MYS­TERY SHOP­PING: RE­VEAL­ING SER­VICE QUAL­ITY STAN­DARDS IN MOD­ERN RE­TAIL­ING

Economic Challenger - - CONTENTS - − Kisholoy Roy, Sprihi Kan­odia, Saborna Ban­er­jee, Deep Gan­guli, San­tosree Gan­guli

AB­STRACT

Mys­tery shop­ping or mys­tery au­dit is ba­si­cally a tool to mea­sure the qual­ity of ser­vice de­liv­ered by an or­ga­ni­za­tion and also to mea­sure the de­gree of con­for­mance by an or­ga­ni­za­tion to the stan­dards set by the in­dus­try. It is an ex­tremely in­ter­est­ing and crit­i­cal tool to en­hance cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ences in the mod­ern mar­ket­ing sce­nario and also to pur­sue cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion in an ob­jec­tive man­ner. The present study is a mys­tery au­dit that was con­ducted con­sid­er­ing three dif­fer­ent re­tail brands at var­i­ous lo­ca­tions in the city of Kolkata

IN­TRO­DUC­TION

Over the years, mys­tery shop­ping also called mys­tery au­dit has been used as a tool by ex­ter­nal mar­ket re­search com­pa­nies or even in­ter­nally by com­pa­nies them­selves to mea­sure ser­vice qual­ity and com­pli­ance with var­i­ous stan­dards set by the or­ga­ni­za­tion as far as day to day op­er­a­tions are con­cerned. The most com­mon in­dus­try where mys­tery shop­ping tech­nique is ap­plied is the re­tail­ing in­dus­try and the mys­tery shop­pers over here are found to per­form cer­tain spe­cific tasks pur­chas­ing prod­ucts, ask­ing ques­tions and seek­ing an over­all ex­pe­ri­ence of a store and then they go on to reg­is­ter their find­ings in a struc­tured for­mat.

LIT­ER­A­TURE RE­VIEW

Mys­tery shop­ping as a tool has been found to cover per­for­mance man­age­ment and it is also con­sid­ered as a tool for main­tain­ing the broader health of an or­ga­ni­za­tion un­der study (Jones, 2011). Mys­tery shop­ping has been found to yield spe­cific an­swers which help brands to go indepth into var­i­ous is­sues con­cern­ing the busi­ness which is not pos­si­ble in case of emo­tion−based cus­tomer sur­vey done at re­tail out­lets. The ba­sic an­swer that is checked by mys­tery shop­ping is whether the ser­vice re­ceived by a cus­tomer is good enough. It is not how­ever an ef­fec­tive tech­nique to mea­sure var­i­ous other as­pects of brand devel­op­ment like qual­ity, trust or emo­tional en­gage­ment with cus­tomers. It of­fers feed­back in real time which needs to have a buy−in from those who have the power to act on the re­sults.

The moment of truth that is ba­si­cally a term to de­note the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the buyer and the seller in the ser­vice in­dus­try is ex­tremely im­por­tant and mys­tery shop­ping is a tool to mea­sure the qual­ity of such mo­ments of truths. Mon­i­tor­ing the be­hav­ior and per­for­mance of

sales and ser­vice peo­ple in ser­vice or­ga­ni­za­tions is cru­cial and hence the mon­i­tor­ing in terms of their prod­uct knowl­edge, sales ap­proach, con­vinc­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties and their abil­ity to work un­der stress is im­por­tant (Ramesh, 2010). Mys­tery shop­ping cre­ates an in−depth in­sight in per­cep­tions of po­ten­tial cus­tomers and adds greater value to cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion sur­vey data. It is best used to as­sess the ob­jec­tive char­ac­ter­is­tics of out­let op­er­a­tions like the store en­vi­ron­ment.

Hav­ing ser­vice ex­cel­lence in ser­vices, pro­cesses and re­la­tion­ships is not enough now a days for ser­vice providers. Rather they need to cre­ate ex­cel­lence in cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ences for seek­ing com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage in the mar­ket (Wiele et al, 2005). Mys­tery shop­ping has been rec­og­nized as an ef­fec­tive tool for mea­sur­ing qual­ity of ser­vice de­liv­ery along with set­ting suit­able bench­marks in the in­dus­try. It also mea­sures ef­fec­tive­ness of train­ing pro­grams and tests if all cus­tomers of a par­tic­u­lar com­pany are treated equally or not. The first step in de­sign­ing mys­tery shop­ping is to de­fine goals fol­lowed by data gath­er­ing and then it is about re­port­ing the re­sults.

Cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion is the prime con­cern in the ser­vice in­dus­try and this con­cern has prompted many ser­vice en­ti­ties to opt for mys­tery shop­ping as a tech­nique to re­veal whether their cus­tomers are really sat­is­fied or not (Finn & Kayande, 1999). Mys­tery shop­ping as a tech­nique has been found to mon­i­tor an out­let´s per­for­mance over a pe­riod of time along with iden­ti­fy­ing the im­prove­ment ar­eas for an out­let.

The present study has been con­ducted in the Kolkata mar­ket for three re­tail en­ti­ties viz. Air­Tel Re­la­tion­ship Cen­ter, Bose and Wills Life­style Store.

RE­SEARCH OB­JEC­TIVES

To mea­sure the vis­ual mer­chan­dise in­dex of the re­tail brands un­der study To mea­sure the con­for­mance in­dex of the re­tail brands un­der study To mea­sure the peo­ple in­dex of the re­tail brands un­der study To mea­sure the store in­dex of the re­tail brands un­der study

METHOD­OL­OGY

The re­searchers for the study con­ducted mys­tery shop­ping at var­i­ous re­tail stores in Kolkata. The re­tail brands that were con­sid­ered for the pur­pose of study were Wills Life­style Store, Air­Tel Re­la­tion­ship Cen­ters and Bose (a store re­tail­ing high end mu­sic sys­tems). The first re­tail brand is re­lated to gar­ment re­tail­ing, the sec­ond is into re­tail­ing tele­com ser­vices and the third is an ex­clu­sive re­tail store of Bose Elec­tron­ics. The re­searchers for the study who posed as shop­pers dur­ing the mys­tery shop­ping ex­er­cise at var­i­ous re­tail stores needed to be alert and a good observer and have an eye for de­tails. They needed to be good ac­tors so that the em­ploy­ees at the stores were un­able to iden­tify the true mo­tive of the mys­tery shop­per.

For the Air­Tel Re­la­tion­ship Cen­ter, mys­tery au­dit was con­ducted at the fol­low­ing lo­ca­tions in Kolkata ˘ Sarat Bose Road, Park Street, Lords Cross­ing and Sec­tor 1 at Salt Lake City. In case of Bose, the au­dit was done at one store at South City Mall while the stores on the two days was pre de­cided. The dif­fer­ent el­e­ments that were iden­ti­fied and mea­sured dur­ing the course of the study were vis­ual mer­chan­dise in­dex, con­for­mance in­dex, peo­ple in­dex and store in­dex. The store in­dex was ba­si­cally a com­pos­ite score us­ing a cer­tain

for­mula based on the cal­cu­lated vis­ual mer­chan­dise in­dex, con­for­mance in­dex and peo­ple in­dex. The in­dex score have been men­tioned in per­cent­ages.

A struc­tured ques­tion­naire hav­ing ques­tions based on Peo­ple, Process and Pre­sen­ta­tion pa­ram­e­ters of the re­tail­ers un­der study were uti­lized for the pur­pose of mys­tery au­dit. All the ques­tions had two op­tions as far as re­sponse to the ques­tions were con­cerned viz. `Yes´ and `No´. For ev­ery `Yes ´, a score of 100 was as­signed while for ev­ery `No´, a score of 0 was as­signed by the re­searchers.

FIND­INGS:

Be­fore men­tion­ing the find­ings at the in­di­vid­ual out­lets of var­i­ous re­tail brands con­sid­ered for the pur­pose of sur­vey, a brief about the three in­dexes be­ing mea­sured for the out­lets has been men­tioned:

CON­FOR­MANCE IN­DEX: Con­for­mance in­dex is that in­dex which mea­sures that how much a par­tic­u­lar out­let/store con­forms to the pre­scribed/rec­om­mended stan­dards. The in­dex is ex­pressed as a per­cent­age. It in­cludes such as­pects of the store that are to be main­tained by a store on a daily ba­sis as far as pro­cesses are con­cerned. The pres­ence of a se­cu­rity guard at the store, des­ig­nated area for keep­ing the be­long­ings of cus­tomers, wait­ing area for cus­tomers are some of the as­pects to be men­tioned.

PEO­PLE IN­DEX: Peo­ple in­dex is that in­dex which deals with the peo­ple fac­tor/in­ter­nal cus­tomers of any store. The groom­ing of sales per­son­nel and their over­all at­ti­tude and be­hav­ior with cus­tomers at the store are some of the ma­jor as­pects of peo­ple in­dex and it is ex­pressed as a per­cent­age.

VIS­UAL MER­CHAN­DISE IN­DEX: Vis­ual mer­chan­dise in­dex is that in­dex which deals with the over­all pre­sen­ta­tion of a store and the mer­chan­dise at the store. All such el­e­ments that make shop­ping and the store at­trac­tive and makes cus­tomers spend greater time at the store are the as­pects cov­ered by vis­ual mer­chan­dise in­dex.

STORE IN­DEX: Store in­dex is the sum­ma­tion of the con­for­mance in­dex, mer­chan­dise in­dex and peo­ple in­dex and is ex­pressed as a per­cent­age.

The pur­pose of the study was not just to find the in­dexes for each re­tail brand but also to find if there was any dif­fer­ence be­tween the mea­sures of the in­dexes as far as in­di­vid­ual out­lets for each re­tail brand was con­cerned.

AIR­TEL RE­LA­TION­SHIP CEN­TER

In the con­text of Air­Tel Re­la­tion­ship Cen­ter, it was found that there was no dif­fer­ence be­tween out­lets as far as vis­ual mer­chan­dise in­dex was con­cerned. All the out­lets con­sid­ered for the study faired sim­i­larly in terms of over­all pre­sen­ta­tion of the store. As far as as­pects re­lated to con­for­mance were con­cerned, again there was no dif­fer­ence be­tween the out­lets in terms of pres­ence of se­cu­rity per­son­nel, wait­ing area for cus­tomers, billing mech­a­nisms etc. In the con­text of peo­ple in­dex, it was ob­served that while ser­vice per­son­nel at Park Street, Lords Cross­ing and Sec­tor 1 were at­ten­tive to cus­tomer re­quire­ments and greeted the cus­tomer be­fore the in­ter­ac­tion and had good prod­uct knowl­edge, the one at Sarat Bose Road did not have such per­son­nel. More­over, sales per­son­nel at Park Street and Sec­tor 1 tried to up­sell to the cus­tomers but such was not the case at other out­lets. A sum­mary of the find­ings at Air­Tel Re­la­tion­ship Cen­ters has been pre­sented ear­lier in ta­ble form:

BOSE

One ex­clu­sive out­let of Bose, a com­pany re­tail­ing high−end mu­sic and sound sys­tems was con­sid­ered for the sur­vey. In terms of vis­ual mer­chan­dise in­dex, the store at South City Mall scored 100%. The store scored a per­fect 100 for all the other in­dexes as well and thus the over­all store in­dex was found to be 100%. A sum­mary of the find­ings has been pre­sented above.

WILLS LIFE­STYLE STORE

In the con­text of vis­ual mer­chan­dise in­dex, it was ob­served that ex­cept for the Ca­mac Street store, where the man­nequins were not neatly ar­ranged, the stores scored a 100 in terms of ar­range­ment of ap­par­els, hang­ing dis­plays, over­all look and feel of the store and essenza di wills, a im­pulse buy­ing zone at Wills Life­style. In the con­text of peo­ple in­dex, the ap­pear­ance

of the staff at the Sec­tor 1 store was not con­vinc­ing and nei­ther they were found to take op­por­tu­ni­ties to up sell or cross sell to cus­tomers. They also did not ex­hibit the abil­ity to han­dle un­avail­abil­ity sce­nario at the store. The later two were also found at the Ca­mac Street store. The store at the South City Mall was found to score a per­fect 100 in peo­ple in­dex. In terms of con­for­mance, all the stores scored a per­fect 100. A sum­mary of the find­ings has been pre­sented be­low.

Through­out the re­search, 25% weigh­tage was given to the fac­tors con­cern­ing vis­ual mer­chan­dis­ing and con­for­mance while 50% weigh­tage was given to the fac­tors con­cern­ing peo­ple. The store in­dex for the re­spec­tive re­tail brands were ar­rived at by mul­ti­ply­ing the vis­ual mer­chan­dise and con­for­mance scores by 0.25 and mul­ti­ply­ing the peo­ple in­dex scores by 0.5 and then sum­ming them up.

CON­CLU­SION

The present study thus high­lights the im­por­tance and con­tri­bu­tion of var­i­ous in­dexes re­lated to var­i­ous facets of re­tail­ing that con­trib­ute to the mak­ing of the over­all store en­vi­ron­ment. The store in­dex is ba­si­cally a sum­ma­tion of the feel­ings gen­er­ated within an in­di­vid­ual cus­tomer based on the vis­ual mer­chan­dis­ing at the store, the em­ploy­ees at the store and the de­gree to which a store con­forms to the stan­dards set by the in­dus­try. The present mys­tery shop­ping au­dit presents an ob­jec­tive view of the var­i­ous out­lets un­der study and re­flects cer­tain dif­fer­ences that ex­ist be­tween out­lets of a par­tic­u­lar re­tail brand.

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