Mystery Shopping

I just completed a large mystery shopping project for a client of mine, sending a number of shoppers (in couples) to check out the overall experience. Primarily I want to know how the winery treats their guests. In short, what kind of Experience (with a capital E) the guests have.

I am realizing more and more that getting the right kind of shoppers for the different wineries that are being shopped is critical. If, as a winery, or any retail outlet, you are going to employ a company or individuals to mystery shop your business understand who you should be hiring.  Here are a couple of suggestions:

Connection cancels out objectivity:  Don’t hire people you know, as these people will not want to tell you any bad news and will therefore minimize it.

That is also true of people who have a connection to your winery (wine club members or regular customers). They are already connected with your winery and therefore (even though they may not realize if) have a difficult time being objective. As they are good customers, they are usually treated well, in many cases better than strangers who walk in the door.

Do not use people who work in your industry. These shoppers, many times, are overly critical. They may try to catch employees out by asking esoteric or convoluted questions. You want to hire people who are interested in what is done correctly as well as what is done wrong. They may also evaluate the Experience they expect to have, rather than the Experience they actually have.

Mystery shopping is very important to your business. You want to get good information from your shoppers, so screen them well and make sure they are clear on what is expected of them.

A tip of the glass from me to you!


One comment on “Mystery Shopping

  1. I agree and disagree with you at the same time. Taking on the role of a Secret Shopper is not what everyone understands it to be. There are many benefits and ways of going about the task and each can produce its own level of value.

    In my experience, the best results of such evaluations have come from having an honest, detail-oriented person who has a plan, goals, and effective communication skills. The shopping reviews most often include recommendations for improvements so knowledge of the industry can be a key driver to turn the reviews into actionable items that improve the brand, experience, marketing, products and ultimately sales.

    Benefits of A Customer’s Point of View: I often find that businesses don’t trust that a Secret Shopper review would truly drive any more benefit than they gain from their friends’ feedback and through their own experienced eyes. I understand that opinion and believe that feedback from every source has value. All too often feedback is sought from happy clients and those with which we are friendly. This sort of feedback usually does not provide the information that we need to improve.

    I have been a “secret shopper” for wineries, restaurants, hospitality, retail, and several other industries and have been hired for solo reviews where recommendations for improvements were made and sales increased. I have also been hired to provide quarterly reviews as well as more detailed reviews where I have multiple shoppers provide reviews. All of which can drive benefits.

    A visitor’s or customer’s point of view in respect to how they were treated and what their true experience was has never left any of my clients without suggestions as to how they can improve. Some of the findings have been quite eye-opening. Elizabeth, I am confident that you have found the same. When you and I have talked about our secret shopping projects we have both been stunned at finding “successful” wineries with people wanting to buy wine but instead ended up walking out the doors without making a purchase! We also know the damage of a bad experience is viral as those unhappy visitors will tell other potential customers not to bother to visit.

    Secret Shopper projects come in all sizes and wineries can choose that which best fits their needs.
    For wineries who still question the benefits of a Secret Shopper program I suggest they begin with a starter review from a Secret Shopping professional who enters your business with a fresh point of view and who can see your business in the eyes of your customers. Let’s hope that the results are not as dramatic as those seen on the television programs of Bar & Restaurant Rescue however I am confident that with a professional secret shopper benefits can be found.

    In the Niagara Region of Canada they were supporting the Customer Experience of every winery by having quarterly visits from a secret shopper who checked to make sure the standards for the region were being met. This was a single woman who would wear disguises so as not to be recognized. For their goals, this proved to be effective.

    To me it is not as important if the person hired to perform the secret shopping is a friend or within the industry. It is more important that the person who is being hired is educated in “secret shopping”. As an example, you and I both have been in the wine industry for years and I think both of us can provide excellent Secret Shopping reviews and recommendations that can benefit a winery, wine store, tour, restaurant, hotel, hospitality, etc. There are others out there as well. Some better than others.

    Wineries can benefit from understanding how the secret shopper will experience their business, the type of information that is being sought, how the results will be presented and if recommendations are included in the project. A written contract will help to the winery identify what exactly they are getting in the deal.

    Best regards,
    Theresa Dorr 925-447-CLUB(2582)

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