Mystery Shopping Methods: Traditional

What is Mystery Shopping?

As we have discussed in our previous article, there are many ways for a person to conduct a Mystery Visit. The most important part is to gather data and information relating to the evaluation of the store/brand/staff.

What is Mystery Shopping and how do we do this?

The Method

The most basic and what I would call “traditional” form of Mystery Shopping is rather straightforward. A program is created based on the needs and requirements of a company. These requirements also includes the shopper demographic. Shoppers are selected, briefed and trained before being sending in to conduct the evaluation.

The question is how to get the data from the shopper to the company. With this methods, shoppers are required to fill in a pre-structured report. Depending on the structure created, point system and answers from the shopper – the company/store/staff being evaluate is then given marks.

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How Are The Audits Scored

Companies themselves, will set the passing grade for passable level of service based on their standards. Some have set it at 100% – some have set the program up in such a way that any negative scoring would lead to a 0% score. It all depends on the company.

This is where the open comments come in handy. Because the shoppers are being sent in to conduct structured visits in a real word, non-structured or controlled situation, anything can happen. The open comments allows us to know what was said and how the shopper felt (although this needs to be done objectively). It also allows us to know if there was an out of the ordinary situation that would change the way the evaluated party is being scored.

Limitations and Trust

I’m sure you can already see the limitations to this traditional method of Mystery Shopping. When transferring data from one person to another, everything is subjected to distortion. When performing a Mystery Shopping visit, a person is not allowed to take notes or act in a way that would give them away.

Therefore shoppers are often reliant on memory. I’m sure you already know what I’m getting at. Cognitive abilities differ from person to person. In other words, some people have better memories than others – even when a person is being fully aware of what is happening. The problem that arises, especially with new shoppers – is that so much is going on in their heads things can often get into a cognitive knot. The reporting needs to be exact and accurate. The best way to counter this situations is for the shopper to submit the report within 24 hours of performing the visit. Which is why it is a requirement of most project with a few exceptions. Although, distortion may still occur.

On the Subject of Trust

Now, we get into the subject of trust. With the distortion of data and often coupled with human error, big mistakes can be made. Accidentally of course. Mistakes happen all the time, in any situation – not just relating to Mystery Shopping. In my humble opinion, it’s alright to make mistakes, as long as it is honestly admitted to. Things can then be fixed, corrected and rectified. Of course nobody likes mistakes, but they happen.  

The biggest problem is not the mistake itself. It’s how people react to the mistakes. For those being evaluated it’s an understandable situation. They fear the lost of their job, a pay cut or whatever else that the company may deem suitable in relation to the evaluation. For shoppers is comes down to a question of honesty and integrity – people do not liked to be questioned.

For example, sometimes information may be omitted and the situation gets messy with a “he said, she said” situation. This can at times arise and causes conflict. It would then be further investigated and decided on whether the report is honest and valid or whether it is to be rejected.

Albert Einstein Quote

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Human Error and Conclusion

At the end it all, we are all humans. Faced with the same limitation and that of human error. 

The traditional method of mystery shopping is the fastest and easiest way to get data from the shopper to the companies that are being evaluated. It rely heavily on trust and accurate reporting.

Although, it has its limitations, the processes in place to review and finalize the reports reduce the amount of errors. It will also assure that the quality of the reports meet the standards of the company. It should also not be discounted that the opinions of Mystery Shoppers are the opinions of the company’s chosen demographic.

If you would like to find out more about how Mystery Shopping can be tailored to suit your company’s needs, contact us today.