October 16, 2020 /
Comments Off on Don’t benchmark, except when….

Don’t benchmark, except when….

Oscars behind smoke benchmark

How do we compare to competitors?

Are we more efficient?

Is our service better?

Don’t benchmark, except when you are running your own race

Don’t get obsessed with benchmarks.

You are running your own race.

Except for rare circumstances there is no prize for being the most efficient, best service, or most admired stakes.

Each organisation has its own strategy.

A high touch, high price industry player should not compare to a low cost automated player.

A local council in one part of the city could have different priorities to another.

Elon Musk doesn’t compare his manufacturing costs to Volvo. How can he compare engine production costs when his cars lack a petrol engine?

Apple? Jobs? Enough has been written about them.

Your competitor won an award? So? We judge awards with criteria set by someone not even in the industry.

I see this all the time in mystery shopping and customer surveys. Measure your own strategy, not someone else’s.

When to benchmark

Now a twist. If you want to a comparison, do so according to “your” strategy.

If you want to attract high end high touch customers with genius service reps, then test how you are doing against your own criteria. Then mystery shop the competitors to see if anyone is implementing your strategy better (and thus attracting your target market).

Use your own criteria.

October 14, 2020 /
Comments Off on Don’t be the customer’s spider

Don’t be the customer’s spider

spider web

Why are people so afraid of spiders?

Why are people (me included) freaked out by spiders? Because they are so different to us. A dog has two big black eyes, whereas a spider has eight. Yuk.

The answer to that question also answers a question I often get asked by clients.

Exactly what should my staff say when serving customers?

When it comes to serving customers, don’t think of what to say, think of what to “be”.

Be a mirror.

Researcher Richard Wiseman studied whether mirroring or positive reinforcement was more effective at building customer connection.

One group of waiters used positive reinforcement by dishing lavish praise about the menu choice and encouragement with words such as “great”, “no problem” and “sure”. 

The other group mirrored their customers simply by repeating the orders back.

The results were stunning. The average tip of the mirroring group was 70% higher.

A mirror is the door to empathy.

So a mystery shopping question aimed at evaluating the welcome is more complex than it seems. 

Instead of asking:

“Was the staff member pleasant?”


“Did the staff member repeat you request”, then ask
“Did the staff member adjust the conversation to follow your needs”.

Don’t be a spider, be a dog.

September 23, 2020 /
Comments Off on Why I drove 1,500km for $80

Why I drove 1,500km for $80

tesla on dirt road

Why would anyone spend two nights away from home and drive 1,468km (880 miles) for less than $80?

2 minute video of why I drove 1,500km for $80

I did it to complete a single mystery shop in a town called Walgett in the western outback on the NSW QLD border. 

I did it for $80. 

I impulsively decided on the trip the day before. It felt right. On reflection, there were 8 good reasons to do it. 

I’m not going to tell the client I did it myself.  To them it’s just one of many sites (jobs) ticked off for the month.

I had a good reason not to do it. It’s a hard job in a town in the middle of nowhere with only 2,300 people. Though the client wouldn’t be thrilled, I had an excuse, not to do it. 

But I did it for many reasons. 

  1. It’s a long standing client (over 10 yrs).
  2. We’ve earnt great money over the years so I owe them.
  3. The contract renews every couple of years. Like they say about wives – Happy client happy life
  4. It shows my staff we MUST deliver (and we do).
  5. It helps me price future jobs because I can ‘feel’ the issues that come from its remoteness.
  6. It helps me truly understand why my staff struggle with some jobs (they aren’t being lazy).
  7. I tacked on a couple other remote jobs, which eases the stress on my scheduling staff and account managers. Its also marginally helps pay for my time.
  8. I get to discover a new part of the country and I love driving (I didn’t need much pushing).

Did I just justify my gut feel, or confirm my gut was right?

September 21, 2020 /
Comments Off on How a flimsy sign altered behaviour

How a flimsy sign altered behaviour

Hungry Jacks Coffee sign

We see thousand of pieces of advertising each day. 

Sure consumers feel bombarded and it seems impossible any of it can stand out. 

But it works!

Why else would companies keep spending the money?

Today I was in an unfamiliar town looking for a coffee break during a long drive. 

On one side, KFC, on the other Hungry Jacks. 

I thought to myself. Do they even do coffee?

Then I saw a sign at Hungry Jacks advertising Barista coffee. 

I know there isn’t a barista in there but it was a signal. A signal that a) they sell coffee and b) that they sell coffee worth advertising. 

A sign is a signal. Same word, one is a noun and one a verb. 

So I bought it. 

These forms of advertising are expensive to buy and maintain. 

But in order for it to work the store must actually have the sign on display and it must be in good order. 

Maybe KFC should have had a sign on display and it wasn’t taken out for the morning? They should. 

Tardy signage signals tardy product.  Non existent signage signals non-existent product. 

These little things matter. So does the little matter of auditing signage, presentation and displays. 

Two minute video of how a flimsy sign changed my behaviour.

August 11, 2020 /
Comments Off on Why you should collect useless information

Why you should collect useless information

Why a staff member should collect information even if they can’t do anything about it

I closed a bank account today, and the reason I had to close it IS relevant.

2 minute video explaining why you should collect more information than necessary

I closed it because my bank, Greater Bank does not have Apple Pay as part of their Visa card offering. 

I am now wallet free, digital license, apple pay, phone key, electric car driving child of the internet age. I don’t want to carry one single card, so I decided to ditch this last dinosaur by opening an account with another bank.

The staff member who closed my account could not have been more helpful. But she didn’t ask me why I was closing my account.

Now sure she couldn’t do anything about it but she could’ve done two things. Firstly, she could have asked me why I was closing my account, and second, she could offer to leave the account with a zero balance and no fees until such time as the function I was seeking would be available (which it will eventually).

Now another bank has got my transactions, and our banking does tend to follow our transactions. So they’ll probably end up getting the whole of my company’s banking.

Collect information from customers, even if you can’t do anything about it.

July 30, 2020 /
Comments Off on How to improve a 10/10 review

How to improve a 10/10 review

Certain things work certain ways.

When you get on a plane (remember that?) you expect a safety briefing, the expected timing of the trolley cart, and precise announcements. It’s just the way it works.

The same with hotels and AirBnB’s. You expect the bathroom to have tissues and soap.

Here’s the anatomy of a private review of an AirBnB in the Southern Highlands of NSW Australia. I’ve avoided personal preferences, and none of these things were enough to detract from the 10/10 review. The place was (and is) amazing.

This is one of the best AirBnB’s I’ve stayed at, yet it too had room to improve.

First impressions were awesome

Fantastic communication with the owner over a few days. Instructions were clear, and they even suggested a shortcut which is better than Google maps.

The place itself is stunning, private, and gives a wow factor when you walk in.

They even had a detailed compendium highlighting the hidden treasures of the apartment.

Picture of food in front of a fireplace

But the devil is in the details

It was pouring rain and windy when I checked in. Rain exposes things.

The Entrances

A soaked front door mat – most of us respect other people’s property but I couldn’t avoid bringing wet shoes into the studio apartment. Another doormat inside the door would fix that.

The back door had no doormat. Again, wet shoes were dragged into the apartment.

The back door had no awning over the nice french doors, so there was no space between inside and outside.


Very well equipped but no salad tongs.

Noisy fridge

No table mats – we didn’t want to mark the table with hot plates.

The bed

Squeaky. Enough said.


Complicated TV.

Complicated taps – took a while to work out how to get hot water.

Fireplace – yes it had one and it was pre-loaded (nice touch) but it didn’t have instructions on how to control airflow.

The stove exhaust fan just recirculated the air back into the apartment, without external exhaust.


No tissues

No powerpoint

Am I being picky?

There is always room for improvement. If elite athletes keep refining their game, so can a 10/10 AirBnB.

The point is that we can also improve and I’d always suggest an independent set of eyes to make things better.

July 28, 2020 /
Comments Off on Scary hygiene statistics

Scary hygiene statistics

Retailers are trying to do the right thing by providing hand sanitiser stations. But consumers seem oblivious.

Only 17% of people in the COVID-19 world are sanitising.

We’ll be releasing more details of our 2,521 observations in the coming week. Brands (Australian) observed were Bunnings, Coles, Chemist Warehouse, Kmart, and Officeworks. The brands are trying to do the right thing. But consumers are not.

We also look at whether staff were directing traffic to sanitise, what effect that has, and the effect of herd mentality (not in the immunisation sense).

Scary statistics.

Let those who have not sinned cast the first stone.

June 12, 2020 /
Comments Off on How confident are COVID consumers?

How confident are COVID consumers?

It’s one thing to be “coming out of restrictions”, it’s another thing for customers to ‘want’ to be spending money.

Will there be a rush to malls?
Will there be a rush to other public places?

We surveyed 670 consumers and found they are more skittish than you’d think.

Graph showing COVID-19 effect on consumer confidence showing 63% of consumers are not confident in public spaces.

If you want the customers, make them feel safe.

  • Make purchases quick
  • Go over the top with prominent safety features
  • Train your staff practice safety
  • Monitor your CovidSafe practices

We’re starting mystery shopping of these practices all over Australia and look forward to sharing the results.

May 28, 2020 /
Comments Off on Confidence in crowded places

Confidence in crowded places

It’s one thing to be “coming out of restrictions”, it’s another thing for customers to ‘want’ to be spending money.

Will there be a rush to malls?

Will there be a rush to other public places?

We surveyed 670 consumers and found they are more skittish than you’d think.

If you want the customers, make them feel safe.

Make purchases speedy.

Go over the top with prominent safety features

Train your staff practice safety

Monitor your CovidSafe practices.

We’re starting mystery shopping of these practices all over Australia and look forward to sharing the results.

May 21, 2020 /
Comments Off on Press Release COVID Sentiment

Press Release COVID Sentiment

For release 12:00

Date: 21 May 2020

Secret Consumer COVID Shopping Habits

What consumers really think about our new world.

Wollongong (NSW) – 20 May 2020:   Service Integrity, a leading mystery shopping and research company, today published COVID-19 nationwide retail survey results. The study was conducted to answer the questions many retailers are asking about new world buying behaviours.  

Service Integrity employs over 30,000 mystery shoppers throughout Australia and has worked with Australia’s largest retail brands since 2003.

How have buying habits changed?

Of the 680 respondents, only 18% of people said COVID-19 would NOT affect their buying habits but 41% said the changes would be at significant or change their habits completely. The results are similar for men and women, but 29% of young people (18-25) believe their buying habits will change completely, whereas only 12% of the 50+ group believe their buying habits will change completely.

Are people confident in crowded locations?

62% of people are not confident in crowded locations. There is a significant difference between men and women, 55% of men are not confident whereas 65% of women are not comfortable in crowded locations. The least confident people are those in states where COVID flareups have occurred with 89% of Tasmanians and 67% of Victorians not confident but only 54% of people in W.A. lacking confidence in crowded spaces.

The big spenders have gone online

Lack of confidence and restrictions has changed our online buying habits significantly. 36% of people have diverted some spending to online. The move is most pronounced for people earning over $150,000 per year where 46% of respondents have diverted to online. Again, the states with the COVID-19 flareups have the biggest diversion to online with 44% of Tasmanians and 41% of Victorians diverting online, but only 18% of South Australians and 29% of West Australians diverting online.

Where to in the future?

Overall, 37% of people will now shop more online with 52% of those earning over $150,000 per year and only 33% of those earning under $50,000 per year increasing online spend. Unsurprisingly, 64% of those under 25 years of age will increase their online spending but 30% of the over 50s choosing to do so.

“A 30% increase in online spending is a massive move in shopping habits” Steven Di Pietro Director Service Integrity Mystery Shopping.


What does this mean?

The impact on future retailing is seismic. Across all sectors the change will affect at least 30% of people, whether it be by age, income, gender or even location. Most importantly, if retailers want to maintain their retail stores against this force, they must give consumers confidence that public places will be safe.

What you do about it?

Retailers need to go over the top by showing they respect the customer’s concerns and safety. As the rules are being re-written, retailers need to also check that customers and staff are adhering to the new rules so they don’t destroy their brand, or worse still, make people sick. Retailers must do more than just issue a policy, they must monitor relentlessly using tools such as COVID Audits and Mystery Shops.

For more information:

Steven Di Pietro

Service Integrity Research and Mystery Shopping




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