The What and Why of Mystery Shopping: A Conversation Piece

I’ve been working with AQ Services International for more than three years now. Apart from my time as Owner-Manager of the Magpie Cafe, this is the longest I’ve had a job since I’ve started working. That’s a big deal in this day and age! The thing about life – and work – is that there are always challenges that threaten to level you, and it’s how you handle those challenges that really define you; if something on the job isn’t going the way you want it, it’s time to find the solution. So, three years. Two promotions. You could say that I’ve learned how to swim and am now learning how to dive. It’s fascinating, the scope of my job has expanded and deepened, and I won’t deny that I still love what I do.

The trouble is, when someone asks me what it is I do and I say “I’m the Senior Communications Manager for a global Mystery Shopping Company” I tend to get blank looks, occasional nods feigning appreciation, and then we move on to other subjects. Like the next Marvel movie, or whether french toast is really a meal or a dessert. You know, ‘more important things’. And yet, somewhere, in my mind I want to put the brakes on and say: “No, wait. Stop. Let me explain. This is important, and not just to me, but it’s important to you too.”

So let me do that now: AQ Services International is a Mystery Shopping Company. A global mystery shopping company.

Wait. Stop. Don’t click away. Let me explain.

This is important, and not just to me, but it’s important to you too.

And here’s why.

What is Mystery Shopping?

Mystery shopping is a vital tool that many businesses use to measure standards, compliance, performances, and a whole host of other data points that are important to the customer service level they provide and the brand promises they make.

Mystery shopping is a legitimate form of market research that uses real life people – just like you and me – to go into an existing business posing as real customers to test operating procedures, compliance, training success, and the customer service level overall.

Think of it this way:

You’re the manager of a business. You have staff working for you. You just spent a lot of money making sure your teams are trained in the desired sales tactics and scripts that will – hopefully – boost your sales and bring in more profit.

Great. Now, how do you make sure that your teams are using the training?

More than that. How do you make sure that it’s being used effectively?

You send a mystery shopper. It’s easy. They go in, if all goes well, a staff member approaches them and runs through the correct points of the sales training, the mystery shopper leaves, fills in the data-driven survey designed by your mystery shopping provider, and voila! instant actionable insights.

Now take that scenario and apply it to any other aspect of your customer-facing staff or procedures, whether it’s a digital interface or an in-store experience.

Why use Mystery Shopping?

Mystery shopping provides clear, actionable insights that identify areas that are doing well as well as those that need further attention. But why use it? Why not run customer satisfaction surveys and ask the general public for their opinions?

Because you don’t want opinions.

Opinions are subjective, they sway this way and that and don’t give you a clear viewpoint of what your customers are actually experiencing.

Mystery shopping isn’t about opinions, mystery shopping data is based on the real customer experience as experienced by trained individuals who are specifically on the lookout to provide quality data.

The average customer satisfaction survey may tell you that 4 out of 10 customers are happy with your service. But what it doesn’t tell you is how you can improve on the other 6. Mystery shopping data provides you with a full understanding, a completely, objective picture.

So why is it important then?

Let’s face it. We all want good customer service. We want staff to know how to handle our requests, our complaints, our needs, and our objections. As humans, we have expectations on how we are treated, particularly when we’re going to be paying for something. You can’t tell me that’s not true – we all want the best, don’t we?

Mystery shopping is important because it’s a powerful tool in any customer service improvement arsenal, and, at the end of the day, it serves us: the customers of the businesses whose products and services we consume.

So, don’t click away. Stop. Wait. Let me explain.

And if you’re looking to see how your business can serve its customers better, why not give us a call? We’re happy to help, and we’re here to serve. We’re a mystery shopping company, it’s what we do. Get in touch today.

(Originally published on Linkedin)

Olwen - in purple Olwen has been in marketing for more than 8 years, she‘s been with AQ since 2016. Her passion is for helping people and businesses improve their customer service experience by providing interesting content. Follow her on Twitter, or connect on LinkedIn.

Read more of Olwen’s articles here.