On 2nd and 3rd March, Casablanca held the first MSPA event in Africa. And as one of the two MSPA african board members, I was both worried and excited about this first experience. But it was a real success. It was also the first board meeting of MSPA Europe in Africa, Casablanca.
A success from several point of views… Let’s talk first about the attendance. We had some 30 delegates from 15 countries, good figures for a first attempt. We’ve appreciated the support of the board members : great presentations from Veronica, Stefaan, Jill, Cristiani and Yvonne and 3 board members among the audience.
We received also a few delegates from Gabon, Côte d’Ivoire, Algeria and Morocco. And some others from Europe (Belgium, UK,…). But one of the most interesting side of this event was the participation of 3 people from client side, representative of 3 big Moroccan companies working in Morocco and the whole African continent. They were completely impressed by the presentations and the debates were rich and stimulating.
In fact, this event has contributed to persuade these clients that they were on the right track with their MS programs but it helped them also to get an overview about what more could be done to improve their program.
As they were talking with the board members, they were amazed by the passion that all of us had and how we are presenting Mystery Shopping and how we are promoting these techniques. As MS professionnals, we were happy to explain and promote all the issues that MS has when confronted demanding clients, and all the solutions that we can offer in response. This event was proof that we must now think about how we could create in the future customer oriented events to promote MS and to benefit from valuable discussions with client side.
Without doubt, one of the success of this MSPA Casablanca event was this enriching and constructive debates that took place during the interactive sessions.
Apart from these exchanges with clients, MSPA event was also a great opportunity for African delegates to get to know more about Mystery Shopping and MSPA. MS is now evolving in Africa. As economies are growing and international brands are setting up branches in African countries, there's a real demand for these techniques in Africa.
So the local professionals do need support to train their teams and shoppers, to learn about the guidelines and to know how to sell Mystery Shopping programs to the local companies.
Such event could be a gateway for knowledge transfer and networking. During the sessions, we could learn the barriers and issues local providers are facing and the African delegates could be given some more visibility of all the wide range of MS techniques.
In fact, we got very useful and instructive papers from great speakers.
Yvonne started with informative slides about what's MSPA and she introduced Veronica for a larger scope. Veronica informed us about the history of MSPA then provided us with a very large overview on all the existing MS techniques and the over assimilated and competing technologies. The attendance could learn about the MS methods, shoppers recruitment methods (crowd sourcing, social media,...), software providers, ... But also some great insights on pitfalls and success factors. And finally, she ended with great examples of MS programs such as the famous Smiling report.
Jill offered us an amazing presentation on how to maximize the value of MS. Based on a real example (anonymizing the client names), proving that the secret of the success for any MS provider is to turn a "service based relationship" into a trust-based one. With figures in hand, Jill gave us some insights on the power of a trustful relationships with clients. It's not only a matter of philosophy and attitude, a trust-based relationship is synonym of a more fruitful and longer lasting customer relationship for both sides.
Stefaan echoed Jill's presentation providing other techniques to support MS. In fact, his message was clear: MS is a great technique only if there is a defined goal behind and if we measure the progress toward this objective. The main insight from Stefaan was that each MS provider should determine with the help of his client some KPI's to achieve. And through several MS techniques, training and coaching, the organisation should achieve these goals. MS providers are not only technique providers but also and above all, solution providers to leverage client's KPI's.
Cristiani was the last but not least speaker and she pointed out the main differences between Mystery Shopping and Marketing research. It was really useful to understand these differences as - especially in newer markets - the barriers are not always clear and local providers should be able to explain to their clients what's the difference between these 2 universes. We learnt about the threat of Big Brother and Big Data, the nuances between ''More'' and ''Better'' and how to choose the best tool to answer the client need.
With Cristiani, we get to better understand the advantages and limits of each of these tools: Marketing research (Customer satisfaction surveys) and Mystery shopping are both part of the Dynamic square of service. They don't give the same results but help the client to get a better picture if they know how to read and use it in a right manner.
One of the best part of this first MSPA Africa event was the discussion groups and the panel discussion session on the Challenges and Opportunities for Mystery Shopping in Africa & worldwide. A new opportunity to exchange with the whole attendance. One of the greatest challenges is to promote MS techniques and to give support to local providers in order to help the spread of right MS techniques. MSPA need to train MS company owners, executives, shoppers .... Even client side needs to know more about how they could use MS to improve their KPI's.
Participants would welcome new initiatives to organize other events in Africa. This first experience should be the beginning.
Finally, it would be unforgivable to conclude any tribute about this first MSPA event in Africa without giving some feedback on Casablanca itself. A beautiful and welcoming city with some great places to visit and delicious food. As the delegates, and especially the board members could testify. They liked the visit to the Great Mosque, the market, the Habbous, and the famous local dishes Couscous and Pastilla ……. Let's go back!
Abdel Wahab Chaoui - Director MSPA Europe Board