How POS and mystery shopping work together

Some retailers and restaurants may feel like they no longer need mystery shopping because of the rise of integrated payments systems at the point of sale.

Some retailers and restaurants may feel like they no longer need mystery shopping because of the rise of integrated payments systems at the point of sale. This technology tends to offer a lot of consumer information and data, which can be used to develop better systems to improve customer service overall. However, such a belief is misplaced. Mystery shopping still serves a strong purpose of capturing the parts of customer service that can't be objectively seen through a POS terminal. When the two concepts work together, the end result can be a better shopping or eating experience for all, which can translate to better sales in the long term.

The big and small pictures
What integrated payments systems do is take a look at the big picture. For every transaction that's completed, stores and restaurants can glean a lot of information about what customers are buying, what stuff they're looking for and how much they are willing to spend based on the items they pick up. This is captured through the customer data that they receive, sometimes with the help of loyalty programs, gift cards and private label cards. All this data can project the buying patterns and habits based on the month of the year, day of the week, even time of the day. From there, what is offered can change to something more profitable.

Meanwhile, mystery shopping looks at what Pizza Marketplace calls the "micro view," or the small picture. Because there is a basic idea of what is going to be bought by the mystery shopper in question, the issue is not on sales and data, but on customer service and personal experience. Some of these components can't be actively monitored by computer but input by a person. For example, the amount of time it takes to complete a payment is better assessed on a personal level, since it might require the customer and store clerk to interact on some matters before beginning the transaction. The shopper may get lost while trying to find something based on sub-optimal store organization and poor staff communication. There may also be a need to determine if staff members are following all the required actions of their position, such as upselling a new item or cross-selling specific groups of products together.

All of this information, while it does not directly lead to profit, often helps determine what will bring in and keep out customers overall. Mystery shopping also useful since it can provide details in the shopping experience that even real-time customer reviews cannot offer.

Covering each other
Combining both big data from POS systems and personal reviews from mystery shopping can offer answers to questions that either miss on their own. The former can provide the "whats" on certain questions, while the latter can provide the "whys." For example, the beacons that are in place in a store could show that there's not a lot of foot traffic in a specific aisle of the store. A mystery shopper can go over there and discover that there's very little indication of what is actually there, thus causing people to ignore it. That can mean that businesses can seek to reorganize the store so what's in there can be more prominent.

Another example is at a restaurant, where a new item on the menu is not selling, though there are clear indications that it's new and servers have been told to promote it. A mystery shopper can reveal that either the waiter or waitress is not upselling the food at all, or the upselling pitch makes it seem less than appealing. Armed with that information, management can either better train their servers or reassess how to bring up the item on the menu.