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Could That Customer Be an Undercover Agent?

Posted June. 15, 2005 04:25,   


Housewife Kim and Dunkin’ Donuts’ assistant manager Choi are “mystery shoppers.”

A mystery shopper refers to a person who disguises oneself as a customer and examines the service and product management of store salespeople and reports the results to the head office. Such an individual is known among salespeople as an “undercover agent.”

Mystery Shoppers Have Know-How-

“Next time I come here, I can’t wear these clothes.”

This is the word from housewife Kim, who has spent almost six years working as a mystery shopper. She says that because the reporter she went with to the sunglasses section used honorific expressions when she said, “Those shades go very well with your clothes.”

“You have to be very close to go shopping together, so the sales staff will be suspicious if the other side uses an honorific,” said Kim, and added, “I think I’ll have to wear a different style so that the staff won’t recognize me next time.”

She says the top priority for mystery shoppers is not letting the sales staff in the store notice who they are.

Visiting more than once dressed in the same style such as bag, clothes, and accessories is one of the basics. They sometimes even have to hide their faces with their purses in case they run into sales staff while entering the head office.

Memory is also important because they have to wait to fill out the evaluation checklist until there are no salespeople around.

“Some staff members have been fired because of my report, but you have to give up petty compassion to enhance the service,” said Kim.

Service And Quality Stewards-

Restaurant and retail businesses also use head office staff and monitoring agents for mystery shoppers as well as professional ones. They do so to double, or even triple check the service conditions in the field.

Choi said, “Each staff member at the head office gets to be a mystery shopper around once a month. I can memorize all 150 criteria of mystery shoppers’ checklists.”

Department stores and retailers actually give mystery shoppers specific “missions” to check out.

Good examples are: “Examine the service at the summer promotion”; “Try on all of the shoes at the shoes store”; and “Check out competitors’ clothes.”

In some cases, mystery shoppers are told to carry out intensive “monitoring” of stores which customers frequently complain about.

Deputy assistant manager Lee Hae-chan with the CS team at Hyundai Department Store hinted, “The role of mystery shoppers is to find out if the standard service designated by the head office is practiced at stores. The store staff is always on edge because mystery shopper evaluations affect their personnel records.”

Moon Sang-il, assistant manager at the CS team at Shinsegae said, “Service is also one of the intangible assets of department stores. Mystery shoppers go beyond “monitoring” job sites and give marketing tips or advice on store displays.”