There are more than 126,000 convenience stores selling fuel in the United States, according to the 2014 NACS Retail Fuels Report. These retailers sell an estimated 80 percent of all the fuel purchased in the country.
Many brands operate hundreds of locations, and some hire mystery shoppers to maintain a regular auditing process. What these companies may not realize, however, is that their audits are getting blasted on the Internet.
Take, for instance, this mystery shopper’s comments on an online forum:
“At home, uploading my gazillion pics and realizing they’re not the right size, downloading a program to resize them, and then going through them a million times to get the pics for each question seriously stunk!”
“For instance, on the question, ‘All dispensers, including pin pad, clean, not faded, no missing or torn decals’ every single dispenser had all of these issues. … Do I take a picture for each condition, ’clean, not faded,’ etc.? Or just one picture for that question?”
Yikes! That is one frustrated and confused mystery shopper. She’s not alone. Here’s a response commiserating with her struggles:
“It took me over four hours including time on site, report and pictures. … It was so windy and I was trying to flip through 30+ pages of the guide (that I had to print at home, cost me more than $10 just on that).”
There was a 30-page guide just to complete the audit? If it sounds crazy, that’s because it is. There has to be an easier way!
5 basic things to look for when conducting a gas station audit:
- Curb appeal.
- Prices at the pump.
- Maintenance of the pumps and station area.
- Cleanliness of the store (if there is one) and restrooms.
- Product inventory.
If you are commissioning someone to conduct an audit for your company, make sure you provide the right tools to easily complete the task.
A mobile solution can automatically transfer photos or videos captured with the user’s smartphone or tablet. Plus, respondents won’t have to flip through pages when the survey is right there on the screen.
Also, make sure that survey questions elicit clear responses. You may also ask the shopper to rate their findings on a numeric scale. Remember: When questions are clear, the data collected is more accurate. And when data is accurate, it’s easier to identify problems and respond.
The Importance of Involving Your Staff
While mystery shoppers are convenient, they still don’t fully grasp your business — a problem that the most detailed set of instructions won’t solve. Your actual staff members are more likely to see other issues that may not be part of a shopper experience audit.
Additionally, you may want to have separate employee-conducted audits for safety, cash handling and more specific inventory data, such as tank amounts.
A flexible platform will allow you to create multiple surveys for different purposes, which will save your company time and effort.