Over the years, I’ve heard management company representatives ask the same questions when it comes to mystery shopping: Do we really need to perform mystery shops? What is mystery shopping going to tell us that we’re not already finding out through our existing measurement components? How will mystery shopping fit in with our current approach to measurement?
One of the easiest ways to determine whether you really need to perform mystery shops is to ask yourself what your quality inspections and guest satisfaction surveys are already telling you.
Quality assurance inspection programs tend to focus on your brand elements and the fundamentals of your property. Is the logo/signage current and compliant? Are you using the specified products? What is the condition of the facility with regard to brand initiatives or brand-wide updates? Quality assurance inspections measure your compliance within the brand or collection of which you are a part.
Guest satisfaction surveys tell you how satisfied your guests are with the elements of your brand, and, more specifically, with what your individual property delivers. The results let you know what it is that matters most to your guests. Is it cost, location, amenities or quality of service? Guest satisfaction survey results make it easier for you to identify the types of guests that frequent your property and what it is they really want and expect.
Mystery shopping delivers
What quality assurance inspections and guest satisfaction surveys don’t do a great job of telling you is how your brand elements are being delivered. A well-designed and well-implemented mystery shopping program fills in the blanks and allows you to gain a real understanding of how a typical guest experiences the products and services you offer at various points.
Mystery shopping uncovers what truly drives guests to return and recommend, or, what I like to call “brand positive indicators.” While some brand positive indicators can be measured through quality assurance inspections and guest satisfaction surveys, many can only be identified through mystery shopping.
Let’s say your quality assurance inspections tell you a location stocks all the wares and food items that are required for breakfast, but your guest satisfaction survey scores show low guest satisfaction when it comes to the location’s food-and-beverage service. If you haven’t performed a mystery shop, it is going to be very hard to uncover the reasons for the low guest satisfaction scores. A mystery shop will tell you things such as whether the items being served are fresh, whether breakfast is being served during posted hours, whether the attendant is greeting guests appropriately, and other important details pertaining to service delivery.
Bridging the gap
Mystery shopping tends to be the final measurement component hotel management companies incorporate, but it is more like the component that bridges the gap between inspections and surveys. If quality assurance inspections prove all your brand elements are in place, but guest satisfaction surveys show your guests are unhappy, a mystery shop not only can confirm the problem is execution, but also it can tell you the specifics about what’s wrong that will enable you to pinpoint trouble spots and develop and implement solutions.
When you have a three-pronged measurement program in place, it becomes much easier to expand your measurement arsenal and incorporate tools such as intercept visitor satisfaction surveys, employee opinion surveys, and social-media management technology. The key to developing a successful quality assurance program is having your bases covered by quality assurance inspections, mystery shopping and guest satisfaction surveys. Once these three measurement components are in place, you can build upon them as you improve upon and expand your business.
Patrick O'Bryan is COO at FreemanGroup, a customer service solutions provider that serves premier hospitality and tourism organizations around the world. Clients range from government and tourist boards to hotels, casinos, cruise ships, and airlines. In addition to offering a number of proprietary training workshops and follow-up training programs, FreemanGroup offers instructor certification programs and workshops specifically designed for human resource departments, leadership, and supervisors.
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