Use Secret Shoppers

As a business owner, you probably spend far more than 40 hours a week at your facility. You’re constantly working on things like administrative tasks, business growth, marketing, payroll, etc. Sometimes being this close to the business gives you blinders. These blinders prevent you from seeing obvious (or not-so-obvious) issues that need to be addressed. This is why it can be helpful to use secret shoppers to improve your business.

Secret shoppers are people who come in to your facility and review their experience – you can learn a lot about your business and how customers perceive it. It’s especially important to find out if your staff operates the way they should when you’re not around. So what’s the most cost-effective way to get secret shoppers?

Some business owners may turn to friends for help. While this is a good first step, friends are not always the best source of objective assessment. They might tell you what you want to hear, instead of telling you how it is. It can be tricky to get truly genuine feedback from friends because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Your business is your baby, and they don’t want to tell you that your baby is ugly. A better tactic is to utilize acquaintances and “half-strangers”.

By this, I mean that you can use people who are in your existing network, but with whom you don’t have friendships or relationships. These people might include the parents of your children’s classmates. Or maybe the classmates themselves – kids usually don’t have social filters that would prevent them from giving honest feedback. Plus they experience your facility in a much different way than the parents. Get as creative as you want. The goal here is to find people who aren’t close with you.

The Secret Shopper Visit

Have them visit your facility when you’re not there. Don’t tell anyone on your staff that you have secret shoppers coming in (not even your managers). You want to provide a genuine experience, and you don’t want the staff acting differently knowing a secret shopper is in the building. When they have finished visiting your center and playing the attractions, get their feedback on everything from the quality of the parking lot to the cleanliness of the bathrooms.

At the bottom of this post, you can download a Facility Assessment Checklist that was designed for you to analyze your own business. Provide this document to the secret shoppers as a standardized way to get feedback. You can start comparing your own observations with the others to see where the problems overlap and where the business needs the most improvement.

For many business owners, this is not an easy process. It’s hard to have others point out problems in your own facility. But if you want to improve your business over time, you should use secret shoppers. The information they provide can be invaluable to you, as long as you don’t ignore it.

In our next post, we’ll cover a great program that will help you get secret shopper feedback on your phone etiquette.