The Benefits of Mystery Shopping
Many managers usually ask us, “Why do we need mystery shopping?” or “How will mystery shopping benefit our hotel?” We are here today to answer these questions for you and more. Let’s start with the most basic, but very important question of, “What is Mystery Shopping?” To TrueGuest, mystery shopping is a training and observation tool for managers. With shoppers acting as normal customers writing detailed reports about the service they experienced, managers are able to get a rare glimpse of the service from a guest’s perspective. Mystery shopping provides a great look at the service a hotel provides that you, as a manager cannot personally see. By using these reports, a service improvement training program can be implemented with the proper accountability. How often do you train and train on service standards only to get poor “official” scores on guest service? How do you know where to begin to find out what went wrong? Mystery shopping reports provide that accountability tool for managers. They can find out exactly what is or is not happening that creates poor service.
There are many hotels that tell us, “We are doing well in our guest service scores, so we do not need any mystery shopping!” To those hotels, we say, “Congratulations!” But think of it this way; who fills out those comment cards that you regularly base your success on? The guests that take the time to fill out the comment cards are almost always either the guests that had a wonderful visit or the guests that had a completely terrible visit. This probably accounts for only 1% of your total guests. What you are essentially saying is that you do not care about how any of the guests in between feel; a good 99% of them. You are risking the loyalty of the guests that you provided below-average service to, who did not feel like filling out your comment cards. How would your corporate office respond to that? Comment cards are a crapshoot; you hope that you get “good” guests this month and that they give favorable scores. Why not turn that crapshoot into a sure thing? Mystery shopping provides an unbiased, objective look at your service at any given time. Managers are then able to focus on keeping service consistently high by pinpointing and correcting any service deficiencies instead of waiting for a guest to comment on them. Unfortunately, they probably will have chosen another hotel by then.
Another benefit of Mystery Shopping (especially outlet shopping) is that it continues to keep your employees honest. With the internal control observations in every report, you can strengthen any vulnerabilities and weed out dishonest employees. Just knowing that any guest can be a potential mystery shopper will lower the chance that employees will steal. A rather fortunate side effect of this is that it will probably raise your revenues as theft goes down. Even if you turn down the idea of mystery shopping, please do not be naive enough to say what some managers have said to us, “We have tight internal controls and we know that we have no theft.” Some of us have learned the hard way.
One last thing that we hear quite often is the ever-popular, “It is not in our budget” or “We cannot afford it right now.” We know all too well the pressures of saving money and cutting costs to have a better bottom line. Unfortunately, the short-sightedness of this tactic is what really bothers us. The proper way to cut costs is to achieve efficiency, but it seems that most hotels cross the line of efficiency into effectiveness. We assume that your hotel’s mission is to improve guest service, increase customer loyalty, and thereby increasing revenues. With the significant service improvements and revenue increases that your company can achieve by properly utilizing mystery shopping, it should be a necessity to your hotel rather than a luxury.