Surly Staff & Bitter Dissapointment

I often amuse myself by mystery shopping not only competitor businesses but our own clinics too. Sometimes the feedback is great but sadly far too often my expectations are bitterly disappointing.

In the past 10 years I’ve chalked up some hilarious experiences while mystery shopping and I’ve turned the mystery shop into an art form! Sometimes I test telephone technique, sometimes retail sales and sometimes treatments. Often all at once.

When attending aesthetic salons, I usually turn up wearing something very ordinary, with minimal makeup and generally looking like someone who doesn’t really care about their appearance. I then proceed to ask questions about a specific concern (real or imagined) and test the depth of knowledge of the therapist while also assessing the brand presentation, marketing materials and customer service.

I have great fun researching competitors and some of the experiences are worthy of a comedy sketch or two. Sadly, it never ceases to amaze me how many businesses put inexperienced, team members who lack confidence and knowledge in frontline positions. Often, they lack even the most basic of skills needed to manage a simple customer enquiry.

Think about the last few interactions you have had with staff of random companies; the pool man, the supermarket, your local hairdresser – did they live up to expectation?

One of my most notable experiences was a mystery shop to a well-known overseas beauty salon chain. In truth, it started as a quick reconnaissance mission to find out about a specific piece of equipment that they had recently acquired but it quickly turned into a morbid obsession to see just how bad things could be… a bit like that horror film you watch through your fingers when you know you should just stop but can’t force yourself to turn the TV off!

The whole experience turned into a four day event during which time I visited no fewer than 14 salons and although I was carrying significant cash in my bag (not wanting to be recognized by the name on my credit card) this group managed to miss 14 opportunities to sell to me treatments and products! The irony was I was hell bent on trying the new technology and had also identified a few skincare products that were not available in Australia and that I wanted to check out.

Describing each of the visits in detail would require considerable blogging space so I thought I’d spread them out over a few posts and give you the highlights and the best (or worst depending on your perspective).

Salon I’m too busy for you was located on the first floor of a high-street location. As I climbed the stairs it occurred to me that this was a spacious staircase with bare walls – such wasted marketing potential. At first, I assumed the staircase serviced multiple businesses but it led only to one place – the salon. Why then had the salon not made use of the wide landing and bare walls to tease the customer into thinking about their aesthetic concerns and potential treatments on their way up?

When I reached the salon door I found it locked. A tatty piece of paper pulled from a spiral bound notebook and stuck to the door with tape said “therapist in treatment”. I pondered for a moment but through the glass could see a large pull up banner advertising precisely the piece of equipment I had come to see so I knocked hard to get attention. Several times. Eventually a therapist came to the door wearing surgical gloves holding her arms bent at the elbow and her hands in line with her shoulders. I wasn’t sure if the message she portrayed was “I can’t take my gloves off” or “I’m not touching anything that might have germs”. Rather than open the door she shouted “can I help you?” through the glass. Clearly, she was annoyed that I had dared to knock. I quickly established that I was looking for information about the new treatment at which point she reluctantly opened the door taking care to use only one hand in the process.

As I followed her into the spacious reception area I was met with a dark and gloomy room. The reception chairs were jaded and tatty. Old magazines were strewn across a coffee table and the carpet had seen better days. On top of the reception desk was an empty cup. Several bundles of paperwork and half dead plant. The product display shelves contained more marketing information than actual product. As I followed the therapist (still holding her hands in the air) I emphasized that I was excited to book an appointment and that I’d like a treatment as soon as practically possible.

I was met with negativity from the start. “I’m not trained in that treatment so I can’t help you” followed by “can you come back on Tuesday?” When I asked for a leaflet she rummaged with the one hand through the reception drawers (the other hand still level with her shoulder) before announcing that she had none. When I asked for pricing she didn’t know. When I asked for a consult I she told me that consults were on Tuesdays when the specialist staff member would be in. I then asked if she thought any of the brand’s other salons would be able to offer a consult today she shrugged her shoulders and said “you can try calling them”.

At this point I spotted the skincare range that I was interested in and asked to see the anti-redness formula. At this point I was informed I needed a consult with the nurse before I could have the skincare and you guessed it she would be in on Tuesday!

I left quietly scoring the visit as follows:

Knowledge and skill 0/10

Customer service 0/10

Brand presentation 1/10 (would have been 0 had the impressive pull up banner not lured me to knock)