Portsmouth mystery shopping firm to celebrate 25th anniversary

Nigel Cook, chief executive of Douglas Stafford. ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (142306-436)
Nigel Cook, chief executive of Douglas Stafford. ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (142306-436)
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ONE of the automotive industry’s market leaders in mystery shopping is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Douglas Stafford, based in Lakeside North Harbour, started out as a one-man customer service firm aimed at the automotive industry.

The company now has around 125 employees at its Portsmouth head office and provides mystery shopping services for a range of sectors including telecommunications, retail and property.

Nigel Cook, the company’s founder and chief executive, said: ‘I worked for a motor dealer group as a senior manager prior to starting this business in August 1989.

‘I was responsible for certain dealerships and I wanted to mystery shop my teams. I wanted to make sure they were looking after our customers correctly.

‘I looked at companies and they came to see me and I could not find anybody who did what I wanted.

‘So I thought “there’s a market” for this and I founded this business.’

Douglas Stafford has grown and developed over that time.

It now provides services to 80 per cent of the UK automotive market, including Volkswagen, Audi, Bentley, Renault, Porsche and Mercedes Benz.

The firm offers a range of mystery shopper services using new technology, some including video mystery shopping footage filmed on hidden cameras, to give the companies a flavour of the service received by customers.

The company’s electronic email mystery shopping department, which includes enquiring and purchasing items online, launched in 2006 and has grown by 700 per cent over the last two years.