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Day 4 of idea a day: Mystery shop

It's a simple idea, so simple that nobody does it. What a shame.

In a lot of ways, I agree with Ben Martin's previous post that association staff are like their members. But one significant difference I can think of is that the staff is much closer to the association's products and services. Sometimes too close. You know the reasons behind how you organized your website or your conference. You know how you marketed your products and how you thought customers would buy them. You know why you chose A and not B.

So my fourth idea is to establish a mystery shopping program. Depending on the size of your association, you may need to enlist others in the program — membership to establish a phony member, IT to help monitor what happens, etc.

Because association staff is too close to the organization's products and services, a true mystery shopping program should use outside help. A few ideas of how to design it:

Find someone in your industry or profession who has never been a member and tell them you'll comp their travel and participation at your conference.

Find a member who has not been particularly active, and tell them you'll give them a whole selection of your products for nothing if they will be your accomplice.

If your areas are not technical, get a neighbor or friend to place a few orders.

And of course, plenty of consultants will be happy to help you out.

Be sure you design it as a program. Do not go into thinking you know the answers. This is research, and if you go into research with a preconceived notion of how it will go, you are liable to unconsciously design it to meet that end. In addition, give it a budget. And most important, use the results to design the next study as well as to think about how you can create a better experience for your members.

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Comments

Mystery shopping programs are helpful. As Scott posted, the size of the organization depends on how it will be implemented. Done correctly, this type of program can open eyes to the results found. It can prove to be helpful to everyone involved.

Mystery shopping programs are helpful. As Scott posted, the size of the organization depends on how it will be implemented. Done correctly, this type of program can open eyes to the results found. It can prove to be helpful to everyone involved.

The last paragraph here caught my eye. Designing it as a program is important. There should be no preconceived notions when setting up a program such as this. Benchmark rounds can certainly be useful when setting up another set of mystery shops to perform.

I agree, benchmark rounds are very important when setting up a mystery shopping program. I know a Fortune 500 retail company that leverages intense mystery shopping every time they're going to roll out a new training program. They conduct thousands of shops prior to rolling out the training, then implement the new training and follow-up with thousands more shops and use the comparison to their benchmark to see what components of their training resinated with employees and what components may need a different approach.

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