India has courageously passed through four lockdowns and businesses that were hitherto shut due to the scourge of the pandemic are now gradually recommencing operations. The government of India has instructed all industries to open with the utmost caution and adherence to the health compliances established by the WHO and the global medical fraternity. As businesses seek to resume affairs with paramount diligence and risk-mitigation in a post-pandemic age, how can the retailing and manufacturing sector ensure that store owners and retail vendors are abiding by all the health and safety mandates laid down by the authorities? The answer to this complex question is simple one – ‘mystery shopping.’
So what exactly is mystery shopping?
Companies usually, in a tremendously fast-paced business order, lack the luxury and time to personally monitor and micro-manage their brand and product legacies and how they are retailed by sellers from the countless shops, outlets, and branches that house their products. In crucial times as now, when the national economy is just trying to get back onto its feet, it is imperative that business owners get an inside scoop into the thick of things. They need to be certain whether store owners and wholesalers are complying with all the compulsory countermeasures and policies laid down by the government for business conduct, and that’s where mystery shopping comes into the picture.
Mystery shopping otherwise also known as secret shopping is a mode of collecting key intelligence regarding the nature and quality of vending that is practiced by retail owners who sell products of particular companies to the masses. Now, if the said company wants to gauge the service quality or the retailers compliance with regulation, or to collect specific information regarding their products and services, this slightly unconventional method proves quite functional. Any trained member from the company’s staff or people hired from any of these specialized service providers can pose as routine customers and walk into any of the company’s retail outlets to witness first-hand the shopkeeper’s behavior and his overall quality of proprietorship.
This technique is employed extrinsically by a gamut of market research firms, supervisory organizations and watchdog bodies, or even domestically by companies which are eager to attain clarity involving the end to end market journey of a company’s product. From the minute it reaches the retailers vault until the point it is procured by a customer, mystery shoppers can easily fathom the various positives and down points involving the various purveying practices and shopkeeper tactics. It is a manner of surveillance employed by companies to understand the various bottlenecks in the system or the proverbial chinks in the armor.
Mystery shopping is becoming a popular and widely embraced form of collecting pertinent data and market intelligence by business leaders which helps them gather real-time insight concerning the customer service representatives’ compliance with industry-specific norms and parameters. It serves as a highly interactive and experiential method for assessing the value eminence provided by the company agents to its customers. By closely supervising agents for anomalies in observance to the company’s business conventions, it gives them the leverage needed to engage in the necessary risk alleviation. If a company can successfully mitigate the numerous perils to business optimization it helps them steer clear of considerable penalties and a harmful public image.
The process of mystery shopping programs revolves around tailored scenarios that aid mystery shoppers test an agent’s actual worth in concurrent circumstances and arrive at conditions that will generate the most beneficial impact. It proffers organizations the power to determine the future course of action by scrutinizing a pre-constructed situation to provide a knowledgeable point of view to the leadership. Mystery shopping allows the retail owners and company agents to manage their various blemishes and plus-points founded on direct and workable responses.
Mystery shopper programs are all the more relevant in present conditions. As India looks to rise from the depths of an economic freeze owing to the lockdown, companies need to inquire into the actual state of the business that is administered on the ground i.e., an internal glimpse into the proceedings that are dealt in their retail outlets or stores by the brand’s designated sellers. It is of the utmost essence to ascertain whether shopkeepers are under the various health compliances and safety measures authorized by the government on account of the pandemic. The failure on part of the agents/ purveyors in practicing the compulsory protocols, such as negligence in observing the laws of social/ physical distancing or interacting with customers without adorning the necessary PPE and other countermeasures can have disastrous consequences.
Mystery shopping programs allow organizations to step inside the shoes of their customers and directly learn about the various shortcomings in their product vending processes and thus rectifying them, in a post-pandemic scenario, it can become an invaluable tool for measuring the various operational hiccups and detriments that not only impede business streamlining but also compromise the safety of the customers. Even, it can also help check various compliances, at times even the ambiance of the outlet to ensure if the same is as per company guidelines. In normal times it is to check the price undercutting, however in new normal, it’s about short supplies and black-marketing of products.