National Clothesline
National Clothesline
Thomas Edison, co-founder of General Electric, said, “The value of an idea lies in the using of
it.” So often I hear the words, “I am thinking of doing” followed by an assortment of different
I received a phone call with the
following statement and questions, “I
am thinking of using a secret
shopper service. Have you ever used
one? What did you think of it? Did it
help your company? What
information did the secret shopper
look for?”
Yes, my company used a secret
shopper. How you use a secret
shopper service gives it relevance. If
you retain a secret shopper service, you must have a plan in mind. After you create the plan,
put it in writing. When you write a plan, you will have consistency in the performance of the
I believe the secret shopper program helped my company. It put all of the CSRs on the same
page when they serviced customers. There was a dress code in place for the CSRs. If the CSRs
dress according to a standard, they should be able to verbally deal with customers to a standard
that you have pre-determined.
This brings me to the final question regarding what the secret shopper looked for. The secret
shopper company received a list created by my company. The list used for CSR and company
evaluation was based on the CSR training and the CSR sales meetings.
The secret shopper collected two pages of information. The first page dealt with the drop-off
of the customer’s items and the second page dealt with the pick-up of those items. In addition
to the information about the CSR, information regarding the store and its parking lot was
At the time of drop-off, the following information was graded:
• Parking lot clean and litter free.
• Enough parking spaces.
• Easy access into the parking lot.
• Name or description of the CSR. My CSRs had name badges so their names should always
be available.
• Number of other customers in the store. This information was important because it would
affect the length of the visit.
The CSR and store grades were on a scale of 1 to 10. The grades were on the following
1. Acknowledged promptly. Even if you have a store full of customers, it is important that the
client be immediately acknowledged.
2. Smile and give a warm and friendly greeting. I cannot tell you how important a smile can
be. When I interviewed new hires, the smile was one of the first things I looked for. You never
want to hire a person who does not have a great smile. I had a counter manager who hired a
young woman with a great smile but when she was not smiling, she looked like she had a frown
on her face. I was on vacation when she was hired.
3. Show enthusiasm and make good eye contact. One thing I learned many years ago while in
a photography class was “The eyes are the window of the soul.” The same holds true when
dealing with a customer. Making eye contact with a customer is very important, and something
neglected by most people when they are training their sales staff.
4. Neat and appropriate in appearance. (White shirt or white blouse. Dark colored pants or
skirt. Necktie or scarf.) Yes, the shopper checked out how the CSR was dressed. When I walk
into a drycleaning business and see the CSR wearing a t-shirt and short shorts, I know
immediately the business is at a low level of professionalism.
5. Asked you to point out any stains or repairs? This is very important. While inquiring about
the subject of stains and repairs the CSR should be inspecting the garments that are dropped
off. Customers frequently are not aware of an open seam or a spot on the seat of their dress or
6. Wearing a name badge. There was no excuse for an employee not to wear a name badge.
If a new hire was a trainee, that information was in addition to the name on the badge.
7. Use your name three times during your visit. I cannot emphasize enough how important
this subject is. This subject was part of a CSR’s initial training. If the customer is new to the
store, the CSR filled out an information card with the customer’s name. From that point on, it
should be very easy to use the client’s name. Do not ask the customer to fill out any
8. Smile and say “thank you.” Here is that smile again. No grouches allowed. Thank you are
two of the most important words of any transaction. The CSRs were trained that “thank you”
must be followed by the customer’s name.
9. Were you told about another one of our services? No matter what a customer drops off, the
customer does not drop off something for each service that you offer. If a customer does drop
off something for each service that you offer, you do not offer enough services.
10. When you mentioned that one of your garments had not been properly cleaned or pressed
when you picked up before, was the response by the employee a positive one? In addition to
grading this subject, room was left for the shopper to comment.
When pick-up was graded, only questions 9 and 10 were changed.  Question 9 became,
“Count back the number of pieces.” Question 10, “Did you receive friendly, positive service from
the employee?” The other eight questions and store information remained the same.
Those ten subjects, at either drop-off or pick-up, could bring a CSR a bonus check for scoring
100 percent. This is a win-win situation. If your CSRs know they are being graded and they will
get a bonus check for performing those ten topics correctly, you will have an outstanding sales
This is the final information that the shopper collected. What time did you enter the store?
What time were you served? What time did you complete your visit? Do you feel the wait time
was acceptable? Was your overall assessment a favorable experience?
Room for these comments was provided at the bottom of page 1. The secret shopper service
visited both locations once per month. If I wanted to secret shop a competitor, I could use this
service for that task. In that event, I would want to learn about the collection of customer
information. I would also learn if  “thank you” and “miss you” programs were in place.
In the event you need a question or questions answered, do not hesitate to send me an email
or call.  As you have read, I will respond to most questions, no matter the subject matter.

How the secret shopper works
Harvey Gershenson
operates Sterling
Drycleaning Consulting
and is a former owner of
Sterling Dry Cleaners. A
drycleaner, he has been
in the industry since he
was in high school. He
has served as president
of the Cleaners and Dyers
Guild of Los Angeles and
has served on the boards
of directors of the
Drycleaning and Laundry
Institute and the
California Cleaners
Association. He is also a
guest lecturer for the
California Department of
Corrections. He can be
reached by e-mail at
consultme@msn.com or
phone at (310) 261-
2623. His web site is