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Mystery Shopping Professionals Association (MSPA) Conference

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Emma Harte (CEO) and Susan Reilly (Head of Sales and Marketing) were both delighted to attend the Mystery Shopping Professionals Association (MSPA) annual conference in Varna Bulgaria earlier this month. This conference brought together almost 200 Mystery Shopping Companies to work together to share their experiences over the past number of years and also what the future holds for mystery shopping.

The theme of this conference was Assess|Adapt|Act and carried the theme of how we need to assess the current situation for both ourselves and our Clients, adapt to the changing environment and act on the learnings to ensure we are bringing our Clients the most insightful and up-to-date programmes we can.

The conference saw a number of experienced mystery shopping professionals present their stories on challenges they themselves had experienced over the past 2 years and how they adapted their processes in response.

Day 1

First off we had an introduction from the President of MSPA Europe/Africa Luis Duarte who opened up the 2-day conference. Luis spoke to us about the theme of the conference Assess|Adapt|Act and what this meant for Mystery Shopping Professionals. This set the context for the other Speakers that would deliver their findings over the coming 2 days.

First of the presentations was from Cyriel Kortleven, a Global Speaker. Cyriel talked to us about “The Change Mindset”. This was a really impactful presentation which told us the power of using phrasing such as “Yes, and…” instead of “Yes, but…”. Such a simple but strong way to allow us to see the potential in every challenge, and not the pitfalls. Through some group exercises, this message was really hammered home and we all left this session feeling so positive and upbeat. A fantastic opening session to have.

The rest of the morning immersed us in Case Studies delivered by other Mystery Shopping Professionals. One case study delivered by Juliana Goranova from Client X in Bulgaria (our Host country), showed us some unusual mystery shopping programmes such as sending mystery shoppers out to restaurant to take samples of the fin from a certain variety of fish. This was to ensure the restaurants were not serving a protected species of this fish. Juliana also spoke to us about the work they did with Charitable Organisations. This really was food for thought!

Another really interesting case study was presented by Jill Spencer from ReactCX – Money for Old Rope. This presentation was a powerful delivery how of we need to demonstrate to our Clients the return on investment of their programmes. Although this can sometimes be difficult to measure as some of the returns are intangible such as customer loyalty, staff satisfaction etc… Jill showed us some really useful ways of demonstrating ROI by working with our clients to gather the data we need to show this. This is something we have definitely taken on board and are working away on at the minute for our existing and potential clients.

The afternoon session on Day 1 saw us being divided into 3 different breakout sessions (depending on the colour of MSPA baseball cap we received). I attended the Proposition Zone and Emma attended the Global Zone. These breakout sessions were a good way to work with other Mystery Shopping Professionals to examine each of the themes and really discuss what the challenges/solutions were. One thing for certain in the Proposition Zone was that data is crucial to business and is becoming more and more the backbone of how businesses operate and grow. We chatted about exactly how we should be collecting data for our Clients, exactly what data we need to collect and what the future looks like here. The importance of Exploratory Workshops with our Clients pre-commencement of the programme is an important factor here.

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Day 1 ended with some fantastic networking opportiunites for all Participants and a lovely dinner in the International Casino and Hotel restaurant, and lots of lovely Bulgarian wine.

Day 2

After having a lovely dinner and networking event the previous night, Participants were buzzing on day 2 for what the day ahead holds with their new found friends/partnerships. The day was opened again by Luis Duarte – President of MSPA who recapped on what we had learned the day before.

We then listened to Tony Allens presentation of some fantastic new intuitive hardware that can actually check the age of shoppers in a store. He had the machines with him and demonstrated exactly how this worked. This seems like a fantastic tool for companies to streamline their age verification checks in-store. This was really an eye-opener on how technology is evolving for all aspects of business. If anyone would like more information on this hardware, please contact me on susan.reilly@customerperceptions.ie and I can get you more information.

Another really interesting presentation came from Hannah Weekes of ProInsight. Hannah’s presentation was titled “The Modern Mystery Shopper – Creating Brand Loyalty/Obsession”. This insightful session showed us the power of not only connecting with our Mystery Shoppers but Engaging them to the point where you are creating an obsession with your brand. It is so beneficial for us as a Company, but also for our Mystery Shoppers to feel part of an engaging community. We took lots of learnings home from this session. Thank you Hannah!

Finally, to wrap up the session Andy Firth, from Ipsos UK spoke to the group about how the world is changing so rapidly and what can we expect next. Andy’s insights were a perfect opportunity to encompass all we had learned in the past 2 days and really summarise where we were now, and how we need to be prepared for what is to come next. The good news was that there is so much opportunity for mystery shopping, regardless of how the world changes and it is up to us as Mystery Shopping Professionals to anticipate these changes and adapt our businesses to continue delivering powerful and impactful programmes to our Clients.

After a hugely interesting 2 days, we wrapped up with an amazing traditional Bulgarian dinner on the Beach with some super entertainment. We heard stories of Bulgarian history, listened to some traditional music, watched some traditional dancing and even got to see two wonderful people demonstrate Bulgarians ritual of firewalking! As conferences go, we have to say that the Bulgarian hospitality for the duration of our trip was outstanding. Such a wonderful place to visit. Even with the extremely sore heads on Friday morning, we were sorry to be leaving such a beautiful city.

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Well done to all at the MSPA for organising such a fantastic experience for its members!

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Mystery Shopping Professionals Association (MSPA) Conference