Mystery shopping vs. retail audits
A mystery shopping program and District Manager-led store audits address different needs and have vastly different outcomes. A District Manager’s audit essentially amounts to “quality assurance”. Provided the District Manager is equipped with the right tools, she will follow a compliance process that is regular, unequivocal and actionable. The audit is meant to be a preventive in nature, a process that ensures the store environment is conducive to efficiency, safety, profitability and customer satisfaction. This is essential because, unlike “black-box” testing (mystery shopping), quality assurance can audit the process and prevent problems before they happen. The DM isn’t strictly inspecting the outcome, she is checking that the process itself is conducive to a successful outcome. She is checking the various steps, and parts of the operations machine, some of which may not be visible to the consumer. Indeed, unlike typical Mystery Shopping programs, District Managers can review the front-of-the-house, the back-of-house as well as health and safety. A positive customer experience does not happen in vacuum, it happens when all parts of the operations machine are functioning individually and together well. Your District Managers are your strategy and performance enablers on the ground.
In-store execution is a core competency for a retailer
No one knows the business better than the organization itself and no one is better suited at sharing the brand’s own best practices than the brand’s own district managers. In-store execution is a core competency for a retailer, in the name of business continuity and longevity, you don’t leave a core competency in the hands of a third-party. So use mystery shopping if you see value in it but take it for what it is: a source of insights, not a replacement for district manager audits.
This post is part of the “Retail Audit Best Practice” series.