5 limitations of mystery shopping and 5 ways it can help your business

How to use mystery shopping

“Mystery shopping” is the process by which you can get to find out what it’s like to be a customer of your own company. You send out one or more people to pretend to be a potential client, or an existing customer, and see what happens…

But mystery shopping has its limitations.

1) Simple screening processes can result in literally just “anyone” joining a programme. The potential mystery shopper might have no experience and no knowledge of your industry.

2) Poor pay for mystery shoppers. At its most basic level this means that often the people undertaking the questionnaires are judging people who are in senior positions in relation to them within the company Poor pay for mystery shoppers. At its most basic level this means that often the people undertaking the questionnaires are judging people who are in senior positions in relation to them within the company. Whilst this may not be a problem per se do they have the necessary skill levels to evaluate and write a report?

3) Managers across stores in a chain may be informed about a window of time for a mystery shopping visit. This can put pressure on staff which can result in a poor working environment and unrealistic results.

4) Surveys and questionnaires: Don’t you hate them in most walks of life, so why should they work in mystery shopping? These surveys do not get specific results, which means mistakes can be made and apathy can sink in.

5) Mystery shopping done poorly can result in limited feedback that doesn’t help you improve your service constructively.

3 women round table being served drinks

But there is a place for mystery shopping of course if done well:

1) Find a respected individual or company who has a good proven track record in working with consumers/customer service.

2) You get what you pay for. If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well. You are receiving consultancy services so you should pay accordingly, not just by letting a customer keep the item they are paying for!

3) Have a rolling programme of mystery shopping. Keep engaged with your mystery shoppers with an ongoing dialogue about objectives and what to look at. This allows you to continuously improve the process, working with your mystery shoppers, and use the feedback to effect change in the service you deliver.

4) Discuss your needs with the whole mystery shopper team. But also welcome one-to-one discussions with the individual shoppers who are bringing extra value to the table in terms of creativity, ideas and experience about what is important to consumers.

5) Retain the data appropriately. Unless there is a serious issue there’s no need to identify stores individually, so that all feedback can be used across your entire retail chain. Take sample stores and change these over the year to get the best feedback coverage.

What mystery shopping can do for your business

If you want to find out more about what Helen, The Complaining Cow can do for you see Services.

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Author: Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow

Consultant | Author | Speaker | Blogger | Presenter | Journalist Helping to make, prevent and deal with complaints

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