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Mystery Shopping “Game Changer" for Pennsylvania DLI Member

Balfurd Cleaners

After three years of performing mystery shops at their two locations in State College, Pennsylvania, Monika Manter, Vice President of Balfurd Dry Cleaners, said the results have been eye opening. In a far ranging interview she emphasized the need to find the right CSR for the job. "I'm looking for CSRs who create customers who will come back," Manter said. "We have found that if someone is consistently having bad mystery shopping scores, it’s better to 'cut the cord' than have them linger and create poor customer relations."


What is the key to happy customers?  In Manter’s view, "Hiring correctly. If I interview someone and they are smiling, talking and open, I'll hire them – you can't teach soft skills. We hire for soft skills," she said. "Since we are in a college town, if I see someone with a college degree – I know I will only have them as an employee for about six months. I'm okay with that. I would prefer six months of a great CSR."  As a result, Balfurd Dry Cleaners has created a 15-page manual for new hires outlining what to do at the counter. They use the mystery shop reports and work a flexible script around the questions in the report. Manter is emphatic, “Most importantly we want our staff to be genuine and be themselves – every time they are with a customer."


Since the shops are performed each month, Manter uses the shops to coach her employees and sits down with each staff member who has been shopped. “We tell them what they did great and where they could improve," she said. "Each month we strive for a 95% overall score. We struggle the most with cross selling. The staff has just about gotten there and I’m springing for a catered lunch.” Balfurd runs a special each month. In order for CSRs to get their cross selling points, (suggesting at the counter) she said, “All the CSR has to do is mention our special – so we are really working on it.”  Balfurd Dry Cleaners started mystery shopping when DLI began offering the program and their scores have improved every year. Manter said, "Right now our overall scores are up 25% since beginning in 2014. Using the customer's name has gone from about one out of three transactions up to 80% of all transactions. That's what I mean about hiring for soft skills." 


Manter said, "I have found that mystery shopping is a game changer. As an owner, you know how to interact with customers – it's common sense. But, CSRs don’t have the same experiences we do. I know what happens when I am here, however, with mystery shopping when you are not around, you get the real picture. We can see what our customers are seeing. One thing is for sure, a great evaluation is a great evaluation. One of our CSRs – Jessica – did the right thing all the time. We gave her the position of trainer. We want our best teaching others how to do it right every time.”


Asked if Balfurd CSRs received horrible scores instead of really good scores, her response was quick, "I would have a BIG staff meeting - we call them 'Awareness Training' and talk to everyone about our expectations. The CSR leads would go to their reports and do a one-on-one training session. We have them sign off on the five-minute training. It’s amazing that people will remember what they learned when they sign their names!"


One of the things Manter likes best about the mystery shopping reports are the comments from the shoppers. The "verbal picture" from mystery shoppers makes the entire relationship more real and understandable. "I started off with a [mystery] shop for each location and I said, 'We're just not getting enough' so we doubled the number each month," she said.


Manter gets a lot of mileage out of the mystery shops and uses them to:

1.    Train new hires on service at the counter

2.    Create a flexible training program to help CSRs be genuine and helpful

3.    Evaluate soft skills

4.    Coach individual CSRs

5.    Cross sell at the counter

6.    Evaluate what happens when managers and owners aren’t around

7.    Identify and reward CSRs who give great customer service as potential trainers


Asked if it was worth the money spent each month, Manter said, "With the money tight I really had to think if I wanted to spend the money for a mystery shopping program. If you have a bad interaction with a customer, you lose that customer. I didn't know how many customers we lost. I consider mystery shopping as part of our marketing budget. As I view it it's part of keeping customers."

Learn more about Balfurd Cleaners at: www.balfurd.com

Posted By Harry Kimmel | 10/7/2016 7:52:26 AM