Sunday, July 8, 2012

So tell me again...What is Mystery Shopping?

What is Mystery Shopping? And Why Would Companies Invest Money In It?

Mystery shopping is when individuals patronize a wide range of establishments (more on that in a moment) and observe a variety of situations, employee behaviors, and transactions. Mystery shopping is by no means limited to just a few clothing stores or fast food restaurants. In fact, I have seen mystery shopping assignment postings for...

  • Dentists
  • Cell Phone Stores
  • Tanning Salons
  • High End Make-Up Counters
  • Oil Change Facilities
  • Banks
  • Five Star Resorts
  • Electronics Stores
  • Bowling
  • Botanical Gardens
  • Shipping Services
  • Office Supply Stores
  • Smoothie Shops
  • Soccer Games
  • Movie Theaters

Honestly, I could just go on and on. Suffice it to say, that virtually every single legal aspect of life that involves a consumer experience and the exchange of cash has a related mystery shopping assignment. Hard to believe, right? I was shocked as well.

So why would a company want to invest money in mystery shopping? Why give away a free overnight stay at a resort, several hundred dollars of dental services or a $75 steak dinner? If they are trying to make money, doesn't this just defeat the purpose?

Actually, mystery shopping reports give business owners the real inside line as to what is happening in their establishment. This is done in a professional, objective and independent fashion. And, the reports that they receive from mystery shopping companies will actually help them to refine their business practices while the improve the shopping experience for all patrons.

Some of the things that business owners are looking for when engaging in mystery shopping may include:

  • Making sure that a store's rewards program is mentioned to the shopper
  • Ensuring that drinks are offered with all sandwich orders
  • Cashiers are friendly towards customers
  • Bathrooms are clean
  • Drinks are properly rung up at a bar and bartenders are not pocketing the cash
  • Store specials are mentioned to customers
  • Customers are greeted within one minute of arriving in the store
  • IDs are being checked on customers that appear to be underage for purchasing tobacco

The specific requirements for each store and assignment will vary not only between companies, but also may change month-to-month. For instance, an ice cream shop may want the mystery shopper to ask if there are any job openings one month and then the next month may ask the mystery shopper to ask the cashier if there are any dairy-free options on the menu.

Mystery shopping provides business owners with important information regarding the consumer experience and will provide key data for them to improve their business tactics. Additionally, several companies use mystery shopping programs in an effort to provide bonuses and other incentives to their employees. Because the employee can never be quite sure which patron is a mystery shopper, they are more likely to treat each and every customer like a valued visitor to their establishment.

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