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Archive for Mystery Shopping

How Mystery Shopping can Improve the Customer Experience

mystery shopping

We’re all familiar with the term Mystery Shopper. So why don’t more businesses rely on them? Most companies incorporate surveys, ratings and reviews, but actually hiring mystery shoppers can reveal underlying problems affecting the customer experience. Additionally, Video Mystery Shopping is now available at a more affordable rate and is a valuable tool when evaluating the in store customer experience.

Mystery shopping is a strategy used to study the customer experience by actually interacting with a brand and evaluating it from a customer’s viewpoint. While mystery shopping used to be implemented by businesses to monitor employee behavior, it is now used to for numerous factors ranging from how friendly employees are towards guests to how long it takes for customers to be helped. These tactics are beneficial, however, there are many more other contact points to consider.

Think more Mystery Experience, less Mystery Shop

An effective mystery shopping approach needs to encompass the entire range of experiences customers might have, not just at the checkout counter. Why? Because a recent Episerver survey of more than 1,000 consumers found that 92% visited a retail website for the first time for reasons other than to make purchases. Consumers are researching products and services, looking for contact information, and even searching for inspiration.


An effective mystery shopping program needs to evaluate a consistent customer experience across all channels and departments, whether shopping in-store, browsing a mobile app or contacting customer service via phone.


The Pros and Cons of Technology


Rapid advancements in technology enable businesses to improve their customer experience. For example, live chats with actual employees can quickly resolve customer service questions or filter complaints. However, the employee must show empathy and put themselves in the shoes of the customer. Emotion is hard to convey via chat versus having an actual phone conversation and the businesses that thrive will empathize with their customers along every step of the way.


Branding, Merchandising and Customer Service Are Becoming More Meaningful


Customers want strong impressions from brands, and many are delivering. 44% of businesses offer unconditional free shipping, a factor that customers critically value, while only 2% of brands don’t have any free shipping promotions whatsoever.

Merchandising is also improving, with 86% of brands highlighting products with “what’s new” features, 54% using themed/seasonal promotions, and 22% offering loyalty programs.

Brands are also prioritizing excellent customer service by providing several options for shoppers to reach out. Call centers remain the most efficient way for shoppers to solve problems and ask questions, with an average engagement time of 4.60 minutes. Live chat is available at four out of 10 global brands, and 14% offer customer help through Twitter. Some brands were able to resolve customer concerns on Twitter within minutes.

Customers Want In-Store Tech, But Not All Brands Are Keeping Up


In-store technology gives consumers and sales associates a huge realm of flexibility and reach. With tablets, kiosks and other digital screens, associates can quickly check inventory across stores, place orders for delivery, and more.

However, 83% of store-based brands access inventory information through the register, which can be more time consuming for shoppers than using dedicated devices like tablets.

For the handful of stores that use technology (17%), only 40% of those brands used tablets and digital screens in-store.

It’s critical to integrate technology into physical locations to create seamless transitions across channels for customers. Brands that can master both digital and one-on-one interaction will give consumers greater convenience, choice and satisfaction.


Some brands are learning the hard way that no matter how much they invest in a better customer experience, a single mishap can have disastrous consequences. With customers more empowered than ever to share their feelings on social media, one negative experience can spark the outrage of thousands online.


With stakes as high as they are, no brand can risk the fallout of a poor customer experience strategy. The simple but critical fact is that good customer experience can only come from an intimate understanding of what it’s actually like to be a customer.


Starting off Right in 2018 with Mystery Shopping

mystery shopping

The Benefits to your Business

What’s one of the big reasons Five Guys is wildly successful? They send mystery shoppers out twice a week to all locations. The brothers who run the operation also constantly visit the restaurants. High standards each and every day ensure the right employees do the right things.

Five Guys knows you need to inspect what you expect.

The number one thing business owners say is, “I just need more customers.” Wrong, you need them to return. You can’t attract your whole neighborhood to try you, deliver lousy results and expect just getting “more bodies in the door” will work.

Five Guys franchise with over 1,000 locations sees the value in nearly 50,000 shops in a year, shouldn’t you? One shop every six months is so random that it reveals little. Why? Because a mystery shop is just a moment in time. You aren’t that good if you get 100% and you aren’t that bad if you get a 50%. But over time patterns emerge that make managing your customer experience much clearer.

10 Benefits of Mystery Shops:


Monitored and measured service performance

Improves customer retention

Makes employees aware of what is important in

serving customers

Monitors facility conditions

Ensures product/service delivery quality.

Supports promotional programs

Allows for competitive analyses between locations

Identifies training needs and sales opportunities

Ensures positive customer relationships on the front line.

Enforces employee integrity and knowledge.


In order to ensure the best mystery shop feedback, make sure your questions are as detailed as possible. Your shop questions need to be black and white. The employee either did or didn’t say, “Good morning, good afternoon or good evening.” They either described a product using features (it has) with benefits (to the customer) or they didn’t. In addition, you need a narrative so compelling you can actually see the transaction in your store.

Another telling question is, “Would you be willing to drive past a competitor to return to this location based on the service you received today?”

You can try to save money by putting those surveys on your receipts and training your cashiers to “circle the web address and tell them what the prize is” but that’s not a true judge of the experience. Those who had a rotten experience will be looking for some compensation and many will quickly checkoff whatever boxes they need to qualify their entry for the prize.

Mystery Shopping Technology

Many companies now utilize geotracking to ensure mystery shoppers are going where they say they’re going, and most reports are now submitted via mobile applications, which means they receive shoppers’ feedback faster. Inputting information in an app, rather than writing it out or filling out a web form, allows the business owners who hire mystery shoppers to request very specific feedback.

Also, video and audio files of mystery shopper encounters can be stored alongside reports, which further enhance the experience of receiving feedback and gives the business owner an up-close and personal look at customer service.


Fighting online mystery shopper scams


Not all secret shopping companies are the same. Make sure your mystery shoppers are members of the industry association to assure they are reputable. Your mystery shopper should have a keen attention to detail, high standards, and most importantly, experience in the industry.

The online landscape is cluttered with scam mystery shopper companies that promise jobs to inexperienced reviewers, often in exchange for one-time registration fees. To combat these scam services and promote industry training standards for QA specialists, organizations like the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) have formed. The MSPA is a global association dedicated to creating professional standards and ethics throughout the mystery shopping industry, in addition to raising awareness among service providers and business consumers regarding best practices. The MSPA has 450 member companies worldwide and offers business owners free access to a search tool for reputable mystery shopper companies, which can be filtered by need and region.

Bottom line

Online feedback from customers is valuable, but it’s not the only way – or even the best way – to find out how your business functions when you’re not there. Professional mystery shoppers can provide you with the detailed insight you need to make better process and hiring decisions.


How to Successfully Implement Customer Feedback Surveys

Few people get excited about taking a survey. Unless your customers instantly see why it’s important or you offer a reward, they’re likely to dismiss it. However, your company needs those responses. They help you help your customers. If you understand what motivates potential respondents, you’ll be more than equipped to get the survey results you need.

Make the Survey Experience Amazing for Every Customer

Reciprocity, rewards, and interest can each motivate your customers to complete your survey. The more specific you can make each customer’s survey experience, the more interesting they’ll find it—and the more likely they’ll be to respond.


Reciprocity: Create an Exchange

In 1974, sociologist Phillip Kunz at Brigham Young University sent out handwritten Christmas cards to 600 strangers. His theory: if someone does something for you, you’ll return the favor. Kunz’s study worked. He received more than 200 replies from people, many of whom also sent their Christmas card with handwritten notes. That’s why it didn’t matter that Kunz’s subjects didn’t know him: their empathy kicked in once they received something, and they felt compelled to give something back.

The same logic—of reciprocating when you’re given something—can be applied to timing your surveys.

Here are some examples of great times to survey your customers:

  • After they’ve been onboarded. Once you’ve given them a tutorial on how to use a core part of your product, survey them on whether it was helpful.
  • When they’ve just made a purchase. Your customer has just worked their way through your site to make a purchase, so ask them what they’d like to see while it’s fresh in their minds.
  • A few weeks after their purchase. By now customers have used the product and will have honest feedback. Offer them a discount on future purchases in return for feedback.


Rewards: Entice Them with a Promise

Via the incentive theory of motivation, positive incentives like “money, rewards, or recognition” motivate people to take action. But most people tend to prefer rewards sooner than later. Even if your customers understand that responding to a survey will help them down the line, they’d prefer to have a small reward for sacrificing their time here and now.

Your customers’ positive incentive needs to arrive ASAP—otherwise they won’t feel the urge to complete your survey. That’s why it’s imperative that you promise rewards to customers who take your survey.

Say you’ve just programmed this survey to pop up (above). This proves to your customer that they’ll be rewarded right now for doing you the favor of completing a survey—playing into their present bias and motivation via positive incentives.

Some reward options:

  • Discount on their next purchase – If you have the financial means, this can help grow your survey response rates.
  • Exclusive savings – Provide extra bonus content for your survey participants that isn’t already available.

It’s also crucial to give customers multiple ways to access and complete a survey. With more options, customers will be able to complete a survey on their own terms. Customers will be more likely to complete a survey if there is a way to do it that is convenient for them, whether it is by phone, email, or SMS.


Pique Your Users’ Interest

A study published in Oxford’s Public Opinion Quarterly tested the Leverage-Salience Theory of Survey Participation. The theory measured what factors made people more likely to take a survey—whether they found the topic interesting, if they trusted the organization surveying them, or if they would gain specific positive outcomes.

Their findings revealed something intuitive—that people are more likely to respond to surveys when they find the topics interesting. So to get people interested in your survey, you need to make it specific to each customer’s experience. To make your survey prompts and questions as specific and as immediately relevant as they can be, analyze each customer’s experience in real time.


Phrase your survey prompts around each customer’s experience. In an analysis of one million surveys, Price Intelligently found that using customer-centric language spiked their response rates. So instead of saying “help us make our product better,” make subtle changes to prompt your users by saying “improve your product experience.”

By using these tips and tricks, you should see an increase in your survey participation. And this feedback is crucial to a successful future for your business.