Giving the people what they want with mystery shopping

Clothing retailers that want to be the best in the industry will likely look to see what their competitors are doing. Asking mystery shoppers to ensure everything is falling into place is another option that will lead to a much better chance of good customer service and positive sales.

Clothing retailers that want to be the best in the industry will likely look to see what their competitors are doing. Asking mystery shoppers to ensure everything is falling into place is another option that will lead to a much better chance of good customer service and positive sales. A recent report by Market Force Information that surveyed more than 6,800 consumers found Nordstrom is North America's favorite fashion retailer for a second year in a row.

The Seattle-based retailer frequently appears on these lists, but why? Excellent customer service and a great return policy are a big part of it, the organization said. These strengths have been a great way to earn fan loyalty and are likely things that will get the attention of everyone from the standard customer to a mystery shopper just passing through.

Nordstrom was ranked the highest among other retailers by customers when it came to store atmosphere at 64 percent, return policy at 59 percent, helpful associates at 56 percent and friendly associates at 52 percent. There were also 27 percent of people who said it had a website that complimented the retail shop, something mystery shoppers will likely be looking into on their own ventures in the near future.

"While we often see retailers get caught up in price wars, believing the best deals will win consumers' hearts and minds, our research shows us this isn't necessarily the case," said Janet Eden-Harris, chief marketing officer for Market Force. "In fact, as we see with strong performers like Nordstrom and Kohl's, it's service-oriented factors like generous return policies and friendly associates that breed customer satisfaction and loyalty."

Post office uses mystery shopping to serve customers
Customer service improvements from mystery shopping can go far beyond the retail sector. One example is the the U.S. Postal Service's Retail Customer Experience program, which uses mystery shoppers to collect information on customer experiences to help improve service, revenue and fix post office retail outlets that may not be as friendly as they would prefer.

Some aspects a mystery shopper in this situation will likely look at include:

• How long did it take to wait in line?
• Were the right supplies available?
• Did staff give good explanation of products and services?
• Was the overall experience good?

Knowledge like this from a mystery shopper can help set a business apart from the competition by creating improvements from within.