Media Releases

1 February 2003

Good service pays - no mystery about it!

Jonathan Winchester of Shopper Anonymous (left) presents Dewson's Customer Service Store of the Year Award to James Kelly, owner of Dewsons Nedlands branch.


By Paula Towers, Retail World

Most retail managers agree that good customer service should be a business priority, but motivating staff to perform is another matter entirely.

And it's all very well ensuring that front line staff are properly trained when they start out but how do you ensure their eagerness to please customers is sustained, month after month?

Mystery shopping is the answer according to Jonathan Winchester, managing director of Shoppers Anonymous. In mystery shopping, service consultants visit businesses and record their experiences from the customer's point of view. Visits are made at a frequency determined by shop managers, and the level of feedback provided can be highly detailed with names named, behaviour noted, and constructive recommendations provided.

"Shop managers are surprised to learn that 67 per cent of customers stop going to a particular shop because of a poor service experience."

Simply knowing that mystery shoppers, indistinguishable from other shoppers, will be visiting, has a marked effect on staff attitudes and behaviour. Vince Belladonna of Dewsons supermarkets is a keen advocate of mystery shopping. "We use our reports to motivate and encourage staff to continually deliver excellent customer service," he says.

Pierre Sequiera, manager of Supa Valu in Como, Perth, agrees: "Every business should do it! The Shopper Anonymous reports help us to see our business through another experienced set of eyes. A really excellent management tool."

Shopper Anonymous, which deploys mystery shoppers to more than 340 supermarkets throughout Australia and New Zealand every month, was set up by Jonathan Winchester who himself was trained at the world's most famous 'corner shop' - Harrods, in London. Arriving in Australia seven years ago, he discovered a gap in the mystery shopping market.

"Shop managers realise they lose business because of poor quality customer service, but many are surprised to learn that 67 per cent of customers who stop going to a particular shop do so because of a poor service experience. This is why it's vital to receive regular, in-depth feedback that can be used to coach staff. Your staff are your business," said Mr Winchester.

The benefits of mystery shopping include:

  • Finding out what customers really think.
  • Identifying strengths and weaknesses in customer service.
  • Motivating staff to deliver outstanding service.
  • Identifying individual training needs.
  • Receiving an expert's perspective of business service levels.

The main objective of these is to increase profitability - an objective shared by Drake Supermarkets, South Australia's largest independent supermarket group.

"When staff treat every customer as a mystery shopper, you turbo-charge service. For independents, even more so than the major chains, that's critical."

As Roger Drake observes, "When staff begin to treat every customer as though they are a mystery shopper, you really turbo-charge service delivery. For independents, even more so than the major chains, that's critical in maintaining our edge."


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