone to:
- Look at the appearance of the store from the front. Is it clean? Is it inviting?
- Walk through the door and give you an honest first impression. Does it smell funny? Is it inviting?
- Look at the little details like signage and order and cleanliness and lighting and decor. Does the store look or feel worn and dated? Does the store feel dark and dirty or bright and happy? Do the signs even apply anymore? Does the merchandising draw you in?
- Get a first impression of the staff. Are they welcoming or huddled for safety and comfort?
A fresh set of eyes can identify the subtle turn-offs you stopped seeing years ago. A fresh set of eyes can show you what you look like at your worst, which is far more important than what you look like at your best.
Before listing my house I had a few fresh sets of eyes look it over. We found a door that needed painting. We found a roof area that needed cleaning. We found some rooms that needed re-decorating. We found an outlet cover that was broken. We found paint peeling on the outdoor furniture. We found a mess of cobwebs in the light at the end of the driveway. We found bushes and tree branches and vines that needed trimming. We found a tree that needed to be cut down. We found thirty two cans of paint that needed to be removed.
Individually those are all minor in the grand scheme of life. Collectively, however, they create a perception different from the one I want the people looking at my house to feel. It took more than one fresh set of eyes to find it all.
Get a few friends, preferably ones who do not regularly shop in your store (I know you have them—we all have them). Give them a list of things you want them to notice (the above list is a good start). Then invite them all over to your house for pizza and beer and sharing. You’ll be amazed at what they see, and if you’re honest enough to listen to them without getting defensive, you’ll make sure the “worst” experience anyone has in your store is better than the best at your competitors.
PS Don’t think you aren’t blind to seeing things right under your nose. We all are. When I closed Toy House, we found almost $10,000 worth of “missing” merchandise that had been written out of stock over the years. Most of it was in places we looked almost every day. We found signs that should have been taken down years ago. Get some fresh eyes in your store now before the holiday rush starts creeping up on you. That’s worth a few pizzas and beer, right?