"Undercover Boss" is modern-day secret shopping with a twist. Secret shoppers typically went into stores and observed their clients' employees. Secret shopping became a standard practice in 1940 as a means to measure integrity of an employee.
Retail chains, hotel chains and other service oriented companies often paid internal and/or external candidates to serve as customers to check up on employee/customer relations. One of the things that secret shoppers looked for was how employees treated the customer. Mistreating the customer could result in lost sales which resulted in unhappy bosses.
Secret Shopping Goes National
"Undercover Boss" took the idea of the secret shopper to one of the biggest stage possible - television. CBS debuted the reality series that took the boss out of his or her element and essentially placed them in the atmosphere most prone to secret shopping - low level employee.
Instead of monitoring their customer relations, however, "Undercover Boss" evaluated employees' work ethics and behaviors. Most of the time bosses found that employees traditionally worked hard because they had a reason. The reason usually took the shape of family, children or obligations beyond family such as a hefty tuition.
What secret shopping neglected to do was substantiate why an employee treated a customer poorly. Secret shoppers did not do this on purpose; rather they only had short periods of time and impersonal contact with their subjects. There would be no idea on knowing whether or not an employee treated them poorly because of a sick child or an unpaid mortgage.
Today's Secret Shopping
Secret shopping still exists today, mostly in healthcare fields. They are without a doubt at an unfair advantage as "Undercover Boss" has the opportunity to chronicle their undercover tests via cameras. Not to mention, bosses clearly are able to communicate personally with their employees while secret shoppers primarily stayed in character.
Results of secret shopping directly relate to an executive's pay; happy customers translate into sales. The same goes for "Undercover Boss." As much of a "reality" show the series may be, the result of a boss going undercover can directly relate to his or her profit margin.
If you're ever a victim of a negative report because a secret shopper evaluated you on a bad day, don't worry. That person doesn't know what is going on in your life. However, if a new employee that looks familiar shows up abruptly know it could be your boss. Be honest and you may end up with a trip, cash or gifts.
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