A mystery shopper or mystery guest referred by Coyle will experience every aspect of your value proposition through the eyes of a typical guest.
Hotel clients do (and should) have a lot of input into the process, but we firmly recommend that no one at the property know when the shopper will be coming.
We recommend that your mystery guest touch and experience every distribution channel that drives business to your hotel. Request that they book a reservation on your website and call your hotel directly to change it or cancel it. Make sure the mystery guest evaluate your reservation call center at different hours of the day, so that you can see if the quality of the experience varies. If you use a reservation service on weekends or overnight, definitely shop them regularly to see how they are handling your distressed inventory vs. sold out periods.
We also recommend the shopper book as though they came through your biggest revenue producers. If the Department of Defense books 10,000 room nights, the mystery guest should play that role. It can be very useful to see if your corporate clients are getting the perks that they are due.
Many hoteliers ask us if they should be shopped when it is busy or slow. Our answer is both. The shopper should experience your operation at peak periods as well as slow ones to see if service levels are markedly different.
If you are a seasonal resort or hotel, we recommend a shop a month or so before the busy season kicks in and one just as the season begins. The main point is that shoppers should be experiencing what your guests are.
The hotelier’s input is vital in order to make sure they get the most value from the shop. Things that the hotelier should request before each shop are:
- Method of Arrival (car, cab, shuttle)
- Food Outlets to be tested
- Resort Outlets to be tested
- Service Recoveries
- Special Tests
The shopper will then be sure to evaluate the areas of the hotel that are of the greatest interest to the hotelier. So, if you are worried that the team in the dining room does not give the same service at closing time that they do when they open, request that the shopper arrive 30 minutes before closing. If you get comment cards saying that no one answers the housekeeping line after 7 PM, that would be another area to shop.
The key to a great shop is having the mystery guest behave as a typical guest, and to provide them just enough information about the hotel to make sure they have the correct background as they approach the evaluation. However, it is not wise to make too many requests of the evaluator or give too detailed requests as they will become obvious to your staff and the interactions will be stilted or contrived. Finally, the shopper should never be privy to previous reports or have information that would in any way prejudice them against or in favor of any aspect of the hotel.