At the end of May this year, the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) held its annual conference in Europe for the 17th time. Within 2 days over 240 specialists and clients from 48 countries all over the world gathered and exchanged experience, discussed industry problems and envisioned the potential in this particular field of marketing research.
We already spoke to Juliana Goranova, Senior Researcher at Client X, who was in Malta to represent the company, about the event, the participants and its meaning for the companies and the mystery shoppers in Bulgaria.
Now we turn to Mr. Tibor Garai, COO of ClientFirst Consulting, a major Hungarian mystery shopping provider, who also attended the conference and who is one of Client X’s partners abroad.
Mr. Garai, can you introduce Client 1st Consulting? What made you begin working in the mystery shopping industry?
ClientFirst Consulting is a privately owned Hungarian company that has been on the market since 2002. It was founded by two private entities who still own it. The main profile of ClientFirst is Mystery Shopping and Business Advising. Its main profile is Mystery Shopping but, among others, it is also involved in Mystery Call, Mystery Email, MS over Audio and MS over Video projects.
ClientFirst currently manages and controls projects in over 13 countries in Europe.
At the beginning I encountered mystery shopping browsing the internet, on an American site. Reading about it, it seemed an interesting task to me, so I looked around to see if it was available in Hungary as well. Browsing the Hungarian sites, I found ClientFirst and joined their team of mystery shoppers. Very soon it turned out I like this kind of job and it fits my actual job as well as it was a perfect part time job.
Within a while, thanks to the work I had done, I was asked by ClientFirst if I would like to work for them as a validator. Since I still had space time during the days, I accepted this offer. Doing a good, responsible and reputated job as a validator, I was asked by the owners to join their team of coordinators as a full-time employee. I took the opportunity and I’ve been part of ClientFirst’s team since February, 2012.
The moto of this year's conference was Your Future Now! What did the organizers actually mean by that?
They meant that we have to define the right track to follow in order to achieve our future goals. This is not easy as the whole industry is under so much influence from our clients, and, furthermore, the work that surrounds us is changing so intensely that it is hard to follow. We have to find our way in this fluctuating business environment while satisfying our customer’s needs.
What made the 17th conference different from the previous editions?
Each conference has its own atmosphere, and the Malta conference had a scent of opening to beyond Europe as other regions of MSPA (Africa, Asia and South America) were also actively or passively involved. The visibility was broadened a bit, too.
Can you distinguish any talks and presentations that surprised you or brought new insight to you?
I’d mention the presentations of the Asian guests (e.g. from Turkey, India) who brought and introduced a new vison and a new point of view among us.
Which are the good practices you learnt about that you would like to take home from the conference?
Well, there were several. I think all the presentations were quite exciting. Furthermore, the workshops were really useful to all of us. If I had to pick just one topic, then the fraud prevention would be first on the list, as this is a really important issue we have to dedicate our efforts to. Without it, we can never progress results to our customers.
It has been a recent tendency during similar events to have agencies talk how offering complimentary services to companies would bring added value to the mystery shopping service as a whole. Were there any case studies or examples of that? What do you think about such an approach?
This is another approach, too. I think these cases vary in each company regarding partly their customers and also their own business environment they are working in. If the customers and/or the business environment are open to such issues, it might be an advantage to a company, but if not, then it is a trap you’d better not walk into.
The conference agenda covered methods for avoiding fraud prevention and guaranteeing the validity of the data collected by mystery shopping. What are the industry standards in this regard? How does Client 1st deal with fraud prevention?
I think fraud prevention is one of the turnkeys of mystery shopping as you have to be sure that the data you are providing is realistic and you ought to guarantee it to your customers. ClientFirst takes several important actions in order to ensure the data credibility of its reports: among others, a multilevel quality control system that we introduced long ago and which we constantly fine tune according to the daily experiences.
You are a regular participant in this forum. Where is European mystery shopping headed to? What development do you expect to see in the next few years?
Mystery Shopping broadens in Europe, I think, and it will turn to a really important and integrated part of not only customer care but also to the monthly evaluation of the employees of the key players on the market.
The MSPA conference in 2017 will be in Belgrade, Serbia. Do you have impressions about any differences between Central Europe, where you operate, and the Balkans, where Client X has experience, in terms of the quality of service and its measurement?
Since we operate in the Balkans as well, I can tell you that according to our experience, if you have a good partnering company, then you will face no much quality claims from your clients. So, the clue of Balkan operations is to have a reliable local partner/s that are able to manage the projects locally and are tuned to handle the local issues as well.
What is it like to be working with Client X?
Working with Client X has always been a pleasure to us, as we know that we can count on their work in terms of quality and punctuality as well. Both are really important aspects in our industry.
Can you describe Malta in a couple of sentences?
This was my first time to Malta. It had many impressions on me, I liked it a lot. It has a pleasurable climate, kind people and it is a good spot in the middle of the Mediterranean to discover. Although the island is pretty small, it has many places to discover and you really find something interesting or spectacular round every corner. Its nature and sea are also beautiful. Worth returning and enjoying it.