Retail shrinkage is inevitable and every store keeper faces these kinds of challenges day in and day out. One of the best solutions to avoid retail loss is to invest in surveillance equipment. The first and foremost thing that any retailer should do is identify from where exactly the retail shrinkage is arising from. At least 70% of the losses occur due to theft, shoplifting and internal fraud or theft. The number is ever increasing irrespective of having proper controls in place. Retail loss can be avoided if the retailers think in terms of a shoplifter or a check kiter.
The loss could also have happened due to vendor fraud. This type of theft is known as the external theft. There is a huge impact on the shrinkage and sometimes the employees are also a part of the external theft. Nearly every organization faces these kinds of situations which cannot be controlled with simple checks in place. These organizations and retails stores hire the mystery shopping company so as to work on these errors or loss in inventory. The auditors or mystery shoppers conduct audits thus enabling the store keepers or owners to take proper precaution resulting in making better decisions.
The mystery shoppers conduct reasonable investigation, analyze the shoplifter’s apprehensions, and conduct audits for operational accountability, identifying front end controls and the like. There lies a great deal of responsibility on the onsite managers, business owners and corporate level managers. The environment is very dynamic especially in stores where there is an in and out delivery procedure. Retail loss prevention would follow a process of identifying vulnerabilities and setting up policies and procedures. Checkpoint systems can avoid the shrinkage to a great extent. Prevention consultants can also be approached for reducing the retail shrinkage thus protecting the store’s morale and improving the store’s performance.
Retail stores should be aware of the possible check kiting incidents that might happen. This is one of those illegal acts where individuals take advantage of the float and make use of the non-existent funds in their checking accounts or other bank accounts. This is also known as check fraud and is also considered to be a type of retail loss. The check kiter writes a check in the names of one or more retails stores or departmental stores. These are the stores that offer cash back in case their customers buy more than the expected limit of purchase.
Check kiting is very simple for individuals who continuously do it. The cash that they get from the retail stores as part of the promotional offer would be deposited into their checking account. This process is followed by these individuals until their account has got sufficient funds for the checks to be cleared. The checks that are written will take a day or two to be credited. And in the mean time the kiter gets a chance to fill up his account. This is a repetitive process until the legitimate funds are deposited into the kiter’s accounts.
Although check kiting is illegal in most countries, many individuals are smart enough to continue this activity. There have been several stringent laws that have been laid down to curb kiting. Passing bad checks in many States is considered to be misdemeanour. If the check kiting activity has been identified, the kiter has to pay the payee the entire amount due along with any kind of service fee or protest fee. Retail kiting is very common in the suburban places where multiple supermarket chains operate with the closest proximity. There are many instances where the check is also returned for a prompt cash refund and the same is deposited in the kiter’s bank. The retail stores have to exercise great vigilance in order to avoid check kiters.
Whenever the retail stores hire the mystery shopping companies, secret shoppers are identified and sent to the retail stores by these companies. These shoppers behave like normal customers in the store and act like one of them. The retails stores are not aware of when these Customer Service Audits take place. These shoppers are professionals and are trained personnel. They evaluate the retails stores using a preset evaluation form. The evaluation can be taken in any format through the phone, internet or by directly walking into the store. Once the inspection is done, a detailed report and a recommended action are prescribed for the improvement of the store.
The customer service audits by the mystery shopping companies are not only done to enhance the customer service aspect but also to prevent internal fraud. The employees are a part of this fraud and it is believed that more than 35% of retail loss also happens due to fraud. Dishonest staff should be immediately identified by putting some controls in place. Most common fraud is that of unlocking the store after the working hours and removing huge chunks of products that belong to the high value category. Some of the other frauds include accepting payments from the customers and voiding the transaction.
The mystery shopping companies hire efficient shoppers who exercise high marketing and social observational research. They use various social research techniques that are used in direct observation in a natural retail store setting. Observation of products, usage of patterns, problems, observing licenses and renewals, level of scrutiny at the time of package, time taken for a purchase decision and determining the shoppers status. Retail audits are conducted by these mystery shopping companies to ensure the quality of the stores does not fall down. There are other audits such as the inventory audits that are considered while determining the product acceptance.
Buyers today have innumerable options at their fingertips, which is why it’s a challenge for retailers to attract them to their stores. Besides the quality of products and convenience, shoppers also look for quality customer service. Mystery shopping as a marketing strategy to measure the quality of retail service has been prevalent for a long time now. Mystery Shopping Providers Association is the trade organization that strives to achieve better service quality.
Retailers have to often come up with new strategies to cater to the dynamic market of today. Mystery shopping helps them get valuable information about products and services provided by their Retail Employees.
Members of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association include some of the best marketing research agencies, merchandising companies, private investigation firms, training providers and mystery shopping companies.
Being a member of this extensive network of companies that try to achieve high quality service has many benefits:
- You save a lot of money spent on recruiting ads by posting opportunities on their forum.
- Your company will reach hundreds of prospective clients who look for these services.
- You can be a part of decision making groups and the process that can shape the future of the industry.
- You will be instantly notified of important issues and can exchange vital information amongst members.
- It gives your brand credibility and makes you a part of an elite group.
- Members’ list is often used as a distribution list by potential clients.
- You get access to crucial information about tax and other legal issues.
- You can educate your clients within the community and make them realize the advantages of teaming up with you.
Mystery Shopping Providers Association is a flag bearer for ethical standards for quality service. It’s good for the industry and good for your business too.
Be it departmental stores, hotels, restaurants, gas stations, health clubs, retail outlets, movie theatres, fast food chains, car dealership or apartments, the Mystery shopping company provides services that evaluate the performance of all the industry specific products and services as mentioned above. Mystery shoppers pose like the normal customers who perform the regular tasks like any other customers. They purchase products, ask questions, register complaints and behave like a typical in-store customer. These experiences by the mystery shoppers are shared with the retails store owners, hotels or other companies thus giving them feedback along with detailed reports.
The mystery shopping company provides the mystery shopping services based on a survey model. The survey model might differ from an industry to industry. However, the end result is the same. The model is based upon the improvement factors that the client wants to incorporate. The mystery shoppers are given some information points on which they have to evaluate the store, restaurant or any other service provider. Basic details like the number of employees who attend to the shopper while he or she enters, the time taken to greet the mystery shopper, the availability of the name details of the employees, whether the employees are courteous enough and the like.
There are many mystery shopping companies that provide accurate feedback for the betterment of the stores. The shoppers are given specific instructions and procedures to participate in a typical transaction. During this process these mystery shoppers would test the knowledge and the employees’ service skills. They are evaluated in the most stringent and specific manner as mentioned in the Information Points evaluation sheet. A mystery shopping company can also hire licensed mystery shoppers or private investigators to perform certain tasks such as taking photographs or measurements, returning the purchases, counting the products, people who visited the store and the like. This company would then furnish a detailed, qualitative and a quantitative statistical analysis report to the clients.