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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.


Case Study: Mystery Shopping Reveals Disconnect in Referral Program


Ann Michaels & Associates recently conducted a study to show representation for companies who relay on referral services to gain new business. As an online and telephone referral service, customers are able to contact the referral company to disclose their needs. From there, the referral company pairs them with the best match based on their specific situation.


The study revolved around the online portion of the business, as referral members were concerned about their representation based on the fact that business generated from this company was down quite significantly. The client set out to pinpoint how customers were being referred and how the process works for potential customers.


Starting at the referral service’s website, mystery shoppers were deployed to pose as potential customers that would best align with the client’s services. Being instructed to enter specific criteria, the shoppers went through the referral process, and took screen shots of every page they encountered. Additionally, when their options for companies was offered, they took a screen shot for the client to investigate further.


The client found several areas in which their brand was not being represented accurately or sufficiently, which was likely the cause for lower lead generation. These issues included:


1. Despite the fact that shoppers provided information indicating that the client was the most relevant fit for their needs, they were often times not one of the suggested companies, or if they were, they were consistently one of the last offerings on a long list of company options.


2. Their pricing structure was not listed correctly on the page with potential companies to hire; in fact, they were listed at a higher rate than many of the competitors, despite the fact that they have made their pricing structure clear with the referring vendor at the onset of their relationship.


3. Only when their company was selected as a vendor did potential customers see more accurate (and many times, lower) pricing.


4. In general, shoppers found that the process was a bit difficult, with many steps that were not clear or easy to understand in order to get to the referral section. Shoppers consistently indicated that, as a true customer, they would have become frustrated and aborted the process before finding a company to work with.


At the conclusion of the project, the client had enough documentation, especially with regard to screen shots of the experience, to talk with the referral vendor to address some of the issues. A repeat project conducted after promises of resolving the client’s issue yielded much better results.


By providing screen shots directly in the mystery shopping reports. the client was able to easily identify issues that prohibited new business while getting a good understanding of what potential customers experience.


As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Or, in this case study, it’s worth not missing any more business opportunities.