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March 24, 2010


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You're right about this case. You're wrong in general.

Mystery shoppers are not useful at all to score employees and hand out raises, bonuses, evaluations, etc. That's a managers job.

Mystery Shoppers as part of a program to gauge overall process in a store or other purchasing environment. They are slightly less useful as a minor part of a program to evaluate employees who are doing well and belong at the company for specific areas to improve on. But in way, shape or form should the mystery shopper give a rating of the employee. They should describe their experience, list where it was good or bad, where it met their shopping expectations and where it didn't, and if management is targeting overall improvement in certain areas, the shoppers should be asked to check those areas.

They are as valuable or valueless as customer surveys. Use either with discretion and wisdom.

I should have said, "show me" I'm wrong. I get what you're telling me here, Yossi, but you haven't demonstrated the necessity of secret shoppers.

My favorite store in the world is Alcala's Western Wear Store, on Chicago Avenue.

It's a wonderful store: great service, great merchandising, great atmosphere. Luis Alcala Jr. sees to it that Luis Alcala Sr. would be proud, may he rest in piece.

If they discovered a secret shopper at Alcala's, they'd kick his ass and throw him in the back alley.

Management, drop in on your own stores. Manage your managers. Know your customers.

I ask again: Why do you need the spies?

It's necessary to avoid micromanagement. It's needed to find out how employees behave in an average transaction without management watching. Customer surveys do this to a certain degree, but customers rarely describe their entire experience. Mystery shoppers fill in the blanks left by surveys.

It's entirely possible to have a great customer experience with lousy employee experience. I wouldn't have thought that possible, but I see it too often to deny that truth. Luis Alcala (long may he live with such a beautiful name) may be a tyrannic micromanager whose employee love what they do but hate him. In such an atmosphere, an occasional employee may behave in front of the boss, but find that 1% of the time to undermine the business. A mystery shopper would not help with that at all. But if Sr. Alcala would like to end the micromanaging, he might choose to visit the store occasionally to be hands on, and rely on other methods to see if his employees live his vision.

I'm making that up, he may have other potent management tricks, just using the possibility as an example.

Yossi, Luis Alcala is not a tyrannical micromanager. Meanwhile, however, he would never trust some mystery shopper to judge the goings on in his store. Over time, he would come to trust his manager, I hope. But a mystery shopper who doesn't know the employees, the neighborhood, the daily routine, the tendencies and strengths and weaknesses of all the employees—he'd close his doors before he ever let his judgment be guided by a stranger.

I'm not saying companies who use mystery shoppers have evil intentions. They're just lazy and greedy, and have grown themselves too big to be run well. And so they become unintentionally dehumanizing.

As I said in the beginning, they're crap organizations.

Yossi's had his cuts; Yossi, take your seat. :)


Curmudgeon indeed. :-)

If your friend offers the kind of craftsmanship you say he does the real customers, not the spies, will reward him with sales and profits.

Already happening, in spades. Has been all along. The only person not pleased with my friend's results is the minderbinder.

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