Monday, January 10, 2011

My own Secret Shopper Affair - do you want to join in the consumer fun?

As you'll have noticed if you come here often, I don't. Not any more... I have lost by social networking mojo a bit, and was looking for a way to get it back. Then, this morning, halfway through the most pleasant eye test of my life (!), it came to me. I wanted to put my secret shopping experience into practice.

My Dutch cover - spookily, the spy's eyes are exactly the same colour as mine!

Most of my paid secret shopping has involved assignments where I have to go into a store, ask specific questions, note the performance of the staff member involved, and then write it all up at home.

There are a couple of problems with this: a) it involves adopting a role, which feels strange and awkward and can lead to b) the person offering a service realising that you're either a bit deranged or a mystery shopper, and changing their behaviour to reflect that. Obviously there are reasons why stores want standardised tests: but it doesn't represent the day-to-day experiences we all have as consumers. It's a snapshot, based on an atypical encounter.

I've noticed that few other stores have attempted to overcome this: Superdrug give you a receipt with an offer of a discount next time if you give feedback on your purchase, while the Co-op near me has a touch-screen where you can rate your shop as you go along.

That's quite odd, as you feel distracted by the messages, and it's also rather uncomfortable to be giving feedback 'secretly' while actually facing the check out assistant. Superdrug's system is also flawed - how many of us will make a routine of logging on when we get home to judge how well the member of staff packed our mascara, or if they offered us stamps? Though I have to say, I've noticed that in both chains, the staff seem friendlier than average, so maybe it is working for them.

Then, this morning, I had a really terrific experience when I went to the optician. No, they didn't miraculously sort out my short-sight, but every member of staff was friendly, helpful, efficient and went out of their way to help and explain things.

I did thank them at the time, but it made me want to say it in public - and then I thought it might be fun to get into the habit of giving feedback on every transaction, via Twitter and Facebook. I might also collate them on the blog.

Now, it's true I have a habit of coming up with ideas and then giving up (see last year's Photo of the Day. Or rather, don't, as they stopped mid-March).

But this could prove cathartic and enjoyable - so why don't you join me, then post with the tag #secretshopper on Facebook or Twitter (I am KateWritesBooks on Twitter) and let's tell the retailers what's working - and what's not..

Secret Shopper Kate xx

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