The Scheduler of the Year Contest

Editors note: This is a discussion of the Scheduler of the Year Contest recently hosted by Mystery Shop Forum. During the contest, dozens of schedulers and companies were recognized for their great work. I encourage you to read the nominations here.
When I first saw the Mystery Shop Forum thread ‘Scheduler of the Year,’  I was quite excited. Even though it was clearly labeled a contest, I knew it would identify great schedulers. In my self-centered thinking, I thought it could give me additional insights into schedulers and mystery shopping companies. It did. I thought shoppers might challenge my perceptions about scheduling companies. This contest certainly gave me something to think about. Lastly, I thought it could help my business. It already has.
Before I nominated my best schedulers, I posted a comment in the companion thread about scheduling companies. The suggestion was the very nature of their job prevented them from being great schedulers. This thought arose from the fact I have preferred dealing with companies that employed their own schedulers because I have discovered they can help when problems of all types arise. Scheduling companies just schedule. I was hoping for others to comment on that idea. Would other shoppers support or refute that idea I wondered?
Amongst the nominations came a flood of support for schedulers from the largest scheduling company, KSS (Kern Scheduling Company). No less than nine different KSS schedulers were nominated. One of them, Shelley Martin, was cited in 25 different posts. The head of KSS posted to state their scheduling team was excited about the idea of a contest and some had changed their signature lines to invite shoppers to support them in the contest. At least one other company (Jancyn) promoted the contest to their shoppers by email. The head of Buckalew himself nominated one of his schedulers. Predictably, some forum members were none to happy about this involvement from companies. They complained of skewed results. Some were even questioning the value of the contest. As LisaSTL stated, “It’s too bad there is a history of a few MSC employees and owners registering under multiple screen names in order to provide glowing reviews where few, if any, exist. It is one of the many reasons I detest threads about favorites.” Some wondered with discerning eyes, “There were 7 nominations from people, who have been registered with the forum at least a few months; there were 5 votes from people, who just signed up today.” (stilllearing) Additional forum members just tuned out the thread. Lori Kern of KSS said it well when she said, “Really, how often do schedulers get recognized?” I might say, “How often do shoppers recognize the good things?” As we on the forum are quick to point out the negative, the frustrating, or the outright wrong (as we see it), it is rare to highlight the best things. It is rarer still to do regarding such an important element of our businesses, the scheduler. I choose to glean from it what I could.
My reaction to the thread was diverse. Surprise and interest were just some of my reactions. I was surprised for the amount of love shown to eight Market Force and five Maritz schedulers. This was because my experience with them is when they call I become impatient with the script they follow. For example, the cell phone tells me it is Market Force and I often sigh as I answer the phone. Instead of hearing the script, I want them to just tell me which shop, in which location, the fee offered, and the time frame. The support for all these schedulers changed my view. From now on, I will try to answer with a smile in my voice. I will listen for their name and have more patience. If it is Felicia or one of the others named, I will be glad to speak with them. If I hear from Frances, I will want to ask her if she is older than my grandmother and how she does it.
I was interested to see how much support there was for KSS and the other scheduling companies. I counted thirteen schedulers nominated from three different scheduling companies. Also, the nomination for Celeste Borden of Summit also caught my eye because those recognizing here were a number of long-time forum members. I was disappointed to see no discussion in direct response to my comment about the nature of scheduling companies. However, the degree of enthusiasm for scheduling companies from both new and established forum members has certainly opened my eyes.
A total of 53 companies were represented with nominations for their schedulers. As I expected, most of the larger companies were represented with nominations. Three of the 15 most discussed companies on the forum (Bestmark, Gapbuster and Trendsource) where not represented. I found that quite curious indeed. A number of the smaller companies including some not on my radar were represented. Those included Baird, Brandt and Creative Image Associates. Specialty companies such as Coyle, Ath Power, Ardent, and Amusement Advantage were also represented. Comments about schedulers certainly reflect well on those companies.
Who was the winner? Shelly Martin from KSS was chosen the winner with the most ‘likes’. If you prefer to discount the enthusiasm for KSS schedulers, then you have runner-up Frances from Maritz as the winner from a company that is not a scheduling company. If you look a bit deeper, Bare is a winner as the company with the most nominated schedulers (11). A cynical shopper might gravitate to a comment by BetteL, “The best Scheduler is a no scheduler. I love the Self-Assign shops.” I certainly agree it is easier to bypass schedulers altogether in this manner. However, it would be hard to ignore the fact that Market Force allows shoppers to self-assign all of its shops and eight of its schedulers were recognized in this contest.
Bbird said, “And the winner is…. ALL OF THEM!” I agree that anyone recognized in this manner is a winner. However, I would go a bit farther. All of us that took something from this contest are winners. I know I am a winner because I took a new appreciation for schedulers from certain companies I did not have before. However, it could be something unexpected. Risinghorizon stated “This contest has made me realize I have not been shopping for Premier Service for a while as a result of having signed up with more MSCs. And I missed working with Angelique.” (Angelique Arthur, one of her nominated schedulers) Furthermore, based on information from this contest, I can approach a scheduler with a company that I have little or no relationship with a little differently. The email can start like this, “Hi. I have heard great things about you on the Mystery Shop Forum.”
In fact, I have already done exactly that. The result has been the assignment of a nicely bonused shop. And I hope there is more to come.

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