Retail 101: An Introduction to Mystery Shopping, Customer Intercepts, and Customer Satisfaction

An introduction to Mystery Shopping, Customer Intercepts, and CSAT

Searching for the perfect way to evaluate your retail stores?

With companies putting a renewed focus on their customer service and experience strategies, and so many measurement options out there to choose from, how are you supposed to know which ones you should start with?

It’s an important question, and the answer isn’t so simple.

To figure out the right approach, it’s critical to ask some key questions:

  • What are my measurement options? 
  • How do those options differ?
  • What kind of insights will each one give me?
  • When should I use one over another?

Alright, that’s a lot of questions. Let’s get right into it and figure this out.

The three major methods used in customer experience evaluation

To keep this as simple as possible, we’ll narrow our comparisons down to three of the most popular and effective measurement methods out there:

Mystery Shopping, Customer Intercepts, and Customer Satisfaction surveys.

Mystery Shopping 

Mystery shopping is a tried-and-true customer experience evaluation tool companies have been using for decades.

It works like this:

Depending on which parts of the shopping experience you want to evaluate, a customized survey is drawn up and put in the hands of registered mystery shoppers who enter your store and get to work interacting and observing.

Armed with a clear set of tasks to accomplish such as tracking the speed of service, recording the sales techniques of employees, evaluating store cleanliness, or any other aspect of the store you need to measure, mystery shoppers blend in with the crowd, giving you an objective, non-biased assessment from the customer’s perspective.

After the shops are complete, the data is analyzed and detailed reports are given back showing you exactly what parts of the experience are hitting the mark and which areas need improvement.

Customer Intercepts

Customer intercepts gather experience feedback too, but instead of using mystery shoppers, the survey is given directly to your customers after experiencing your store themselves.

With the experience fresh in their minds, you get firsthand feedback showing what compelled people to purchase, and more importantly, what made others leave empty handed.

Customer Satisfaction

Customer Satisfaction, or CSAT, is one of the fastest and simplest ways to start improving the in-store experience.

CSAT programs begin by using your customer experience initiatives to create a customized survey which customers are invited to take after shopping in one of your stores.

Effective CSAT surveys typically include 8-10 questions that relate to the quality of service and experience as well as overall satisfaction inside the store.

When enough feedback is gathered, the data is carefully analyzed to reveal how your shoppers feel about their experiences and the likelihood they would advocate your brand to others.

Identify the problem and choose the best solution for you

Now that we know a little more about each program, deciding which is the best solution means considering your goals a little more closely.

Mystery shopping is like putting your stores under an X-ray. It’s perfect for taking a problematic part of the in-store experience and diagnosing a particular problem you can then work to improve.

Customer intercepts, unlike mystery shopping, are more focused on gathering information about your shoppers rather than the experience itself.

The personal feedback gathered is great for learning more about your customers’ expectations and perceptions of the experience you’re currently providing.

Like I said before, this is the perfect tool for discovering exactly why your customers are or aren’t leaving with a purchase.

Lastly, CSAT is useful if you’re looking for a straightforward rating on the satisfaction of your customers you can track over time. With a simple way to calculate overall satisfaction levels, you can repeat this process to measure the long-term effectiveness of your improvements.

To get started thinking about the best option for you, nail down exactly what kind of problem your stores are having.

If your store associates aren’t delivering the brand experience as expected, mystery shoppers are the best way to locate and identify specific problems your staff needs to fix.

If you’re struggling to get shoppers leaving your store with bags in hand, or customers are buying less than they have before, it’s time to ask them what’s keeping them away from the checkout counter with a custom customer intercept program.

If you need a way to support a continuous improvement program, CSAT gives retailers a simple and reliable way to measure overall satisfaction levels among customers in order to identify what’s working and what isn’t.

Photo credit: Ian Muttoo

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Nanette Brown