What is mystery shopping?
With online shopping so prevalent in modern life, it is more important than ever to focus on the customer experience in-store. Jeff Bezos, president of global business giant Amazon, likens customers to invited guests at a party, with a business as the host. He reasons that:
"It's our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better."
Despite the rise of social media encouraging customers to share their views, a relatively low percentage of people take the time to complain about unsatisfactory experiences and instead take their business elsewhere without giving any feedback. This limits the ability of companies to understand pain points and make effective changes to retain these customers. Our mystery shopping services provide a highly effective way of understanding the customer experience through objective customer feedback.
Our mystery shoppers pose as typical shoppers and complete feedback pertaining to their experience, assessing levels of service, customer care, staff capabilities and customer satisfaction. For example, businesses should offer an environment that is clean and welcoming - failure to do so will be noticed by customers. Applied insight gained from mystery shopping encourages customer loyalty and retention and maximises customer lifetime value.
Mystery shopping services can be undertaken face-to-face or by phone and can be used to assess:
This scope could also include online interactions or mobile apps. Mystery shopping can provide valuable insight in a wide variety of different industries where businesses deal with customers or clients directly, and turn customers into brand champions through superior service.
The Market Research Society (MRS) defines mystery shopping as follows:
"The use of individuals trained to experience and measure any customer service process, by acting as potential customers and in some way reporting back on their experiences in a detailed and objective way. It differs from other research techniques in that the evaluator does not declare his/her presence and the respondent is unaware at the time of the interaction that it is in any way different from a normal customer contact. Ideally results from this technique should be used more for directing training and for rewards schemes rather than for disciplinary purposes."
According to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA), approximately 50,000 mystery shopping trips are undertaken every month in the UK. Wherever there are customers, it is highly likely that mystery shopping can help to improve their experience and boost business performance in the process. Mystery shopping can benefit companies with one physical location to ensure the highest standards are being upheld, or in multiple premises to ensure consistency. Large brands such as Sainsbury's, the Post Office, and John Lewis all regularly employ mystery shoppers.
In order for mystery shopping to be as effective as possible, we recommend that our clients should have a clear impression of what their 'ideal' customer experience should look like, and what they expect from their employees. By planning the standards that should be met as a set of concrete objectives, it is therefore possible to measure the mystery shopper's experience against set criteria, rather than a nebulous concept of 'good' customer service.
A key role that mystery shoppers play in auditing a business is providing an insight into the performance of employees. Monitoring employees and their interactions with customers can be hard to do effectively without the presence of a senior member of staff; our mystery shoppers deal with particular employees and record their names and roles to ensure the highest level of service and accountability. Are they being effective brand ambassadors, for example? Any gaps in employee training can therefore be addressed to ensure the provision of consistently and excellent service at all touchpoints.
In addition, this can be useful when considering the qualities and skills that will be desirable in future recruiting. Mystery shopping also enables the recognition of certain members of staff who are going above and beyond to help customers, which can increase workplace morale and create a positive culture of appreciation for those who uphold your brand values.
As a method of gathering competitor information, mystery shopping can also be used to benchmark your service levels against those of your competitors. If there are competitive alternatives to your product or service available elsewhere, customer service is a key consideration to attract and retain consumers. Gaining a competitive advantage by understanding what it is that your competitors are falling short on and actioning improvements can result in increased lead generation.
At Mackman Research, it is our goal to collaborate with our clients and improve employee and customer experiences through insight-driven planning. We are a member of the Market Research Society and we strictly adhere to their Codes of Conduct. With members in more than 70 countries, the MRS is the world's largest association representing providers and users of market, social, and opinion research, and business intelligence. In addition, our research methods comply with the strict standards and ethical guidelines set forth by the ESOMAR (the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research). ESOMAR is the world organisation for enabling better research into markets, consumers and societies.
Contact Mackman Research today and let’s get started on your mystery shopping project.
Our workflow is straightforward, and we collaborate with you every step of the way to ensure that the project will meet your specific business requirements. You send us a request, and we analyse your needs and coordinate the scope of work. If a company is looking for sustainable development and growth, it is essential to establish customer needs and meet their expectations. Therefore we recommend that the most successful mystery shopping projects occur regularly to provide ongoing insight and ensure actions are measured as part of a long-term improvement strategy.
During the course of our mystery shopping services, the value of any items bought as part of the insight will be charged at cost, and we will provide receipts for these purchases.
At the end of every project, we provide you with a copy of the checklists used for each separate mystery shopping visit, and we will produce a final report. With high quantities of facts and figures pervading all aspects of business, we understand that it is important to make sense of raw data in a format that is intuitive and visual. As with all of our work, the report will be bespoke and tailored to the needs of each commissioning client. If required, we can upload the results to an online platform that will be updated with each visit, enabling multiple parties within your organisation to access the information securely.
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