Take ‘mystery’ out of
customer service

Feb 22, 2005 7:11 AM

Las Vegas is in the midst of a booming economy. Casinos are reporting record earnings and tourism is on the rise. Unemployment is down and businesses are looking for ways to make their operation stand apart from others.

One area of a company’s operation that is often ignored is customer service. There is nothing that makes a customer feel more comfortable or welcome than friendly, efficient and courteous service.

Statistics reveal that customers leave one business to patronize another because of poor customer service 69 percent of the time. Moreover, 97 percent of unhappy customers never complain — they simply go away and don’t return.

One of the most effective and inexpensive ways to monitor a company’s customer service is through a mystery shopper program. Global Intelligence Network calls the process Quality Service Inspections, but no matter what it’s called, the process involves using qualified professionals to pose as customers of a hotel, casino, restaurant or other business.

Mystery shopping has many benefits for the business’s management. It provides managers with feedback from a customer’s perspective, allows managers to monitor their operations in their absence, and provides invaluable information about attracting and maintaining new customers.

The inspections also determine whether staff is following company policy, complying with government regulations and maintaining product quality. They also provide a way to highlight procedural strengths and deficiencies that can be used to train and motivate employees, and it can also help catch a thief from time to time.

Mystery shopping is often referred to as a "non-revenue producing" expense. But that shouldn’t diminish its importance. Surveillance is also non-revenue producing, but it is an invaluable service to the hotel and casino because of what it prohibits from going out the back door. Similarly, mystery shopping helps prevent customers from "going out the back door."

Mystery shopping also can prevent complaints and fines. Activities such as underage drinking and gambling, serving liquor to intoxicated patrons and lewd conduct are among the things that can be identified by mystery shoppers and brought to the attention of management before the intervention of law enforcement and regulatory agencies.

When choosing a company to perform Quality Service Inspections, there are several points to consider. The inspection team must assist in developing a custom report based on specific -client objectives and needs. It must have knowledge and experience in its chosen field, and it must have a solid reputation among its clients. And in Nevada, unlike any other state, it must be licensed as private investigators (PI) or employees of a licensed PI firm.

The latter requirement was determined by an opinion of the Nevada Attorney General’s office in 1993. The Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS 648) also stipulate that mystery shoppers must be registered with the Private Investigators Licensing Board.

Besides being the law, it makes sense to use a fully-licensed firm, such as Quality Service Inspections, a division of Global Intelligence Network.

For instance, if disciplinary action is necessary against an employee who was the subject of a mystery shopper’s report, the employer can feel confident that the report is justified and defendable.

Note that companies who conduct mystery shopping without being licensed by the state are subject to a $2,500 fine for the first offense. The Private Investigators Licensing Board in Carson City can identify whether a mystery shopping firm is licensed by the state.

Customer service is not just for high rollers or VIPs in the casino. Besides training employees in the art of proper customer service, managers should have a way to monitor their staff, and thus help and empower them to better perform their duties.

The Quality Service Inspections division of Global Intelligence Network stands ready to help employers with their customer service and mystery shopping needs.