Not so ‘Secret Shopper’

One of the curious things about working anywhere in hospitality is the secret shopper… We already have plenty of guest feedback, internet reviews, regional manager visits but none of this is good enough so twice a year we must suffer the secret shopper.

Firstly, everybody knows when they are due to visit (generally somewhere else in the group will have just had one), everybody knows what they will be looking for (whatever was picked up last time) and within moments we all know who it is.

This last week I worked out who our secret shopper was by the way he walked past a window.

There are a number of giveaways

  • They never get the dress code quite right (always slightly more formal than our regular guests)
  • An unusual confidence / familiarity with the product
  • They are never with anyone else
  • Spending a strangely long time in the building, often involving touching a lot of surfaces
  • Weirdly happily to chat (people on their own never want to chat) and they are generally more polite than our normal clients

To be frank, they might as well have a big neon sign saying ‘I am a secret shopper’. This then places us in a dilemma. We know they are a secret shopper but we can’t say that we know, then the games begin.

The Hollywood smiles come out, the ‘less useful’ staff are sent to the stock room and we provide an extraordinarily high level of customer service – often one-to-one.

A favourite thing for us is testing their story. ‘Have you had a good day?’ ‘What have you been doing today?’ ‘Have you been in the area long?’ ‘what do you think of (insert new thing that has just opened)?’

The stupid thing is, that they know, that we know. Yet the charade continues… We all pretend to be surprised when they ‘reveal themselves’

We were just visited by the same secret shopper that came in October… He was 6ft4 yet seemed really annoyed that people remembered him even though it had only been seven months (we still kept up the pretence) (and he knew it).

I wonder how much money is spent on the secret shopper program and how much is discovered that we didn’t already know.

Either way it livens up what would be ‘just another day’

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