What is Mystery Shopping

In today’s growing and competitive business world as the customers’ expectations are higher than ever yet are increasing rapidly, it is of critical importance for businesses to pay close attention to the service they provide is one of the most important and noticeable aspects of their operation: the frontline service. One of the methods that has proven and been well developed over the years is Mystery Shopping.

A well-designed and performed mystery shopping program can be one of the best ways to gain reliable and actionable insights on how the front line of the business is processing. However, we should also bear in mind that mystery shopping can be used to measure the performance of various aspects of the business from the employees and customers satisfaction, from the quality and wellbeing of the business facility to the quality of the products. Mystery shopping is a well-founded form of market research that uses real-life people to go into an existing business posing as real customers to test operating procedures, compliance and the customer service level overall.

In spite of the numerous benefits and advantages that a corporation or business can gain from a mystery shopping program, we can not deny that there are limitations to mystery shopping programs as well. In this article, we would evaluate some of the major benefits and setbacks that using a mystery shopping program may contain

A well-designed and realistic mystery visit program provides reliable, clear and actionable insights on the quality of customer service provided, the well being and tidiness of the business facility and in general the overall customer experience provided in the store. Moreover, one of the factors that gives mystery shopping a vital edge over other methods of customer service measurement, is the fact that insights gained from a mystery visit program are mostly from customers’ perspective, which means the organization can gain awareness on areas and topics that may have been otherwise neglected. This becomes even more important when we take into consideration the fact that in various cases, what the customers actually demand from businesses, can be totally different from what the managers or staff of organizations assume the customers demand. It is unbelievable how much influence can this misunderstanding and misconception have on a business and its future operation. 

Mystery shopping can also provide a realistic and well-grounded analysis and benchmark about the quality of customer experience provided by competitor brands. This enables the company using mystery visit programs to get an overall view of their areas of strength and deficiency.

Furthermore, it can be used as a vital tool in order to measure how well the training provided has been implemented by the staff. This would even further assist the organization to measure the efficiency of the training and identify and develop the training needs required

Above all else, mystery shopping delivers solid and applicable insights, which if studied and given enough attention, would eventually result in improvement of the experience provided by the organization to the customers which would mean more customer satisfaction and more customer retention. It’s important to ensure a positive customer experience so customers build brand loyalty and affinity, evangelize your product or service and refer their friends, and leave you positive customer reviews that will help your business retain revenue and earn new customers.

There are also some limitations to Mystery shopping. Even though mystery shopping surveys can be designed to be as accurate and realistic as possible, the shoppers are not always unbiased as we can have very subjective perspectives. At AQ Services we address these issues by ensuring that our selected shoppers have been fully briefed and comprehensively trained for the project. It is also worth remembering that AQ Services uses specific and unique criterias when assigning shoppers for every project which helps us to ensure that the mystery visits have been performed as similar to a real-life experience as they can get, providing us with authentic and reliable data to be used in our analysis and management reports.

In addition to that, a single mystery visit captures a snapshot of the service provided by the staff which is only a small part of the whole gamut of customer experience provided by the brand on a daily basis. Depending on the circumstances, such as staff shortage on an extremely busy day, experiences can differ noticeably and may not always reflect the regular customer visit. The challenge here would be to decide whether the staff were having one of those bad days we all have once in a blue moon or there is a real gap and some serious actions need to be taken immediately. It would be a risky assumption to project these negative points to the overall picture of the store, however, receiving several data points showing the same set of results would make it worth an investigation. In order to overcome this issue the mystery shopping programs require to be performed steadily in a continuous process. Furthermore this would make the process of analysis and inspection more reliable.

Customer experience is a field that requires continuous nurturing and supervision, with better and greater use of practical tools such as mystery shopping, companies will realize a positive impact on customer loyalty, higher retention and increased overall growth.