Today, mystery shopping is used as an assessment tool implemented by the market research companies and internally by corporates to assess the consistency of the consumer experience. It focuses on how organizations comply with the regulations, but additionally, mystery shopping is used to gather specific product and service information. The main goal is to increase the efficiency of the organisation.
It is different from customer satisfaction study as it aims to convey unbiased information collected during experience as opposed to customer’s perceptions of certain experience collected after the engagement has ended. Actually, mystery shoppers know exactly what pieces of information they are aiming for before beginning their interactions and they have scripts or situations they have to follow so that their piece of interchange is consistent across shops. It helps consumers to optimally compare and contrast the details received during the interchange.
Since products and services are frequently sold through non-proprietary channels, it may be difficult for an originating brand to control their message and how it is delivered. Mystery Shopping is one of the most frequently suggested ways to collect this information. Companies frequently opt for mystery shopping because they want to get a clearer understanding of the selling process, the expertise of sales representatives and their presentation of that expertise, the cost of products and/or services, promotional deals and price, and customer service at each point during sales cycle.
Aspects of Mystery Shopping
Operating with metrics that are used to assess the organizational efficiency is an essential aspect of mystery shopping. Market research firms and companies internally determine the products’ or services’ most relevant customer experience attributes and priorities, and then use these factors to create a mystery shopping questionnaire for the shopper. Examples of variables used in evaluation might include, but are not limited to:
- Customer service
- Cash handling
- Visualization of displays
- Product knowledge
- Operational efficiency
Another approach to evaluate variables is to use audio and video recording to capture the specifics of the interaction when the mystery shopper is delegated. This way of investigating can assist the business to compare its improvements. Employees can also use the recordings for internal learning purposes.
Perks of Mystery Shopping
Mystery shopping can be helpful for any company where knowledge of the organization’s consumer experience is useful. Types of companies that also do mystery shopping are department stores, banks, theatres, hospitals, hotels , and restaurants.
- It is the absolute assesment tool to study natural human behaviour in a certain environment:
A major benefit of performing mystery shops is the opportunity to observe or research a participant in a relaxed environment which they have previously visited. When comparing other qualitative market analysis methodologies such as focus groups, their participants can take some time to get used to being in an environment they are unfamiliar with. With mystery shopping however, participants are asked to walk through a store, grocery shopping as though nothing is out of the usual.
Mystery shopping also requires feedback in the moment. Unlike surveys which are sent to the visitors hours, days, or even weeks after their live experience, mystery shopping gets feedback immediately after an interaction is exchanged.
For example, if a retail store hired a secret shopper with a checklist of certain goals such as to keep a note of the staff friendliness and store cleanliness, a secret shopper would be able to write down his or her inputs about the store’s status immediately.
In another example, if a participant was asked to join an accompanied shopping trip with a trained moderator, the moderator would be able to ask the participant why he or she went to the produce aisle first, or why she chose the store brand item over the brand name item.
With mystery shopping, the memory of a customer’s experience is not tainted or misconstrued by the lapse in time or making a participant uncomfortable.
- The scale for comparison:
It is imperative in most mystery shopping studies to also shop the competitive set of a service or product to properly understand the resulting data within the greater landscape in which it exists. For example, a pricing study to determine only the pricing of a proprietary product is not as helpful as understanding the pricing of the proprietary product along with the pricing of alternative brands within the same category. With this additional set of information it is more helpful in understanding a customers’ decision tree.
Mystery shopping companies often use this methodology with organizations looking to gain inside knowledge of their competition. What better way to learn about how your competition treats their cliental, than to become an actual customer?
It is very rarely that the competitors offer their best practices on a silver platter. Mystery shopping allows businesses to get an inside look at their sales processes and services. This can be conducted in-person, on the phone, or online.
For example, a bank or credit union is hoping to learn more about what perks or special pricing their competitors are offering people for signing up an account with them. A mystery shopper can then walk into the competitor’s bank or credit union to schedule an appointment with a representative. The mystery shopper is given a list of topics or areas to cover with a representative to collect the most valuable information possible.
Conducting mystery shops at a competitor’s location can test your competitor’s level of customer service, knowledge of their product offerings, special pricing not available are their marketing material, and much more.
- It is the ultimate two way solution:
Mystery shopping is a versatile approach for market analysis, as it can be categorized as qualitative and quantitative. In this regard, a retail store that is looking to run mystery shops will customize the project plan to know exactly what you need for their unique priorities and objectives.
A mystery shop can be qualitative in the sense of shopper engaging in in-person research where they visit a place and give input from beginning to end on their experiences. In general, this is a more selective process to ensure that customers are represented from all demographics. While fewer shoppers are requested to receive their feedback or be accompanied by a moderator, the quality of the data is extremely detailed and profound.
At the end of the shopping trip, a mystery shop can be quantitative in the sense that all shoppers are asked to answer a few questions about their time at the venue. This method covers more ground and generally results in a much higher rate of response. The negative side of this way conducting mystery shops is that you are constrained by how many questions you can ask, and feedback tends to be less formal and higher.
The bigger purpose of Mystery Shopping
Mystery shopping is intended to see if there are variations between the day-to-day job routine between how an organization would like to function and how it actually does. It should not be seen as a substitute for overall customer satisfaction surveys. These two should be separated strictly, as they lead to different results.
In today’s fast-paced world where people can access information from pretty much any sphere they traverse, keeping their brand promise is important for businesses. Nonetheless, evaluating how this is done over a business network is not an easy thing to do. Mystery shopping may be the solution in this situation.
There still remain many businesses that are hesitant to use mystery shopping to their ends. That is mainly because a slight negative connotation that goes along with it can still be present. However, when mystery shopping is handled correctly, there is nothing negative to be said about it. It really just aims to provide positive feedback to the organization and its employees and to help them get better and meet their set goals.