The Four Myths of Mystery Shopping

Mystery shopping should be a mystery to shoppers and to employees. What it should not be is a mystery to the business managers and owners who are hiring the service. There are a number of myths that surround the secret shopping industry which we will endeavor to clear up today so that you have all of the information you need when deciding whether or not you should implement a secret shopper program within your workplace.

Mystery Shopper

Myth #1: “This” Mystery Shopping Company Has Better Trained Employees than “That” One

What a lot of businesses do not realize is that many mystery shoppers are subcontractors. This means that even if you are considering using one mystery shopping company over the other, they may still very well employ that same individual to do the job.

This is why businesses should be wary when one secret shopping service offers “better trained” employees than the next. Unless the service has dedicated shoppers who are under their employ full-time, proceed with caution when hiring that particular service.

What Should You Be Looking for?

Rather than focusing on the training of the individual, what a business should be looking for are the services they will receive after the secret shopper leaves the store.

  • The performance audit should be detailed and clearly explain your current operational flaws
  • The secret shopper should be able to provide constructive feedback from customers about how satisfied they were with the service from a variety of employees (i.e. customer service agents, sales agents, marketing agents, management, etc.)
  • The secret shopping service may be able to provide businesses with critical analytical information which will help improve business operations

Myth #2: Mystery Shoppers Purposely Try To Be Difficult

Another common myth is that the mystery shopper in your store will go out of his or her way to be as difficult and frustrating as possible. In most situations, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The problem with acting like a difficult customer is that the secret shopper does not get an accurate view of how daily operations work in a business. Their job is to act as a regular customer would, not only so that they go undetected by your staff and other customers in the store, but so that they can immerse themselves in the true customer experience (or as the French say, l’expérience client).

Tailoring the Program to Your Needs

Businesses can often make requests on how the secret shopper will behave in a store. For example, if a business wants to see how resilient and sales savvy his or her sales team is, a secret shopper can present himself or herself as a more difficult potential customer to put the sales team to the test.

Myth #3: Secret Shopper Service Carefully Select Their Secret Shoppers

Not all secret shopping services handpick the secret shoppers they employ. In fact, a number of larger companies will post an ad online and will accept nearly any shopper who has received some level of training.

The point of hiring a secret shopping service is to gain insight and intel on you customers and your employees. In order to receive the highest quality and most pertinent information related to your business operations and how you can improve them, the shopper should have not only the right qualifications. The shopper should have the experience and the skills necessary to adequately perform the job.

How Do I Choose a Secret Shopper Service?

With that said, there are some mystery shopper service companies which diligently select their shoppers. When looking into your secret shopping service options, ask each company you are interested in how they recruit their secret shoppers and what their screening process is. Ask them what qualities they look for when hiring a secret shopper, and if they offer any “specialized” mystery shoppers who will be more suitable for a specific project or area of your business.

Another point to keep in mind when looking for a good secret shopping service is to see how long the company has been in business. A secret shopping agency which has been established in your area for well over a decade is likely a good company to choose – but don’t forget to read reviews, ask for references, and contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to see if there have been any recent complaints.

Finally, ask around! Use your network of business contacts and see if any other owners or managers have used a secret shopping service previously. If they were happy with the service, they received and have been able to make positive changes, contact the company and see how they will be able to accommodate you.

Myth #4: Mystery Shopping Is a Waste of Money

It could be – if you do not choose the right company to perform the secret shopping services in the first place.

Secret shoppers who do the job properly, provide you with useful feedback and who have looked for every flaw and area for improvement as requested by you deliver an incredible return on investment. Some areas where businesses often see an almost immediate return on investment include:

  • Sales teams: Secret shoppers can dissect your current sales format and make recommendations on which members of the sales team could benefit from additional training and coaching
  • Marketing: Secret shoppers gather important customer intel. They will be able to advise you which products gain a lot of interest, which are regularly ignored, and why this may be (poor packaging, poorly placed display, etc.)
  • Customer service: A mystery shopper will be able to advise business managers or owners which employees are delivering superior customer service and which could use additional training or are not suitable for the role

The long-term impacts of hiring a mystery shopper are vast. From customer retention to building a better brand reputation, businesses who hire a top quality mystery shopping firm and take action on their expert recommendations are able to maximize their return on investment.

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