Mystery-shopping-market-research

Mystery shopping is an interesting market research tool. Sending in trained mystery shoppers to evaluate and audit the service delivered by the staff is a great way to spot and improve on aspects of the service delivered to your customers.

What makes us love mystery shopping?

1. It’s always about Continuous Improvement.
Every company has standards. Mystery shopping lets us check these standards and whether they are met and delivered a daily basis to the customer. It’s really important that customer service is delivered to the level that is expected of the brand.

Some brands have been associated with great customer service. If one customer were to have a bad experience, it would reflect badly on the brand as a whole. If you’re thinking that one bad experience would not be the end of the world, that may be right. However, if left unchecked a single negative experience can cascade into a negative perspective of that brand. Mystery shopping allows us to check on these situations and help the staff to improve on the service delivered.

Keep in mind that mystery shopping is not limited to customer service checks. For example, it can also be used to check on product acceptance in an internal market, whether internal procedures are being used correctly, or whether training is having the desired impact.

2. Valuable Insights from Customers.
The shoppers that are sent to conduct a mystery shopping program are trained for a given scenario or circumstance. They are sent in to evaluate the store/staff/outlet objectively based on the information given prior to the visit.

To add to that, the shoppers are also well aware that they are there to conduct a mystery visit. This heightens awareness and leads to other discoveries that are not objectively evaluated in a mystery shopping survey. We call these “insights”.

Insights provide valuable information that companies can act on immediately. Whether it’s a positive or negative insight. The power of the information would lead to prompt action to improve on a situation or compliment a staff on a good performance. The latter would serve as a motivational factor, which can also lead to better overall performance.

3. Helping Staff to be more structural in their approach.
What it comes down to is often sitting with the staff and showing them the result of a mystery shopping program and how well they or an outlet have performed.
The positive findings can often boost the morale of the staff. The opposite, however, has a risk of having an adverse effect. So how do you turn a negative into a positive?

Mystery Shopping should never be used as a method to “point the finger” at a staff member
Pointing out to the staff where – in a rehearsed scenario – they went wrong can help them improve their performance. Some companies base the staff’s bonus on these results, and truly that is to the discretion of the company. Explaining what the mystery shopping program is all about, why there was a penalization on the bonus and how to improve to be better next time, may, in turn, negate the negative effects.

This is done through increments. For example, if a staff scored a (hypothetical) 30% on their mystery shopper result. The data shows the areas in which the staff member was weakest. Maybe the staff member did not greet the customer for example. So, through these results, the staff member knows that he/she needs to work on this. Instead of working towards a full 100% score, aim for an improvement on that one section.

Incremental growth is growth that lasts. This month the staff works on approaching, next month on finding out the customers’ need, the following month another aspect. The data is available and the staff is able to improve on this gradually, providing both motivation and growth.
A time will come when staff has assimilated the structure and no longer has to think about the process. The staff then does it naturally in a genuine way, thus improving business performance.

Bonus:
It connects the company to the shoppers.
The shoppers that perform a mystery visit are specifically there for that store. The shoppers put in time and energy to help that store/brand improve. If there is anything in this world that is true in branding, it’s the thoughts and opinions of shoppers. Yes, the shoppers may be paid, but they are there to help a store improve for the long run.