Mystery customers lift the veil on the Wonders of the World

November 21, 2007 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News
The PRESENCE company, a leader in Mystery Shopping surveys in France and on the international stage for more than 20 years, presents the results of its latest exclusive study focusing on the quality of the welcome and services offered to visitors to thirteen tourist destinations pre-selected from the list of new "Wonders of the World".

The election of the “seven new wonders of the world” organised in July 2007 by Bernard Weber's New 7 Wonders association gave us the chance to rediscover these major tourist destinations and their natural beauty. The destinations welcome hundreds of millions of visitors every year, but what sort of welcome is offered and what services are provided?

After its last two studies, one of attractiveness, welcome and service provision in seventeen of the most prestigious avenues in the world, the other of the welcome and services offered to tourists in the underground railways of twelve large metropolises, PRESENCE decided to answer these questions.

You are welcomed with a smile and a "hello": "Welcome to the Coliseum"; you can buy your tickets from an automatic terminal: “Welcome to the Tower of London"; the security staff thank you for your visit: “Welcome to the Eiffel Tower”.

The PRESENCE MYSTERY SHOPPING company asked expert mystery customers to play the role of tourists in thirteen sites throughout the world which formed part of the shortlist for the election of the “Seven New Wonders of the World”.

Which site is the most easily accessible? Who are the most cheerful staff? Which site offers the best services to its visitors? Which is the best equipped to deal with people with reduced mobility?

To answer these questions, each of the thirteen sites was visited 10 times, totalling 130 visits. The inspectors bought a ticket and visited the site following a predefined itinerary.

The observations of the mystery inspector were made in three main areas:
The attractiveness of the site (accessibility, cleanliness, toilets, etc), the visit itself (welcome, wait, ticket purchase, etc) and the services offered to visitors (guides, information, accessibility for people with reduced mobility, etc).
These observations gave rise to a general and thematic classification, allowing the following awards to be given:
The Acropolis came first, The Coliseum second and the Alhambra third.

Accessibility: are the wonders accessible to everyone?

Most of the sites offer services allowing people with reduced mobility to carry out their visit with the same ease as other people. The paths are wide enough, ramps have been installed, etc. Two sites, however, are lagging behind and do not make provision for this access. These are the Kremlin and Petra, where the corridors are not wide enough or no facility has been installed.
In addition to the site itself, the restaurants at Petra and Atomium are very difficult to access for people with reduced mobility. Difficult to visit, access to catering services complicated: there is no doubt that Petra will not leave a lasting impression on visitors in wheelchairs.

Cleanliness: are the sites impeccable at all times of the day?

Most of the approaches and interiors of the sites are clean, although a few exceptions prove the rule. For example, during 7 out of 10 visits to the Atomium site in Brussels, the entrance was not clean.
Our Greek and Spanish mystery customers were lucky enough to find a clean environment and a perfectly clean site, unlike our Chinese inspectors, who found their site dirty during 80% of visits.
Most of the sites have clean toilets, with the notable exception of the Eiffel Tower, where the floors were dirty during 5 out of 10 visits.

The welcome: buongiorno, benvenuto in Italia

The welcome given to visitors during their visits to ticket offices was on the whole very average.
The staff at the Coliseum in Rime were the only ones to offer a personalised and attentive welcome to all visitors. On the other hand, the welcome at the Kremlin was as frosty as the climate: none of our visitors was greeted on their arrival at the ticket office.
The lack of politeness overall continued until our visitors took their leave: only one customer in two was wished goodbye.
The staff at the Eiffel Tower, unlike those at many other sites, offer a personalised and polite welcome allowing the visitors to forget that they had had to spend an average of more than two hours waiting before they could gain the precious permission to discover the heart of the “Iron Lady”.

Information: ¿Donde está la recepcíon?

In only 63% of cases were visitors who wanted to find out information given a greeting by staff. Is traditional Spanish courtesy on the wane? Whatever the truth of the matter, at no time was our customer greeted by the member of staff they chose for his or her request for information.
Japanese visitors, meanwhile, are forced to pluck up the courage to ask for information from site staff, because in more than half of cases either no response was forthcoming or the staff member’s tone was very curt.

Customer services: are the sites resting on their laurels?

Few of the sites stand out in their use of good practices to facilitate customers’ visits.
However, three are ahead of the pack: the Tower of London, which gives customers the chance to buy tickets from automatic dispensers, the Kiyomizu-Dera Temple, which gives customers the free 45-minute-loan of a PDA for their visit, and the Acropolis, where visitors are automatically given an explanatory booklet or a map of the site.

These three examples cannot mask the fact that few services are offered to visitors to guide them during their visits. For example, although guided tours are available at most of the sites, they were only offered to 1 in 5 of our customers.
The vast majority of the sites offer a catering service, but if you visit Petra be prepared for stomach cramps because there was nobody working there during 9 out of 10 visits.

While the Wonders of the World attract an increasing number of visitors every year, they have significant progress to make. The average score given to these sites was 67/100, which is far from the dream which they represent.
The Acropolis came top with a score of 82/100 and the list is completed by the Pyramids of Giza, which achieved a score of only 40/100.
The Eiffel Tower finished in 6th place in this survey, achieving the 2nd best result in terms of visitor services. Paris has the most professional security staff. Indeed, the Eiffel Tower was the only site where visitors’ bags were checked, and where 8 visitors out of 10 were thanked for their visit by the security staff. On the other hand, the Eiffel Tower stands out as the site requiring visitors to wait the longest for their entrance ticket (over two hours).
As in our two previous surveys of the World’s major avenues and the Undergrounds of the World, Parisian staff are among the most polite and respectful of the main tenets of customer service.

For more information on the results of this survey or to be sent the complete survey report, please contact:

Press Contacts:

Tel +33 (0)1 42 33 24 24 Tel +33 (0)1 42 33 24 24

Présence, the quality surveys division of the Topo Marketing Group

Created in 1986 and with offices in Paris and Villeneuve d’Ascq, Présence Mystery Shopping is a team of 40 specialist consultants and researchers. The company relies on a network of salaried personnel: a total of 1,500 Mystery Customers. Présence is also a founding member of an international work programme entitled “Excellence Mystery Shopping International” covering more than 45 countries on all five continents. Présence is the quality surveys division of the Topo Marketing Group, which offers a full range of services to allow brands, logos, networks and service and industrial companies to improve their customer services.