How to Get the Most out of Mystery Shopping Programs

Mystery shopping programs are great tools to help improve your business. They can help you evaluate and improve staff performance, check on the customer experience, analyze weaknesses in point of sale material, perform customer analyses, and many other things. It’s important to know what you’re looking for to get the most out of mystery shopping programs, but a good program will ensure that your business is getting actionable insights it needs.

Use an Experienced Mystery Shopping Company

The first steps to get the most out of mystery shopping programs is to make sure you’re working with the right provider.

Three things to look for to find the ‘right’ one for your business:
1. A company with a solid track record;
2. A company with good references and/or case studies;
3. A company that has relevant experience in your industry.

Once you’ve settled for the right mystery shopper provider, the fun can really begin.

Know your own Business

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to know the internal workings of your company. Knowing what segments of your business could use a checkup is a good way to make sure that the company you’re working with is going to be able to provide you with the right kind of mystery shopping program.

A few internal aspects you should keep in mind:

1. Your customer journey;
2. Your standard operating procedures;
3. Your store locations.

Work with your Mystery Shopping Company

Opening up to your newly selected mystery shopping provider is a must. Think of it like going to the doctor, if you don’t provide the full scope of details regarding symptoms or lifestyle, you’ll run the risk of misdiagnosis and receiving the wrong treatment. To get the most out of mystery shopping programs, you need ot be fully aware of what you want answered and how you go about finding those answers.
1. Communicate clearly, be specific. Explain your concerns and worries, discuss what aspects you think need to be measured. Your knowledge about your business’ customer journey and SOPs will be useful during this phase of the setup.

2. Use your provider’s expertise to your advantage. You’ve hired this company for more than just their ability to provide you with mystery shoppers, and you’ve gone out of your way to hire an experienced mystery shopping company so use their experience. Ask them for their advice and guidance in creating the right type of mystery shopping program to solve your problems.

3. Give your provider with any relevant information they might need. Think of training materials, staff performance guidelines, or any customer service rules you may have implemented. All of this type of information can help your provider come up with the best questionnaire to suit your needs.

4. Build your Questionnaire together with the provider. Once you and the provider have established the best course of action, it’s time to actually get the questionnaire in place. The questionnaire is the heart of your mystery shopping program so it needs to be able to give you the right data. The provider will likely go through several drafts before you and they are happy with the number and type of questions, as well as the answers they should give you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for adjustments during this stage in the process.

5. Be clear on your expectations. Make sure that both you and your provider are clear on what you expect to gain from this mystery shopping program. Realistic expectations can help determine the right kind of questions your questionnaire should use and the style of reporting that the provider will give you.

6. Establish reporting systems and scoring values. The questionnaire that mystery shoppers will use to find the answers you’re looking for will provide the data. Most providers have a particular way in which they report on the data, make sure you are familiar with their system.

7. Ensure that everyone in your business who should be involved is. Do your store managers need to be made aware of this initiative? How many others should receive reports or be kept in the loop? This depends on the scope of your mystery shopping program. Telling your provider who is to be kept informed will help them send the right reports and insights to the right people.

8. Make changes when needed. At certain points during the fieldwork periods you might feel that a change in the questionnaire might help refine the answers you’re looking for. Don’t do this lightly and always, always do this with guidance from your mystery shopping provider.

Take Action

Once fieldwork waves have been completed, you’ll begin to have a good overview of the areas in your business that need additional attention and what sections are doing well. This is where it’s all on you: take action. A mystery shopping program can highlight areas that need help, and help you isolate specific issues that are happening – perhaps staff isn’t greeting customers in under a minute, and maybe the point of sales materials aren’t as useful as you thought. It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, to get the most out of a mystery shopping program you have to act on the data that it gives you.

To get the most out of mystery shopping programs means working with an experienced mystery shopper provider. It’s always good to compare companies, and AQ is always happy to help answer any questions you might have about mystery shopping and how to get the most out of your programs.