Introduction to mystery shopping

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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 can be used in any industry, but is most often used in a retail environment where it has become widely used.

If you intend using your own staff as mystery shoppers then you’ll most likely need to train them on the techniques and methodology involved. 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. A number of tools may be used in reporting including carefully prepared questionnaires to benchmark key criteria as well as covert audio and video recordings of the mystery shopper’s experience.

Mystery shoppers are often instructed 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.

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
  • Whether there were dedicated meet and greet staff
  • Questions asked by the employee to assist the 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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