|The mystery shopping industry has sometimes been surrounded by skepticism as its findings represent only a single guest experience at “a moment in time.” What the hotel industry should not be skeptical of is the importance of third-party observation in understanding service delivery at a random point in time. But it is important to keep in mind that the findings from mystery shopping would be far more useful if combined with a guest survey feedback solution.
Random sampling is useful in any quality control environment—even if the sample is a one or two day stay which comprises many customer and guest interactions. The key to usefulness is how a property applies the information and expends energies to improve the business operations. This is where a guest feedback solution can be most helpful.
TAKING INFORMATION AND IMPLEMENTING REAL IMPROVEMENTS
No matter how much effort goes into refining the process of mystery shopping, no program will be deemed successful unless that data is used effectively. Mystery shop results have sometimes been negated by misapplication and infrequency of use, or the evaluation of standards may no longer be relevant to the operation. And for a mystery shop to be useful, it must be based on evaluating operating standards specific to the brand.
One of the key challenges is frequency of measurement. There are some that believe that once a year is sufficient if an organization is watching the results of its customer feedback system. The problem with this is that mystery shopping is more strategic in nature and guest feedback is more tactical in nature.
Therefore, quarterly shops are ideal and provide more value because the hotel can easily track improvement in guest scores month by month after the shop results are taken into account and operations are corrected. There should be a direct relationship between mystery shop results and guest satisfaction scores—if the property is properly positioned. The results and scores should go hand in hand, providing the tools to measurably drive guest loyalty while keeping the information in front of the team at all times. The combination of more frequent mystery shops and a scientifically designed guest survey system delivers numerous benefits.
Turning now to the strategic vs. tactical issues, it is useful to recognize that mystery shops are designed to measure attainment of predetermined standards, while guest feedback measures perception of those standards and their impact on the overall guest experience. A key is whether the service delivery process and product quality is in compliance with the standards. Therefore when one looks at the results of a mystery shop, it cannot be in a vacuum. Attainment of standards does not guarantee satisfied guests. Conversely, missing standards does not necessarily lead to unhappy guests.
When one combines the results of the shop and guest perceptions, the property and, at a higher level, the organization responsible for the brand and positioning of the asset now have a much more defined road map as to what needs to be done to continue to drive revenue and improve asset value.
By increasing frequency of shops (more data points) coupled with satisfaction data, hoteliers can understand guests better, see the service experience through their eyes, and know whether standards are in sync with guest perceptions by connecting satisfaction scores and research from impartial observations. This multi-dimensional approach allows hotels to improve operations and profit margins by using the gathered data and then converting it into actionable intelligence. Adding employee attitude and engagement data to this mix will further improve action planning for optimal results.
CALL TO ACTION
Assessing mystery shopping results in the context of guest satisfaction allows the tracking of data over time, creating a picture of positioning and perceptions, while eliminating any concerns about the utilization of the shopping data collected and the perceived limitation in the scope of the evaluation.
Managers should be able to quickly look through the shopping data provided by integrating guest feedback with evaluations and compare properties to see who is really performing well and who is not, and then determine appropriate courses of action. It can be a real awakening for someone who simply assumes that they are providing excellent service levels.
Today’s sophisticated evaluation technologies have put the mystery evaluation or shop into a new light. Many organizations in the service industry understand that it is time to upgrade their mystery shopping program to one that is multi-dimensional and provides greater value.
Mark Heymann is the President and CEO of UniFocus, a global provider of labor management solutions and employee scheduling software systems.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012 by BestMark
I really agree with the fact of the matter of using more than just one random instance of service. Combining mystery shop data with the relative guest feedback and previous and future mystery shops then the customer experience would have more relative data to make corrections to your process. http://www.BestMark.com