Mystery Shopping and Customer Experience

I read a post on  that was an OpEd on Mystery Shopping.  The premise is that mystery shopping isn't enough.  It was a good piece, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

"Mystery Shopping" is when Retailers send in undercover shoppers to get a first person view of their store environment.  Is this done often?  Well, there is a Mystery Shopping Provider Association (MSPA) .  That about sums it up (and I can't make this stuff up).

Oh, it's a mystery alright!

Some of the comments I read got me to thinking and led to this post.  My opinion is that Mystery Shopping has a lot of benefits, but one of them is not evaluating the customer experience.  With an experience, the only thing that matters is how it is received.  It's the first rule of communication:  It's not what you say that matters, but what is heard.  Just like you cannot predict or be a proxy for how your message is heard, you can't send proxies to measure how your customers feel about their experience.

A mystery shopper can confirm and measure if an experience is being delivered as intended.  This much is true.  They are not going to be a good measure of how your real customers are feeling about that experience (especially if you have to pay the mystery shopper to shop at your store).

Marketing is all talk.

It's not surprising that many marketing people don't truly understand the nature of terms they use, like "experience".  Marketing has become a 1-way communication vehicle that is obsessed with what they, themselves, have to say (their message) and oblivious to what their customers are saying or how their message is being received.  Where we always say that "selling is about listening, not talking", it seems that Marketing is only about talking.

"Me too!"

Why do you think that social networks and social media has taken off?  What are most people talking about?  Their experiences, including their shopping experiences.  What this tells us is that the consumer has a lot to say and we only need to shut up and listen.  The retailers stopped listening because they have all of the "data and metrics" that they need, and they don't need or have time for human interaction.  So what do the consumers do?  They talk to each other!  They are looking for validation of their feelings and they get it when they here "Me too!"  When we feel something, experience something, we don't automatically believe that everyone else feels the same way.  If we did we would not express our feelings because we'd just be stating the obvious.  In fact, we often wonder "is it just me?".  Retailers could help answer that, but they don't.  So, the social community is happy too.  Meanwhile, companies and retailer are wondering why they feel like outsiders in the world of social networking and social media.  Hmmmm.

In the store, and in the moment.

Just like we need to kick the Senators out of DC and send them home to reconnect with the people they represent, we need to kick Marketing out of HQ.  Be humans and find customers to talk to 1:1.  Then call me and we'll talk about how things like social media and interactive digital signage gives you multiple ways to connect with your customers in the store and in the moment.

Thanks for reading!