Retail supplier Q&A with Amber Arch mystery shopping: “Market trends do change”
In my line of work as a retail consultant (as always, you can read more about my business, CannyInsights.com, here), I regularly find myself heading into shops to chat to retailers – praising (and often tweeting) things that they’re doing well, giving qualitative advice on aspects of the instore experience that can be improved, and working with them to implement changes that will enhance what they offer and increase footfall and sales.
This Mary Portas-esque approach works well in terms of addressing issues such as store environment, product and merchandising, where it makes sense to involve the business owner or store manager right from the start.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to get an objective insight into what real customers experience, or perhaps if there are more fundamental problems to be understood, there’s sometimes no alternative but to begin with an undercover visit. That, of course, is where mystery shopping firms can come in – and with a reported 50,000 mystery shops taking place every month in the UK, it’s certainly big business.
One mystery shopping firm that has developed a strong reputation in the North East and beyond is Amber Arch – based just down the road here in Gateshead – so, in a slight variation of the usual Retailer Q&A format, I recently caught up with its Sales Director, Lindsey Smith, to find out a bit more about what Amber Arch do, who their clients are, and what changes they are detecting in the world of mystery shopping.
Q. Tell me a little bit about your business – where is it based, what’s its history, and what does it do?
We are one the UK’s longest established mystery shopping companies in the UK, set up in 1995. We are based just next to the Angel of the North in Gateshead, and specialise in mystery shopping, customer satisfaction surveys, exit polls and sales training.
We work throughout the UK, Eire, and even into Europe and North America, measuring customer service for a vast array of different clients. Some have just a couple of outlets, others hundreds.
Q. And what’s your own role in the business?
I am the Sales Director, Lindsey Smith, who established the business in 1995 and am the major shareholder.
I deal with all our clients, ensuring they are happy and, of course, that we are providing the highest level of customer service. I also deal with all prospective clients, who get in touch wanting to know if we can help them.
Q. What types of business do you work with, and how does what you offer help them?
We work with a vast array of businesses, from hairdressing salons to multi-chain high-street retailers. We work in the service and hospitality industries too.
We measure their service and this allows them to train staff if required, with the ultimate aim of keeping more customers happy.
Q. Looking forward, what do you see as the greatest opportunities for a business like yours at the moment?
Video mystery shopping and customer satisfaction surveys are two areas of our business which are growing very quickly.
Both provide our clients with very strong objective information to help them.
Q. And what about the main challenges?
Our main challenge does not change; we have to provide our customers with the best.
Mystery shopping companies set up nearly every month and our aim is to always ensure that we are ahead of the game.
We need to anticipate our clients’ needs and, as a result, spend time finding out what shoppers want. We use this information to help guide our clients. Market trends do change and at the moment we are seeing emphasis on subjective feedback, with clients wanting to know about the “wow” factor.
Q. Where do you hope your business will be in five years’ time?
Nothing too dramatic – still in our offices in Birtley, but of course more customers please!
Q. And any final thoughts or comments that you’d like to add?
We really have worked hard over the years to provide a first-class service.
I am happy to say that we do that with all our clients and the amount of recommendations we get tells us we are doing it right.
For more information about Amber Arch and their secret shopping services, visit http://www.amberarch.com/.
Retail Supplier Q&A is a format where Soult’s Retail View talks to businesses that work with retailers about their current innovations, aspirations and challenges. As always with Soult’s Retail View, the features are not paid for – it’s all about providing interesting stories and content for the blog’s readers. If you run a suitable business and are interested in taking part in the feature, please drop me an email or a tweet.
Remember, my retail consultancy business, CannyInsights.com, also works with retailers nationwide to help them improve their stores, online marketing and market knowledge. For more information, visit www.cannyinsights.com or @CannyInsights on Twitter.