Mystery shopping and the power of communication

For anyone working in communication, public relations or marketing there are daily opportunities for a spot of mystery shopping. I have had two notable occasions in the past week when I was able to do just that.

The first was when I was parking my car in Manchester city centre and was struggling to understand the parking restrictions. I was approached by a police officer and I was wondering what was going to happen. He was very polite and pleasant and explained to me some of the parking regulations so that I didn’t end up getting a ticket. I was surprised but also pleased with the encounter as he didn’t know I work for the same organisation. He gave the kind of service the business would want to see.

It is encounters like the one I had that you hope everyone else experiences if they come into contact with staff. The second event was positive but could have been better. It could have been enhanced with a little communication.

In short I had a gas leak at home. It was quite worrying but within a very short time the gas had been turned off and people were checking where the leak was. By the next day the work had been completed. Then I had to wait for someone to put the gas back on. It was two days later when the holes were filled in and one was covered over with Tarmac. A day after that the second hole was concreted over. In total or wasn’t a bad service but it could have been improved with one simple thing – better communication.

All the developments during the four days just happened. They were done to me and I felt powerless and in the dark about what was happening. What I needed was someone telling me what would happen and when, and that would improve the service. Just a note through the door or a message on the answer machine is all I needed.

It reminded me how important good communication is from the frontline of organisations to customers or service users. Do companies have the right training in place? Are there the appropriate policies and procedures? Above all as communication professionals are we ensuring we are part of the discussion about service standards and developments. If not then we must be. Staff are the advocates for the organisation and embody what the organisation stands for. If it fails at point of delivery then communication will become irrelevant. Time for some mystery shopping.

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