Archive for Mystery Shopping

Your Business Isn’t One Dimensional – Mystery Shopping Shouldn’t Be Either




Think about your current mystery shopping program; like many, it’s likely that it consists of onsite visits (for those with brick and mortar locations) and possible online or maybe some phone call evaluations. Most focus on in store evaluations, since that is the “meat and potatoes”, in person customer experience.

While this used to be standard, things are changing, much like your own business. Customers are doing business with you online, on the phone, and even on social media – aren’t those channels of interaction just as important?

If you’re not sure what’s out there in the way of mystery shopping programs, good news – we can give you a quick overview here so you can see what’s out there.


Phone shops: these are probably the most popular type of evaluation right behind onsite evaluations. Shoppers can evaluate the problem resolution process, get assistance with products and/or purchases, or other typical customer scenarios.

Step it up a notch by adding a recorded call component. Instead of a narrative, the shopper can record the conversation and upload the audio clip directly to the report. This has become quite popular and is a nice addition to a mystery shopping evaluation.


Quality Call Monitoring: this is a newer form of mystery shopping that many companies, especially in the B2B industry, have had great success with. One of the concerns with phone evaluations is the time spent with a mystery shopper may impede time with a “real” customer, while another may be that it is difficult to fully mimic actual scenarios, making the mystery shopping data not truly reflective of the actual experience.

QCM programs are the best of both worlds – a program that mirrors a traditional mystery shop can be developed in which recorded inbound and/or outbound calls are listened to by a third party and evaluated in the same manner as a traditional shop.


Online shops: problems with the purchasing journey, or the return process, can easily fall through the cracks in ecommerce. Mystery shopping can help pinpoint gaps in service and areas that need improvement.

Shoppers can be instructed to make a purchase online and evaluate all aspects of the experience – web usability, purchase process, problem resolution (phone, chat, or email, or a combination of these), tracking the delivery, and evaluating the return process.


Social media shops: social media is more than social – it’s the new form of customer service for many businesses, as customers have made it this way. Make sure your social service is as strong as your onsite service. Use mystery shops to evaluate response time, knowledge, and other key aspects on one or more social channels.


Mystery shopping is a key component in evaluating the customer experience. Traditional onsite evaluations are important, and should remain the focus, but taking a look at supplementing your program to capture data from all customer channels will give you the most information possible. Mix it up a bit and incorporate some new measurement tools to your program in 2017 – you’ll be happy you did!


Happy New Year!



From all of us at Ann Michaels & Associates, we wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year! We are grateful for your readership and look forward to connecting with you even more in the new year!

It’s always a good time to look back on the year, and we wanted to share links to our five most popular blog posts:

When Mystery Shopping and Feedback Surveys are BFF’s

Automated Phone Systems: Don’t Make These Mistakes

Employee Feedback Gone Wrong

Tips for Learning About Your Competitors

What Makes Consumers Want to Sabotage Your Brand?

Do you have a topic you’d like to see covered, or a question you’d like to ask? Do you want to learn more about our services, including mystery shopping, customer feedback, social media monitoring, and quality control monitoring? Feel free to send us an email (just click here) and we’ll be happy to help!

Thank you again for being a part of our blog – we look forward to sharing more with you in 2017!

One Snapshot is Good; Two Are Better




If you get a high score on a mystery shop, is it safe to assume that the customer experience was similar for all customers on that day and time?

Maybe, but maybe not.

It’s not realistic to assume that each experience is exactly the same, though the thought that if one customer has an excellent experience, all the others did as well. That is the hope for businesses as they invest time and money on training and staff development.

Many businesses that utilize mystery shopping conduct one visit per month to gauge service levels. This is an excellent measurement tool and is extremely useful for this task. Others choose to conduct multiple visits at each location on a monthly basis in order to get deeper insight into a location’s performance – they realize that one shop is simply a snapshot in time and may want more data to work with.

When a client uses multiple shops per location in any given month, mystery shopping providers strive to conduct the shops across different days and times of the day in order to give the client a range of snapshots; there have been times, however, when the client chooses to get as granular as possible by conducting multiple shops at one location, all on the same day.

Consider this: a restaurant has a concern about one of its locations, particularly with the evening staff. Past mystery shop performance has not been strong during this time, and customer complaints seem to increase. To get a better sense of what may be happening, the client requests that two shoppers visit the restaurant on the same evening and around the same time (the dinner rush) to check for consistency.

Two shoppers visited the restaurant – one a bit earlier than the other, though their visits overlapped by a half hour. They sat in different areas of the restaurant and had different servers.

What did they find?

  • Each shopper had a different experience – one shop report received a 70% overall score while the other received a 95%. Taking a look at the two experiences, the client obtained some interesting information to work with:
  • The main difference between the two shops focused around timing of the meal and receiving the order. The lower scoring shop had a long wait to receive their meal, while there were no issues with the higher scoring shop.
  • The restaurant requires the manager to visit guest tables; this did not happen with the lower scoring shop. In fact, this shopper reported that the manager was not visible in the dining area at any time.
  • The server for the lower scoring shop was not able to greet the shopper within the required time frame, did not refill drinks during the meal, and dishes were not cleared in a timely manner.
  • There were other minor differences, though none existed with the host experience, the departure, or cleanliness aspects.

While this was just one night and one snapshot, it opened up some good conversation at this particular location. After looking at the staff involved with both shops, and having an open discussion based on these differences as well as data from prior shops, management learned some great information to help make improvements, such as:

  • There has been some turnover lately, and there are many new staff who are still learning the processes. Servers shared that it is difficult for newer servers working busy shifts, as the server “sections” (number of tables they are responsible for) are overwhelming for new staff. This led to a discussion of recreating sections of the dining area to accommodate new servers. With less tables to focus on during the rush, the more successful they could be.
  • Management shared that they do make every attempt to visit guest tables, but during the height of the dinner rush, they are focused on “putting out fires” and resolving issues as they come up. This takes away from table visits. The “fires” were looked at more closely to determine if they were isolated incidents that typically come up in the course of a day or if there were patterns to suggest that staff needed better training, if more staff were needed during busier times, etc.
  • Service processes were closely evaluated and adjusted to accommodate challenges presented not only in this experience, but across all experience data collected for this location.

It’s important to note that the client had concerns about this particular location before they conducted the multiple mystery shop exercise, and it was limited to one particular night, but it served as a good jumping point for closer inspection and conversation with employees to get their feedback, thoughts, and solutions.

Using multiple mystery shoppers in one day can be beneficial in many circumstances. When there are concerns, changing up a mystery shopping schedule to do a deeper dive can go a long way in uncovering challenges and improving the consistency of the customer experience.