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You are here: Home  June 2012  Features Canadians now using Mystery Shopping video

Canadians now using Mystery Shopping video


By Dan Denston, Executive Director, Mystery Shopping Providers Association

Hotels, like virtually every brand, present a brand promise to the marketplace. Whether that reputation is forged through advertising campaigns, word of mouth or mere reputation, it represents THE expectation

of almost everyone who walks through the lobby doors.
So the investments in both creating a reputation and in training programs aimed at insuring that the brand promise is fulfilled with every customer interaction must be protected. Most hotels engage in some level of mystery shopping to evaluate the customer experience at each level.

Due to the sheer number of employees and departments on any hotel property (to say nothing of an entire hotel brand) there are so many aspects of the customer experience to be measured through mystery shopping. As technology develops and becomes more accessible, we at the North American chapter of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (as well as our members) are hearing many questions from Canadian and American hotels alike about the use of video in mystery shopping.

Though Canadian hotels have been slower to utilize video in mystery shopping, its use in the United States is not increasing as quickly as most would guess. Canadian hotel properties are keeping an eye on its uses and applications within mystery shopping to determine its possible benefits for them.

“Canadian hoteliers have been slower to adopt the use of video mystery shopping in general, but hotels are paying attention to it,” said Daniel Chailler, president of Statopex, Inc., a mystery shopping firm headquartered in Laval, Quebec. “Mystery shoppers are well educated about their tasks to begin with, so the use of video might be used to demonstrate a typical area that could require additional inspection through mystery shopping.”

Such an occasion for further inspection is when a hotel’s mystery shops reveal their employees are completing the checklist of customer service items required of them, yet guest satisfaction scores remain low. That great “disconnect” is an obvious place for more speculation and most hotels, in that scenario, hone in on discovering more about the situation. This is one area where video makes so much sense.

“Video shops go beyond the checklist; they capture the good, the bad, and the ugly,” says Kimberly Nasief, president of Measure Consumer Perspectives, an MSPA member. “Video factors in tone of voice, body language and can often tell if an associate is reading from a checklist – physically or mentally – or actually fulfilling needs analysis. In the proper situation, video compared to traditional mystery shopping can really be like night and day.”

To meet the growing demand and curiosity in video mystery shopping, Nasief has coordinated with about a dozen other mystery shopping providers to create the Video Shopping Network (VSN). Even with today’s technology – you’ve seen “spy cams” in the SkyMall, or Brookstone or online – significant challenges threatened to impede video shopping. Reliability, cost, and the ability to get equipment in the hands of mystery shoppers are factors that VSN has minimized in order to make video mystery shopping accessible for hotels and other industries.

Nasief found that most cameras were too slow or choppy, too fragile (they most often have to be shipped among and between multiple mystery shoppers), or they lacked the ability to connect to the proper technology to be of any use. By forming the VSN, those mystery shopping companies were able to collectively buy higher quality equipment and to develop standards and training for video mystery shopping.

The use of video in mystery shopping is not specifically limited to the actual shops however. Anyone who has ever sold a concept, product, or idea to another business person knows that you first have to sell a premise. Painting that picture can be a difficult task. Thankfully, for one member of the MSPA, pictures are worth a thousand words. And moving pictures may have more value.

Chuck Paul, president of A Closer Look, utilizes a mystery shop video to illustrate the need for mystery shopping in hotels. Utilizing a video of almost five minutes, Paul clearly demonstrates how easy and often protocol can be ignored by hotel staff. Capturing scenarios such as saying a guest’s room number aloud, giving the room number of another guest, and housekeepers letting guests into their rooms (and some that aren’t theirs), A Closer Look has lived up to its name, showing hotel management how common those issues truly are.

“We have all been there and we understand how it happens, because 99 per cent of the time there is no issue in helping someone or answering a question for a guest, but that one time we know can have dire consequences,” Paul said. “But this video can be and has been a real eye-opener for hotels. It’s one thing to say ‘these things happen more than you know’ but it’s quite another to show it and remind hotels how easily it’s done and how people can seem to have the best intentions but still cause great harm.”

View the video at:

Whether it is for sales, training, or to identify problems for mystery shopping clients, it is clear that the use of video will be on the rise in coming years. Technology will improve at the same time that several members of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association streamline its effectiveness and costs. If a picture truly is worth a thousand words, Canadian hotels will be pressured into considering this option on a more frequent and widespread basis.

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