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Introduction to Mystery Shopping

Mystery shopping is a frequently used market research tool used to measure and benchmark the quality of service within companies and organisations. Or, in some cases, to gather specific information about the ‘buying experience’ or specific products and services. It is applicable to any industry, but is most useful in a retail environment, where it sees widespread use.

1. Preparing your mystery shoppers

If you intend using your own staff as mystery shoppers then you’ll most likely need to train them on mystery shopping techniques and methodology.

It makes sense to draw up a survey model to accurately define what information and improvement metrics are going to be measured. Consider mystery shopping as an exploratory assignment into the working methodology of your competitors.

Use a number of tools in your reporting, including carefully prepared questionnaires to benchmark key criteria, as well as covert audio and video recordings of the mystery shopper’s experience.

Instruct mystery shoppers to carry out a typical transaction. For example, a mobile phone company may instruct a shopper to ask about a phone upgrade, apparently knowing nothing about the relative merits of new handsets, upgrade plans or contracts.

2. The mystery shopping survey

A typical mystery shopping survey might include:

  • Length of time taken to meet and greet the mystery shopper and the approach used in the greeting including level of cordiality and courtesy, as well as whether eye contact was made
  • The number of customer service staff on the floor and whether they wear name badges
  • The speed and efficiency of service
  • The presence of meet and greet staff
  • Particular questions to assist the mystery shopper to find a suitable product
  • Methods used to engage with the shopper
  • Did the store staff ask whether the shopper is an existing customer
  • Level of staff knowledge and competency related to the products they are selling
  • How well the store staff understood and met the customer’s needs
  • Sales approach taken and the techniques used by the employee to close a sale
  • Did the employee ‘up sell’ during the customer interaction
  • Shopper’s rating of the overall customer experience
  • Store environment, layout and set up including cleanliness and presentation
  • Whether ‘after sales’ support was available

The data collected from the surveys are then analysed and collated and statistical reports created based on set criteria and previously acquired data from other similarly conducted surveys.

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