I know the headline sounds a little hypocritical coming from a guy who mystery shops (after a fashion) almost every week.
So . . . the headline sounds a little hypocritical coming from a guy who mystery shops (after a fashion) almost every week. What is weird about the whole tour thing I am doing is that it has turned into something I didn’t expect and honestly didn’t particularly want. When I started this adventure I really expected it would go more like this:
“Hi my name is Steve Moran and I write about the senior living industry. I try to get out and visit senior living communities each week so I can do a better job writing.”
“Oh, and I am not selling anything.”
As a result of that introduction the front desk would figure out that I was not just another vendor to get rid of and would check the availability of either the executive director or a sales person. (I honestly had no idea that, more often than not, I would get a brushoff, because I was not an immediate prospect.) We would then have a great conversation about the industry, the local community and the local market. If you have read any of my tour series you know it hardly ever goes that way. Mystery Shopping as a Coaching Tool My friend and Senior Housing Forum Partner, Will Nowell, the founder of ServiceTrac Live, is intimately involved in helping senior living companies and communities perform at a higher level. He focuses on two areas:
- Satisfaction/Expectation Surveys where he works with senior living communities to rigorously survey staff and residents, allowing those communites to identify areas for improvement.
- Training Sales people to carefully listen and respond to prospects’ needs, desires and concerns.
He and I talk frequently about my secret shopping adventures. During one of those conversations he made the point that mystery shopping is a terrible way to coach senior living sales people. The Problem with Mystery Shopping as a Coaching Tool I want to be careful here. . . I don’t believe Will would say there is no place for mystery shopping but rather that, as a sales training tool, it is highly flawed. Here is why:
- It is Too Limited – At best, you can do a few mystery shops per year. This means that you can catch someone on a good or a bad day or series of days. The stakes then become too high because a single bad mystery shop could destroy a sales person’s job.
- The Situations Are Contrived – The “story” a mystery shopper presents is contrived by them or the mystery shopping company. While the sales person may not be able to say, “that’s a mystery shop call”, they can usually tell something is off and this skews their performance.
- The Process of Reviewing a Mystery Shop is Too Confrontational – When a sales manager or sales trainer sits down with a sales person to review the results, it is too easy for it to turn into an accuser and defender situation. When this occurs learning stops.
ServiceTrac Live Because of these limitations Will has developed a system called Live Sales Capture where you, as the sales trainer or sales manager, can monitor live, real interactions between your sales team and prospects. This means real situations, with rapid and more regular feedback. As a result the whole process becomes less confrontational and puts the process back into a coaching modality which means that prospects win, sales people win and more conversions take place. You can listen to a real example HERE . Once you hit the landing page on the right side is a link to play the call. The whole call is about 30 minutes long. If you are willing it would be great to hear your thoughts on how good a job this sales person did. Steve Moran
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You’re right, Steve. When you’ve been in a sales/marketing position long enough, you just KNOW when you’re being shopped. Something is definitely “off.” And frankly, I find it insulting that companies think they can get away with this. It’s dishonest in my mind and since our whole effort to bring people into the building (I believe) is based on building “trust,” how can we succeed with this practice going on? I have been “mystery shopped” by my own company and others, so I know what I’m talking about. In both cases, I knew right away what was going on but gave each of them a “tour of their lives,” followed up, and pretended it was just another person doing research on “behalf of their parent.” Discovering that one was hired by my company was demoralizing (although I scored well) and that the other said he was a CEO from a major competitor (really – did you really think your evasiveness would get by me?) was annoying. So I went to Linked In and wrote him an e-mail. If you expect sales people to be honest with you and this is a relationship business, then I believe it should be a reciprocal interchange based on that. There are better ways to coach.
I absolutely agree with Candiece Milford. When you have been in this industry for a long time it isn’t hard to identify a mystery shopper at work. Many times the story unravels right before our eyes. This happens when you have a talented and genuine sales person really listening to the “story”. We never know for sure when we will be shopped so we need to stay focused and always do everything we have been taught and give the best we have to offer.