At the end of May 2015 was held the 16th annual conference of the Association of the "mystery shopping" service providers in Europe (16th MSPA Europe conference). Juliana Goranova (manager customer relations) and Ana Godinova (researcher), visited Riga, Latvia, to share expertise and experience with other specialized agencies. Juliana attends the forum since 2010 and this year it was her fifth participation. On the other hand, Ana had the chance to meet some of the international partners of the agency for the first time.
We asked them to share with us more about the event, the impressions, ideas and plans they took home.
Bird view of Riga.
Please introduce yourself briefly.
Ana: My name is Ana Godinova and I am a researcher in Client X agency. I have been part of the team for more than 3 years and have been working on various mystery shopping projects. I am responsible for the relationship with customers, the development of scenarios, questionnaires and reports. My work is dynamic and interesting.
Juliana: I have been working in Client X for almost 7 years, during that time I have gained extensive experience in the mystery shopping area.
Tell us about the MSPA. What are the goals of this organization?
Ana: MSPA is an international organization whose members are companies offering "mystery shopping" services. Its main objectives are to create standards for implementation of this type of marketing research, also to improve the quality of services through training mystery shoppers and lastly, to build a trustworthy image of the industry.
What is the meaning of the Client X membership in MSPA?
Juliana: It means that we are keeping up with the world`s best practices in mystery shopping. Our membership guarantees our customers that we maintain the mystery shopping standards and ethical norms. We partake in the organization’s annual conferences and in its various trainings to improve our skills and gain knowledge of the new techniques.
Ana: Being part of the MSPA is very important and responsible. Every member gives their consent to work according to the Ethical code that we all have agreed on. As a member of the MSPA, Client X maintains the association’s standards.
The ethical principles which guide us are of significant importance. We all believe that we help with the improvement of customer service and enhancement of their satisfaction. Moreover, mystery shopping research helps identify the needs for further training. Also, we encourage the companies which have chosen to use this research method to inform their employees that they might be visited by a mystery shopper.
On the other hand, MSPA membership gives us the opportunity to create a wide and stout network of contacts in neighbor countries and therefore, we can offer quality service not only in the local market, but also abroad.
What was the theme of the conference? Who were the participants?
Ana: The theme was Customer Experience (CX) Matters: The Role and Future for Mystery Shopping.
The main focus of the workshops was how to improve customer satisfaction and how we can help the companies we work with see themselves through the eyes of their actual clients. The mystery shopping method provides valuable information, which can be interpreted as a basis of various trainings or innovations.
230 people from 47 countries attended in this year’s conference. This is the largest number of participants yet.
Metro Bank creates fans, not customers using the "Mystery Shopper" programme.
Juliana: Many mystery shopping providers took part in the event, but there also were many clients who use the service. Indeed, this was the biggest conference so far.
Forums such as this are a great way to stay up-to-standard. Where does mystery shopping in Bulgaria stand in comparison to the partners and competitors in Europe?
Juliana: I would say that the only difference is the size of the market. Bulgarian mystery shopping is far from dropping behind compared to the other companies in Europe - in terms of technical platforms, intensity and complicity of the projects and so on, even though we are ‘younger’ than the West. I guess we are fast-learners.
Ana: Yes, definitely! Our participation in the conference was extremely useful. We had the chance to exchange experience and share best practices. The people were very open-minded and speak freely about the challenges they have encountered and how they overcome difficult situations. The companies help one another. Overall, I was impressed by the atmosphere of partnership. The MSPA members are more partners than they are competitors.
To be more precise, I would add that we attended the presentation of various research companies from Germany, Portugal and Belgium. They presented different case studies - their objectives, how the mystery shopping methodology was chosen, the course of the fieldwork as well as their conclusions and results.
Undoubtedly, competition is still there, but keep in mind that without competition we would not have developed so fast.
With Monica from Italy and Stella from Brazil in the beautiful city park.
What parts of the conference do you plan to implement in Client X?
Juliana: Following the example of our colleagues, we would like to offer more complex services to our clients – perhaps an index which relates to the mystery shopping data with client satisfaction and financial indicators. This way our customers will be able to keep track of their overall performance easily and understand their stronger and weaker points right away, as well as how they stand amongst competitors.
Ana: We will expand our partnership with companies from neighboring countries. We will combine different methods in order to offer more to our clients. We have more ideas but let’s keep the mystery for now.
What is the future of mystery shopping?
Ana: In my opinion, the future of mystery shopping lays in the use and combination of new technologies with well-known, established techniques in order to provide our clients with results faster. The future is also in linking the results from the mystery shopping projects with different marketing research methods for instance, customer satisfaction or with financial data. This way we can see the bigger picture clearly, because we provide a piece of it with mystery shopping but we can show so much more when using other instruments too.
The future is in the use of the results by more departments in the client’s company, not only the marketing departments, for example HR departments (recruitment and trainings).
Juliana: Surely it has to do with technologies – mobile phones, tablets, smart watches, hidden recording devices. Some consider mystery shopping is about to decline – replaced by social networks and the thousand ways of sharing information instantly with hundreds of people. I think we are far from that. Mystery shopping is the only method that gives us objective information about company’s performance as we have the tools to control what is happening on site – we use pre-defined scripts, standardized questionnaires, pre-selected shopper profiles and so on. Thus, we receive comparable and objective results for each location or level of service we want to evaluate.
And what do you think about the future of mystery shopping in Bulgaria?
Ana: Hopefully, it will be bright! :) If I need to be serious, I think that mystery shopping in Bulgaria will develop following the worldwide trends. We have the advantage to be a smaller market and we can afford to wait and see what will work out in other countries before we adapt it to our scale. It depends on us to take the best and make it better.
Juliana: There is potential for development. I hope that more companies and organizations realize the importance and benefits this tool provides. For example, why shouldn’t there be mystery shoppers who evaluate the quality of service in hospitals, postal offices, or state administration offices?
Juliana Goranova (left) and Ana Godinova (right).
Describe Riga in one sentence.
Ana: Really, just one sentence? Riga isn’t ‘my’ city – I prefer the warm jasmine-scented Mediterranean towns, not cities which are cold and rainy in May. Speaking of which, next year the conference will take place in Malta, and I can say I am already looking forward to it!
Juliana: I will describe it in three words: rain, black cats and tulip gardens.