Using a mystery shopper service
Salons know full well they live or die by their client experience. A mystery shopper can help you find out what that experience is really like, and how it could be improved.
Mystery shopping isn’t a new concept but, in a challenging economic climate, it can be a speedy and effective way of gaining objective feedback on all areas of the client experience in the salon.
As Carole Taylor, director of consultancy ClientWave, explains: “We have conducted more than 30,000 mystery shops over the past 10 years and the feedback we receive from salon owners is always very positive.
“The beauty of the process is that it effectively allows the salon owner to discover how it feels to be a client in their salon, to identify its strengths, weaknesses and training needs. It can help to highlight whether recent training is being put into practice or to find out what happens in the salon when you are not there,” she adds.
The process should normally be straightforward. The salon owner hires the agency and one of its mystery shoppers makes an appointment (often for a cut and finish or facial). From this a detailed report, normally between eight to 10 pages, is created and sent back to the salon, which gives a percentage score for the experience and is broken down into the various stages of the appointment, with each stage also scored. The cost may vary from agency to agency but at ClientWave is £95 (excluding VAT), with the cost of the appointment on top of that, says Carole.
“Each section includes detailed comments from the mystery shopper about each stage of her appointment, with business or training recommendations then provided by us. Recommendations can be made where we believe an action or conversation could be improved or made more effective, for example a stylist making a product recommendation,” she adds.
Angela Bartlett, managing director of Hidden Beauty, which specialises in mystery shopping for beauty salons and the spa sector, advises that it is a good idea to go to a company that has experience of your industry rather than simply offering generic “retail” mystery shopping.
“One of the different elements we also offer is that a salon can have an ‘expert’ mystery shopper, in other words someone who knows the industry and knows retail,” she points out.
“Getting client feedback is always useful but being able to benchmark your performance through the experience of someone who really knows about retail and hairdressing or beauty can make a big difference. They could, for example, comment on health and safety in the salon as well as the general client experience,” she adds.
One think you do need to think carefully about is how to communicate the feedback back to the salon, cautions Carole.
“Often it will be used as part of the appraisal process but the whole idea is it’s not meant to be a stick to beat people with; rather it should be a powerful training tool to identify areas that require improving. As part of our service we can provide guidance to the salon about the best techniques and approaches for sharing the results with the team.
“What happens next will inevitably vary from salon to salon. Some salons, we find, use the process to sharpen up their reception procedures, for others it can be a case of improving consistency by ensuring staff properly understand and follow salon protocols,” she says.
“One intriguing bit of feedback we often find is that, rather than finding it threatening, many stylists and therapists will ask if they can be the next team member to be mystery shopped. People do generally want to improve and do their best, and what better way to increase your takings than by generating some ‘expert’, motivating, thought-provoking feed-back?” she adds.
What can also be valuable is for salons to make the process a regular experience, meaning that progress and improvement can be tracked and acted upon where necessary.
“This results in a better experience for the client. Consumers are becoming ever-more savvy and expect so much these days. It is vital salons constantly look at how they can improve their offering for the shopper, and mystery shopping is one way of doing this,” says Angela.
“Mystery shopping can be a very tangible, measurable yardstick of progression and improvement across the salon, something that, in this day and age, can be worth its weight in gold,” agrees Carole.
The NHF offers a bespoke mystery shopper service for members, Click for details.
The £250 package allows salon owners to see their business through the specialist eyes of the mystery shopper and find out what clients really experience. The service will look client customer journey, website, booking, service standards to payment and future bookings.
The feedback is given through detailed comments made for each stage of the client’s experience, as well a percentage score and mark out of five.