CSD: Valero Launches Mystery Shopper Program
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of an article from Convenience Store Decisions magazine.
Valero has partnered with Maritz Research to launch a new mystery shopping program called Commitment to Excellence.
Each of the company’s locations throughout its wholesale network will be visited by a mystery shopper three times a year and evaluated using set criteria. Store managers will have no idea when the mystery shoppers might stop into their stores.
“This is part of our continuing program to enhance the customer experience at all employer branded stores –not just the company stores that we have direct control over, but the Valero branded stores where we supply gasoline but don’t really have control over the store experience,” said Bill Day, executive director of media relations for Valero Energy Corp., which operates approximately 5,800 retail and branded wholesale outlets in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean under the Valero, Diamond Shamrock, Shamrock, Ultramar and Beacon brands.
The Commitment to Excellence program aims to provide an objective look at stores from a consumer’s perspective, zeroing in on areas that can directly influence shoppers’ overall impression of a store and shopping experience as a whole.
As the mystery shoppers visit each store, they will ensure the location is clean and well-lit, that their shopping experience was a positive one and that the convenience store staff members were friendly and helpful. Reports range from individual site results to aggregate scores, including frequently missed questions.
“Anything our customers would want when they enter the store is the same sort of things the mystery shopper will be looking for,” Mr. Day said.
Valero aims not only to fix any customer service issues but also find ideas to drive top-line growth.
“First, we want to enhance the customer experience when people are shopping at Valero branded stores, but secondly we want to learn more about customer behavior: What are things we can do to increase sales? What are some current trends customers are looking for that we may not have heard about?” Mr. Day said. “The mystery shopper program will open new lines of communication between our dealers, ourselves and our customers.”
Discussion Question: What are the keys to an effective mystery shopping program from a retailer’s perspective? What are realistic goals for mystery shopping programs?