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Should we be afraid of mystery shoppers ?

The surprise visits of emissaries sent by the head-network aim to assess the quality of the welcome and the standards of the brand. Useful or irritating ? shop

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Should we be afraid of mystery shoppers ?

The surprise visits of emissaries sent by the head-network aim to assess the quality of the welcome and the standards of the brand. Useful or irritating ?

shoppers, the obsession of the franchisees ? These people are rewarded for pretending to be consumers and scrutinizing the facts and the actions of the franchisee and its employees, verify that the unit is well kept, the know-how applied... Their inspections give palpitations to certain members of the networks. But this quality control is, however, useful : it encourages the franchisees to stay at the top, it contributes to the respect of standards by the whole of the network and promotes the homogeneity of the know-how.

The mystery shopper is often recruited through a specialised company, such as for example Orpheus, RefletClient, PVA (with BVA Mystery Shopping) or Ipsos (Ipsos Mystery Shopping). "It looks at how consumers are welcomed, if the quality of service is at that level and if the sales techniques additional are applied", explains Benoit Fougerais, director general of Loan Pro, a network of brokers that specialize in financing for professionals. "In a network of shoe stores, it will for example check if the team offers the waterproofing agent to the leather, at the checkout !" In a network of restoration as Bagel Corner, "it ensures that the partner of the sign complies with the concept, the graphics, the speech client, the recommendations in the field of planning, the visuals, sets out from his side, Gregory Clement, co-founder of this brand, which has 40 units.

Transparency in the methods used

The mystery shopper checks, through objective observation, that the points of sale are perfectly implement the decisions taken by the company in respect of the products and services or quality. But it is neither a food critic pousse-au-crime to the Louis de Funès (in The Wing or the thigh), or a specialist in hygiene controls, or a private detective. "To avoid that the visits are frowned upon by the franchisees, or perceived as interference, the head of network has to be very transparent on the methodology used, the criteria analyzed, the recurrence of visits and the type of information which it will be rolled up", recommends Benoit Fougerais. "So, everyone understands that these inspections are beneficial to all, and that they constitute a lever of continuous improvement."

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within the network, Bagel Corner, where these visits are systematic and regular, the units rated are rewarded in hard cash. "We offer discounts to end-of-year (RFA) on the drinks", says Grégory Clement. "In a sector like ours, where a reputation can be made and come apart very quickly, this follow-up, quality is essential for sustaining the brand", continues the franchisor.

At Bagelstein, other network specialized in the sale of bagels, Barbara Schuman, franchisee at Grenoble since 2013, considers these visits as part of the rules of the game. "The head of network has signed a contract with Silliker, a specialist in analyses of the quality and safety of food, and it also uses all the years in a company specialized in mystery shopping, conducting surveys in all the units," says the franchisee. "I think it is a very good thing. If it happens, for example, that my restaurant is poorly rated on the quality of the care or service, I prefer to know without delay so as to straighten the bar!"

The competition review sites

The usefulness of the mystery shopping is however, being challenged by the multiplication of the sites publishing reviews of consumers, which help the brands to get an idea of the quality of services offered in such or such a unit : TripAdvisor and Yelp allow customers to give an opinion on each of their experiences. In the same vein, more and more applications for smartphones (such Mobeye, BeMyEye or Clic and Walk) provide signage services consumers paid for address information, or take photos or short videos in the stores.

so far, well done, mystery shopping, keep all their relevance. Julien Mondhard, founder of Smice, a French company originally, a very popular Mystery Shopping (it is, for example, used by the brand of Italian ice cream Amorino, the network's american burgers Five Guys and several franchises of the group Bertrand) is categorical. "When the sites of the opinion of consumers have arrived and have met with the success that we know, I do not hide you that many of us have felt a little feverish", he admits.

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"But experience has shown us that the proliferation of online reviews does not go shoppers. On the contrary! The signs need even more notice dépassionnés, written by specialists sorted on the pane." Because the quality of a visit is not measured in a citation, or by a critical felt good, but to support a grid of indicators selected by the company. And méticuleusement filled in.

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