Peter Drucker famously said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Extract from my book – Mystery Shopping Mastery

Time and time again I see companies trying to fix problems they have imagined while ignoring the problems that need fixing. Sure, management is an art and skill, but good measurement provides direction to apply that art and skill.

Hard skills are easy to measure, such as average sales, staff costs, and even foot traffic. But soft skills seem only to be measured anecdotally because anecdotes are easy. If executives ask their middle managers about customer service, they provide a sterilised view. If they ask the customers, they only get extreme views.

The only voices heard from customers are complaints from the disenfranchised or comments from raving fans. Sure, this information is important, but it’s equally important to get information about the “normal” experience. How do you serve the 99%?

The following example is a true-life story of how a simple measurement completely transformed a company’s strategy. Our client was a mortgage broking company selling loans into the retail market. The problem was that the advertising was wildly successful, but the advertisements were not being adequately converted to sales.

Their strategy was to employ older, more experienced mortgage bankers, and the advertising reflected their experience by suggesting customers “shop with experience.” The mystery shopping zoomed right in on the problem of poor conversions. Although customers were reacting positively to the “experience” angle in the advertising, the delivery by the mortgage brokers was very different. The mortgage brokers were selling based on price. This created a huge disconnect between what attracted the customer and what was being delivered.

The solution for the client was simple and difficult. Either change the strategy to reflect the current culture or change the culture to reflect the strategy. The company spent a fortune trying to improve sales tools, redefine the marketing, and even speed up computer systems. But all of that was wasted because the problem was simply that the sales people were doing something completely different to the strategy.

This is a common story. Management wastes money on misdirected sales and service training programs and fancy board level re-alignments. But, the problem is often as simple as the staff not executing the current strategy. And it might not be the fault of the front-line staff.