Retail Chain. Video Mystery Shopping, Telephone Mystery Shopping & Competitor Mystery Shopping

They could learn a lot from you!

Head of Retail Operations comparing their experience with Customerwise against their previous (highly reputable) provider.


This case study relates to a long established “clicks and mortar” luxury retail business.  The business had used a well-known mystery shopping provider for many years.

It’s no exaggeration to say that we’ve provided a new view of what a great service looks like, to a long-term user of Mystery Shopping services…


A specialist retailer operates a national chain of stores in addition to a thriving ecommerce business. The stores specialise in showcasing the higher value “luxury” goods from the company’s range, and they exist to drive up and maximise the average spend of customers, who visit in person to try the products in person before they purchase.

The client’s bricks and mortar retail model involves a complex retail sales process, leading to a sale of potentially several high value items. Retail order values can run into the tens of thousands of pounds per sale.

The total product range is extensive, with several hundred thousand SKUs.

Sales staff in the stores need to perform an in-depth yet unobtrusive needs analysis on each potential customer and then provide expert, product-related advice. They then use their skill and expertise to avoid customer overwhelm, and to steer customers towards the most suitable products, while ultimately maximising the value and profitability of each transaction.

The same team of skilled sales staff also man the telephone sales line, providing advice and closing orders by telephone.

Earlier Mystery Shopping experiences

The company was very familiar with the use of Mystery Shopping services, having used a well-known provider for Video Mystery Shopping and Telephone Mystery Shopping for several years. However, the service had been lacking in terms of its management and oversight. Some of the issues included:

  • Mystery Shoppers being selected without due care, and being poorly briefed by the company.
  • The design of the reports being too simplistic to provide enough useable information about the interactions (in view of the in-depth sales process).
  • The level of detail in the written commentary was also lacking. To really understand what had happened during each visit, the management team were too often forced to watch back video footage – a very time-consuming activity.
  • Mystery Shoppers were being easily identified by staff members. Interactions were unrealistic. Shoppers were always asking the same standard questions, they often didn’t have a plausible “back story”, and simply didn’t behave like real customers.
  • Because of the simplistic nature of the report (and the way shoppers had been briefed), staff could score highly (by using a simple mental “checklist”) without engaging in effective sales-focused behaviour.
  • There had been no proactive steps taken to manage the service to provide more value for the client, e.g.
    • Using a variety of scenarios relating to product categories and budget levels.
    • Improving briefing and training of shoppers.
    • Requesting staff rotas so that visits covered different staff members.

The client was receiving reports based on visits having little in common with the interactions that really affect the performance of their business. Therefore, the reports did little to help with ongoing staff training.

Essentially, the service was too “standard”. It wasn’t being thoughtfully tailored to the client’s business, or actively managed.

There wasn’t enough care and attention. As a result, the service wasn’t producing enough value for the client.

After a multi-stage selection process, Customerwise was chosen to take over as the retail chain’s new service provider.

Our work with this client is ongoing and we help them to optimise the performance of their own stores, as well as obtaining intelligence on their main competitor.

How Customerwise has helped

For this client, the conversion of leads, the value of sales, and the profitability of each transaction depends heavily on the skills and knowledge of store-based staff.

Therefore, the service that we provide to this client is also focussed on increasing sales volumes and values.

We provide this client with powerful insights into the performance of stores and individual staff members, identifying strong performance as well as areas for improvement on an ongoing basis.

We also work with them constructively to identify ways to increase sales across a range of scenarios, product categories, buyer types, and budget levels.

We’ve helped the client to look at their retail sales operation in a more in-depth, structured and comprehensive way. This has helped to identify more gaps, and uncover more opportunities.  

Methodology and approach

The approach that we’ve taken has included:

  • Performing exploratory Mystery Shop visits to several sites (the client’s and their competitor’s), to gain a strong understanding of the market, of store operations, and of the front-end sales process used by both businesses.
  • Working with the client to identify the components of an effective sales approach by staff, as well as important store-management related factors.
  • Creating an improved and in-depth (video) mystery visit and Telephone Mystery Shopping report template, dramatically improving on the previous provider’s design. This included:
    • Adding an in-depth section relating to customer needs analysis* (including buyer goals, motivations and priorities).
    • Enhancing the report in relation to selling skills* (e.g. placing more emphasis on meeting needs, upselling and gaining “micro-agreements” or pre-closes in advance of a final / main closing attempt, identification of appropriate up-selling and cross selling activity etc.).
    • Incorporating questions to identify whether specific preferred brands and SKUs were being promoted as appropriate.
    • Taking steps to measure how staff were guarding against the threat of losing business to (geographically) close competing stores.
  • Creating a list of product groupings and Mystery Shopper scenarios (budget, knowledge level, etc.). These scenarios are rotated across stores to identify improvement opportunities (and thereby maximise sales) at every store.
  • Creating a comprehensive shopper brief and implementing a system of rigorous shopper recruitment, selection and telephone briefing to ensure that shoppers are well prepared, engage in high quality conversations during visits, to in turn provide more valuable reports.
  • A slightly different approach has been taken with the competitor visits, which necessarily must be less prescribed, to allow for a more “observational” approach to be taken by the shopper. The goal here, as well as monitoring standards, is to obtain intelligence on the sales and marketing techniques being used by staff and the organisation as a whole.


  • The client is maximising the performance of its own retail stores (an estimated double-digit growth in monthly sales against the previous year).
  • The service enables the client to monitor and continuously improve the effectiveness of the sales team, across a range of different sales opportunities and scenarios.
  • The competitor reports help to keep the client informed about their competitors’ performance, strategy and tactics (both formal and informal)

Could we provide similar help to your organisation? Why not make a quick enquiry to find out?

Please contact us now on 01392 984224 or for a no-obligation initial chat or meeting.

*these sections incorporated insights from behavioural science, as well as market and product-related factors. The most relevant behavioural science concepts that have been used in this project are scarcity, authority, social proof, price anchoring, commitment / consistency, the affect heuristic.


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Paul works creatively with a broad range of B2C and B2B organisations to help them find ways to compete more effectively. Read More...

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