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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From Three to Zero – the network that’s a notwork

One, Two, Three, Down

Three mobile provider the situation

3 logo

The mobile network Three has gone down today (17/10/19). At the point of writing the company doesn’t seem to know what the problem is or when it will be fixed.

It seems to have been slow to inform people too, perhaps taking advantage of there being fewer people active late at night and into the early hours of the morning. However, this tactic backfired, as when the company eventually put up this message, it was more than 8 hours after people were first reporting problems:


Down Detector which measures the number of reports of an outage on social media, and shows more than 2100 reports by 10.00am today.

Three has not said how many of its 10 million customers have been affected by the outage.

Update from Three at 1.20pm

A Three spokesperson said: “Following technical difficulties with our services across voice, text and data, some customers will be experiencing an intermittent service.

Our engineers are working to fix the issue and the service is returning to normal, and we expect it to be resolved over the course of the day.

We advise our customers to turn their phones off and on or turn airplane mode on and off, which may resolve the issue.

We are sorry for the inconvenience caused to our customers.”

Your consumer rights if you are affected by Three’s downtime

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you are entitled to services to be carried out with reasonable skill and care. You are entitled to a full refund of the cost of the time you are without use of your phone. You are also entitled to redress for any out-of-pocket expenses you incurred due to not being able to use anything on your phone. For example, if you incurred bank charges because you couldn’t transfer money or had to use a payphone. You can claim for consequential losses due to Three’s breach of contract.

Once the system is back up and running, calculate your losses. Write do not phone the company so you have a record of evidence. Outline the problems you had and any costs you incurred and provide evidence for this. State what you want as redress and mention that it is because of a breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, as outlined above.

Get in quickly, as a huge queue of complaints will soon grow.

You can also jump the queue of complaints and complain directly to the CEO. Go to ceoemail.com for contact details. The CEO won’t respond personally but the matter does get escalated and dealt with by a different team to customer services.

If you are still not satisfied with the response you can take the matter to Ombudsman Services: Communications.

Your rights if affected by the outage – what Ofcom says

Ofcom states:

“Although no-one can guarantee an entirely fault free service, your provider should be working hard to maintain the level of service they promised.

In more extreme cases, where repairs take much longer (for example it takes longer than usual to access a mast site to undertake repairs), you may be entitled to an additional refund or account credit.

In cases where you have been without service for some time, you may also have the right to leave the contract without penalty. There may be a term in your contract saying you can do this if your provider has failed in its obligations to you or breached a key condition.”

More help with telecom issues

All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers for more information and posts about your rights and telecoms.

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For lots of information, advice, tips, consumer laws and template letter GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

Future for Three

In reality few people will be much out of pocket but it is the lack of information that has frustrated customers.

“Three customers on Twitter are saying that they have been pleased with the company’s service for years and can forgive them for this downtime. But they are unimpressed with the speed with which it acknowledged the problem and the lack of clarity about the issue and when it will be fixed. Three really needs to improve its customer service and communications if it doesn’t want to lose customers over this.

O2 network failures – your consumer rights

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