Blackout Dates

As the holiday season is now in full swing, you may be communicating to your Client Services Manager that mystery shoppers should not evaluate your locations on specific days. Your employees simply cannot be evaluated when they are at home with their families (whether gathered around a turkey, a fireplace, etc.) and your doors are closed.

Mystery shopping programs are often given additional “blackout dates” when evaluations may appear atypical for a number of reasons. Take the recent behemoth shopping day Black Friday for example, which is widely assumed to be a “blackout date” because employees are simply too busy to be appropriately evaluated. Contrarily, we must pose the question, “Isn’t customer service as important – if not more so – when serving more customers than usual?”

As Black Friday sales are starting earlier and sales are becoming predictable (see this recent New York Times article), the bottom line once again becomes customer service.

So, how does your company measure customer service on these important days without detrimentally skewing your ongoing mystery shopping results?

In 2013, we recommend you talk to your Client Services Manager about one of two possible alternatives to “blackout dates.”

One option is to create a complementary mystery shopping program to collect information about your customers' experiences on abnormal dates. An additional program can work identically to an ongoing program, or it can be tailor-made to suit the experience of a day like Black Friday. These results can then be compared to your own ongoing mystery shopping program and/or analyzed separately.

A second option would be to simply not restrict mystery shopping on any date; simply tell us that you’re interested specifically in the results for these days. You may be pleasantly surprised with the service your customers receive on hectic days. You can identify your exceptional representatives and areas where improvement can be made. Of course, we can still keep these evaluations separate from your normal reporting if you so choose.

Your best managers will inspire their staff to shine brighter when the store is busy. Pausing your mystery shopping programs at these crucial times is like changing the channel in the fourth quarter, when the game is on the line.

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