Ideas for "Secret Shopper" training course. How to spot a secret shopper/how to handle.

Sep 13, 2016

I've been tasked with creating a "how to identify and handle" secret shopper course.  The secret shopper would be a phone call.  Any ideas/tips on creating a simple story/project?

I have the text script I am converting to Audio, now I just need some design ideas.

22 Replies
Phil Mayor

This one cries out for scenario based learning with sections where interact with the secret shopper and possibly interactive hotspots where you watch a secret shopper. Possibly run it as a game so you try and spot the secret shopper but also get feedback based on how you interacted with them

I could see myself designing it almost like cluedo where you collect evidence to see who was the secret shopper as well.

This one could be so fun!

Ryan Parish

Phil nailed it on this one! If I had anything to add, I'd structure it like a pre-test/ learning intervention/ post-test. Give learners a chance to go through the simulation and guess the shopper before they learn clues for spotting them. Then, teach them what to look for Finally, have them go through the same one again to see if they can pick up on who the shopper is.

Maybe run through this 5-6 times with different cues to spot, strategies to pick up on, etc. Then you could make the last part of the course a more comprehensive review where learners are timed to see how quickly they can spot the shoppers in a series of situations.  If you click the wrong person, you have to wait 5 seconds before trying again... Something like that.

Extra cool points if you send the variable that tracks their time out to a Leaderboard and make it a competition for the whole team (where everyone is a winner, of course)!

kristen neill

I agree with scenario based. We did somethinglike this for customer service training allowing the learner to make reaction choices and then branch the conversation to build on the interaction...such as welcomingthe guest. Learner choose how you would welcome them. Based on the choice, we can allow them to move on or redirect them to select another answer and give guidance.

Scott Kaye

Certainly scenario -based, but the phone call changes things. Probably the interaction of answering the call and some way to highlight the elements that would indicate a secret shopper. Personally, I would start with a secret shopper introducing themselves and explaining what they would say and why. Then some scenarios where the learner identifies whether the elements of the secret shopper were on display.

Josh L

Thanks for all of the replies guys!  

So this is kind of hard to be scenario based.  It's practically impossible to "spot" the secret shopper.  This means when the secret shopper CALLS in, they will be asking very generic/over view questions.  So the same basic questions they ask, 90% of the normal consumers ask the same questions.

Consumer calls in and asks "What are the benefits of plan X", we give the response.  

In this case, the consumer is the secret shopper, asking a general question that all individuals ask.  It's really just based on the accuracy of information they provide back.  There are over 500 potential questions/variations so it would be impossible to put all in.  We have an outside tool that you can quickly search and find the proper answers so my slides explain briefly what this tool is.  (It hasn't been rolled out yet)

My idea was to explain "what" a secret shopper caller is, "why" it's needed/important, and "how" to handle the calls using company tools to help get accurate answers.  I was going to do a Spy Vs Spy theme.  I'm finding it hard to come up with "scenario" based ideas.  I think it's because they wanted this more so to be an "explainer" video. Every slide has recorded audio, images, bullet points.

To add on to what I have...

I have 5 slides with animations and cut outs, bulletpoints explaining the who/why/how to.  I'm thinking of adding say a 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th slide with shoppable questions, and non shoppable questions.  Have the user check the questions that they feel would apply to a secret shopper call.  After they have selected the questions, provide them with multiple choice answers and see how they would fair on a possible secret shopper call.  That's one way to test them on the scenario based idea.  Again, there are so many variants it would take an extremely long time to input all the questions/answers. Each question could have a slight variance, and each answer as well.  Multiple answers could also be used so there isn't technically a "one answer" fits all for most questions.

All of you have given great recommendations.  Highly appreciated.


Kristin Savko

Since the scenario isn't working really well in this case, maybe you could do something that's more game-like? Run them through a stack of practice questions. They could easily be a standard multiple choice, but then do something like give coins on each. In that case, your scenario is really seeing how you fair at the questions. Based on their total number of accumulated coins, direct to results slides "You got promoted." "You got recognized by a job well done" "You got fired."  (Sorry, I'm not sure what the consequences are here.)  Although you can do that w/out coins, sometimes giving coins or points just makes it more game-like and fun.

Good luck!

Richard Jett

I can see where this would be tough to mold into a scenario based course based on what your client wants.  I agree with Ashley's comment earlier.  You can find some good inspiration from the link below.  Based on what you're describing, I think several of these demos might help you out.  

Richard Watson

Interesting angle. If I'm understanding this correctly, you are designing a "course" to help a company's employees answer questions asked by a "typical consumer" correctly using either their existing training or by looking up the "correct" answer in a outside tool/software.  If that is correct (note: still finishing my first cup of coffee to clear the cobwebs), here are a few thoughts.

Simulate the process as it actually occurs within the company setting/work environment (real world). I suspect they might be receiving multiple calls, while also working with another customer? A timer could be setup for each interaction that limits the amount of time they have to respond. A post feedback and evaluation could occur after each interaction.  Another option for the scenario would be to show the opposite of what should be done. For example, show them someone doing it incorrectly and then follow up with how to do it the "right" way. 

Hope this helps.

Nick Elkins

If I'm not mistaken, secret shopping is to evaluate customer service and knowledge of products. Wouldn't a better use of your development time be to better the staff's ability to answer ALL customer questions rather than spotting the secret shopper? If you focus on providing top-notch quality service to every person who calls in, then the secret shopper problem solves itself.

Mike Jones

I definitely think a scenario-based game could benefit your learners, Josh—but I also agree with Nick Elkins that your learners would be better off with a focus on overall customer service, instead of "spot the secret shopper." Since the point of the secret shopper is to evaluate your retail employee's ability to provide excellent customer service while demonstrating knowledge of whatever it is they are selling, you could structure it this way:

  • Have a series of "callers" that the learner can choose from—they'll deal with all of them eventually, but giving them the option of where to start and where to go next helps with motivation.
  • The learner then gets a set of 3 things that they can choose to say as a greeting to the customer/caller.
  • When the learner makes a choice, the caller's reaction changes and they respond—if they choose something really wrong, then you can use it as an opportunity to spot-check and provide remedial information before they try again.
  • Repeat that cycle for the duration of your call/customer interaction, maybe even add some sort of a point system/status meter with achievements that can be unlocked.
  • After all of the customers are complete, then ask the learner to identify which caller(s) were a secret shopper—it shouldn't be obvious, since part of the secret shopper's job is to be inconspicuous.

If you want to go into greater detail about what a secret shopper's role is, you can go into greater detail at this point. But I think focusing on trying to pick out a secret shopper defeats the purpose of the secret shopper program in your overall customer service strategy.

Best of luck!

Dave Ferguson

I tend to agree with the idea that delivering quality customer service is the (likely) goal, as opposed to spotting a secret shopper (who I assume is working for your organization, rather than a competitor).

Still it seems from your explanation that the people taking the customer calls are aware that there are secret shoppers (by whatever term) and that the role of such shoppers is a quality-assurance one.

The next question goes beyond delivery of training but relates to it: how does the organization use the secret-shopper data? Do people get in trouble, or is there a genuine effort to provide timely, specific, actionable feedback?

You might follow the excellent scenario-based approach (regardless of who's asking the questions) with an explanation / demonstration of feedback and consequences in general ("here's how and what we hear from customers") and as a result of the secret-shopping.

That could come via follow-ons (Customer Angela later filled in the online survey... Customer Dan was contacted by marketing... Customer Ilona was actually a secret shopper) or even another batch of scenarios in which the learner sees/hears "someone else's" responses, perhaps rates/comments on their appropriateness, and then sees either the actual-customer or secret-shopper's own opinion of the exchange.

That could be especially good if you have cases where response ABC is businesslike and accurate in terms of content but the delivery or transaction could fall short on some customer-service level, or cases where errors are made because someone relies on memory instead of on procedures, references, or other guidance.

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