1. First impressions count
Mystery shopper looks at whether the shop is clean and attractive - inside and out. Marks are deducted for dirt and litter.
Mystery Shopper also looks at the window display and the brochure displays and judges whether they are clear and good looking. Finally, marks are also given for employees being neat and tidy.
2. Meet and greet
A good greeting is important to Mystery Shopper - she is looking for a smile and eye contact. She also likes the consultant to wear a name badge.
3. Don't keep Mystery Shopper waiting
This week Mystery Shopper left an agency after 20 minutes without being acknowledged.
If there is a queue, Mystery Shopper likes to be acknowledged and offered an explanation and apology. Ideally she should be greeted within one minute of entering the branch.
4. Make her feel at home
A bit of TLC and the offer of refreshments such as a cup of tea and biscuit goes a long way to making her feel welcome.
5. Cover all aspects of Mystery Shopper's request
Mystery Shopper is looking for a quote that will cover all aspects of her holiday needs, including destination, budget and type of holiday - this means agents' listening skills are crucial.
Many agents lose points for making assumptions about details such as budget or type of board requested or not sticking to her request.
6. Demonstrate your knowledge
Mystery Shopper likes to feel confident about the agent's knowledge. If you are not sure about the product, she likes you to do some research, enough so that she has a couple of satisfactory options.
She is always impressed with additional knowledge such as exchange rates, visa requirements or local events.
7. Use the selling tools to the best of your ability
Showing Mystery Shopper photos or video will help boost your score. Investigate what selling tools are available and use them. Gazetteers offers 360-degree views of hotels and resorts.
Describing a resort or telling Mystery Shopper about the sort activities available in resort goes a long way to getting a good mark.
8. Make the consultation feel like a conversation
Mystery Shopper doesn't like too much of a hard sell. Try to bring products into the conversation naturally, such as 'By the way, have you thought about how you might get to the airport..."
Long silences during consultations can make Mystery Shopper feel awkward and that you are not interested in her booking, so keep the chat flowing.
9. Add the extras
Excursions, car hire, insurance and airport parking are some of the extras Mystery Shopper likes to be sold where appropriate. Some of the best scoring agents have even offered her a free extra as a booking incentive.
10. Be positive
Mystery Shopper can be left gobsmacked by some of the comments agents make about destinations. Accentuate the positive - don't tell her it's too expensive or as one agent recently said "Turkey was mainly old ruins".
11. Provide the right literature
Mystery Shopper likes to be able to take away a brochure or literature containing photos and information about the recommendation.
12. Close the sale
If the agent tries to close the sale Mystery Shopper will give marks. That doesn't mean actually achieving a sale then and there, but creating an incentive to book by, for example, pointing out it is a particular offer that won't be around for long.
13. Follow up
Most agents will give Mystery Shopper a business card, which she prefers to a name and number written on a brochure or compliment slip.
But the highest scoring agents will also take Mystery Shopper's name and number and agree a time to ring her to follow up the enquiry - ideally within 72 hours.
14. Let her down gently
Mystery Shopper makes no assumptions about the type of agency she is visiting. Occasionally she might visit an agency that doesn't sell they type of holiday she is seeking - for example asking a flight orientated shop for a cruise.
Although this agency will inevitably get a low score, the report will be better if the situation is explained to Mystery Shopper rather than her being sent away.
15. Do it yourself
Many of the multiples employ Mystery Shoppers to test their staff. Smaller agencies can practice role plays during training sessions to prepare to deal with challenging scenarios.
16. Make it the backbone of training
Some agencies develop their own criteria for demonstrating good customer service and develop their staff training around Mystery Shopping. Decide what you think makes a good consultation and then make sure you staff can deliver on this.
17. Act on customer feedback
Proactive agencies will keep a record of customer feedback. Make sure you use any complaint letters to improve service.
Likewise, if your staff receive letters of praise, make sure everyone knows what it was about that consultation that the customer liked.
Find out what will incentivise your staff - some may be motivated by a target-related bonus, while others may respond better to a system such as commission-related earnings.
19. Points mean prizes
Don't forget the highest scoring agent each month wins the use of a black Porsche Boxster for a month, courtesy of Elite Island Resorts. Hopefully the thought of zooming around in that will give you some drive.
20. Enjoy your job
Mystery Shopper really likes to pick up on a good atmosphere within a shop and enjoys dealing with an enthusiastic consultant.
How Mystery Shopper works
Every week Travel Weekly sends Mystery Shopper to four agencies in one town. Mystery Shopper is armed with a scenario of the type of holiday she is looking for and a set of criteria by which the consultation is judged.
Agents are not told when they are Mystery Shopped and only find out about it when it appears in Travel Weekly. Mystery Shopper and the consultant are always referred to as she in the reports, so male travel agents cannot easily be identified.
What the highest scoring agents said
We asked the highest scoring agents in Mystery Shopper to log on to our forums in the travelhub and tell us why they think they won. To read the discussion in full, log on to travelhub and add your own views.
"Excellent customer service added to product and destination knowledge are the cornerstones of success."
"The problem we have in travel is we end up giving customers too many brochures, most of which they don't need."
"Just something little like remembering the customer's name makes them feel really important."
"If they aren't booking something that day, make sure you tell them that you will check with them in a couple of days to see if they have thought any more about it, and do so! This shows interest in their enquiry."
- Hear more from agents who have been Mystery Shopped on the travelhub forums...
Mystery Shopper on the best agencies
"They worked as a team and I left feeling I wanted to book with them."
First Choice, 97% (Mystery Shopper in Dunfermline, Feb 27)
"This was by far the best of my visits. The agent did all she could to find the right holiday. Nothing was too much trouble."
Premier Travel, 97% (Mystery Shopper in Cambridge, Feb 20)
"She showed me photos and a video of the hotel on the computer and gave me a brochure. She tried to sell me insurance."
Thomson, 99% (Mystery Shopper in Hamilton, Jan 30)
"I was given advice on health, visa, cash and planning issues. The agent is a credit to the company - she was positive, cheerful, knowledgeable and made me feel special."
Going Places, 96% (Mystery Shopper in Burton-on-Trent, Nov 21 2008)
- Search the archives for Mystery Shopper features
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