What is Mystery Shopping?

Mystery shopping has been used to help businesses evaluate and improve staff performance for over half a century. It can help improve and maintain high standards across various areas of your business, promoting exceptional customer service.

Published on:

March 10, 2021

Mystery shopping has been used to help businesses evaluate and improve staff performance for over half a century. It can help improve and maintain high standards across various areas of your business, promoting exceptional customer service.

Our article will be talking about why mystery shopping is important and how it can improve your business. But first things first, just what is mystery shopping?

What is Mystery Shopping?

Mystery shopping is a way for stores or companies to evaluate their staff’s performance. The company will employ a mystery shopper to interact with their staff either in person or over the telephone to judge how they build rapport with customers and how well they sell the companies products.

Other areas that the mystery shopper may be employed to analyse could include:

  • Product quality
  • Price
  • Product availability
  • Online customer service

Mystery shopping isn’t a new phenomenon, having come into existence in the 1940s when banks and retail stores wanted a way to assess their staff’s integrity and honesty.

It has continued to be a popular and effective way of ensuring that your customer service is as good as it should be.

Today the Mystery Shopping Professionals Association (MSPA) estimates that the mystery shopping industry is worth in excess of $1.5 billion with a workforce of over 1.5 million mystery shoppers worldwide.

Why is Mystery Shopping Important?

Mystery shoppers play an important role in evaluating how your company and its staff interact with your customers.

Some mystery shopping quick facts have shown that up to 90% of unhappy customers won’t say anything to your staff at the time and up to 69% of customers won’t shop with you again if they have a poor experience.

Does your staff behave in the same way when their manager is present and compared to when they’re not? No idea?

That’s one of the reasons why mystery shopping is so important to your business. It allows you to understand the service that your customers receive and how this can be improved through training and adjusting the way you recruit future staff.

Mystery shoppers will also look at other aspects of your business for you. These can include:

  • Condition of the store frontage
  • Cleanliness of the store
  • The atmosphere in the store
  • Engagement of the staff with customers
  • Personal presentation of the staff
  • The overall impression a customer will have of your business.

They can help you ensure that your standards and expectations are being met, giving you the information you need to identify areas that need improving.

How Mystery Shopping can Benefit Businesses

Mystery shopping isn’t spying or looking for ways to catch out employees, it’s about helping to foster a spirit of continuous improvement and helping companies to be the best that they can be.

This is achieved by:

  • Identifying training opportunities
  • Providing real-world data to support decision making
  • Looking for inefficiencies in systems and store layout.

Mystery shopping is a cost-effective and unbiased research tool that can be instrumental in not only boosting exceptional customer service but in enhancing your brand as well.

How Does Mystery Shopping Work?

To ensure that you get exactly what you want from your mystery shopping program it is important to plan.

The first stage in the mystery shopping process is to assess your needs, what you want to achieve and the overall purpose of the mystery shopping exercise.

Next is the mystery shop. The shopper will go to either your physical store, telephone your call centre or engage with your online customer service team as a typical customer to record how your staff respond to the pre-planned enquiries and their general demeanour and level of engagement.

Finally, you’ll receive a report on the mystery shopper’s findings, both good and poor which can be used to highlight training needs and systems that need to be overhauled. If you use mystery shoppers on an ongoing basis, each shop will let you compare your companies progress over time.

Different Types of Mystery Shopping

Generally speaking, there are five main types of mystery shopping:

  1. In person
  2. Telephone
  3. Internet
  4. Multiple touchpoints
  5. Competitor

Let’s look at the industry each type is most applicable to and how mystery shopping is used in each area.

  1. In person mystery shoppers: this type of mystery shopping is probably most familiar. One person goes to a physical store and reports back on their experience, the condition of the store and the overall atmosphere and feel based on pre-defined criteria that are laid out by their client. This approach is most frequently used in restaurants, hotels, shops and fitness outlets.
  2. Telephone mystery shoppers: are most effective for companies that use call centres as their main point of contact when they communicate with their customers. The mystery shopper interacts with a single agent and will assess how well they understand the company’s products, their helpfulness and willingness to go above and beyond to help your customers.
  3. Internet mystery shoppers: when a company has a significant online presence, they often want a second pair of eyes to look at how easy their website is to use and navigate. How effectively they use social media to answer customer queries on any aspect of their business and how knowledgeable and helpful their chat agents are. Internet mystery shopping is used by companies in the e-commerce arena, real estate and travel.
  4. Multiple touchpoints: in this instance mystery shoppers tend to be used by large businesses who have a physical presence, use call centres and need their online activities audited. The combination of mystery shopper inspections in all these areas gives these institutions a snapshot of how well each area of their business is fulfilling the companies brand message and ethos by delivering what is expected and highlights any areas that are falling short of what is required. Without this multifaceted approach, it could be difficult for a very large organisation to easily identify individual failings.
  5. Competitor mystery shopping: a less common use of mystery shoppers is to better understand a competitor’s operation. It highlights competitor strengths, weaknesses and innovations and using that data helps to improve weak areas and look at how best to develop for the future.

Mystery Shopping Benefits

The use of mystery shoppers can give you and your employees a range of benefits above and beyond increased sales and profits.

  • Increased customer satisfaction.
  • Demonstrates to staff how vital a good customer experience is and how important their role is in customer retention.
  • Staff motivation.
  • Detecting training needs.
  • Increase in competitive advantage that comes from a better customer experience.

The data that comes from using mystery shoppers gives you vital information on your team’s approach to selling, first customer contact and how difficult situations are handled.

Awardaroo can Help

Using mystery shoppers is a sensible and responsible business practice, especially for larger businesses that operate in multiple locations and over a number of different channels.

The data that your business derives from using a mystery shopping service can add significant value to your customer’s experience. It highlights areas that need to be improved during staff training and gives your staff the opportunity to excel and show what they are capable of when dealing with your customers.

Awardaroo offers a range of mystery shopping services, tailored to your unique business goals and needs. To find out how we can help your business, just get in touch.


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