If you are interested in using Mystery Shopping to improve your business, here's a list of the frequently asked questions we tend to hear.
Too many to list – it is almost endless! People normally imagine hospitality, supermarkets, fashion and other retail shops, but Mystery Shopping is also used by professional and business to business service providers, for travel and transport operators; local authority services; education providers; optical care; tourism; automotive sales and service; property sales; elder care, events, experiences and attractions, and in many other settings.
There are other ways to gain feedback. Many of them can be useful, and cost efficient, but none of them can quite take the place of Mystery Shopping.
It all really depends on what information you are trying to obtain. Mystery Shopping allows you to obtain highly detailed and quite comprehensive feedback about entire interactions or enquiry cycles, and to base these around chosen scenarios or situations.
If a business wants to understand and and improve the experiences of customers, one common challenge is around getting customers to spend their own precious time providing truly detailed feedback. It’s also hard to know if you’re getting a comprehensive, balanced and reliable picture. Even where customers are rewarded for participating in surveys, there will be a limit to what you can expect, and you may not hear at all from those who are cash rich and time poor.
When a Mystery Shopper interacts with a business, they’re following a clear brief, and they should be appropriately prepared and focused on observing everything that’s relevant, and reporting back as required: they’re being paid specifically to do so. Unlike genuine or real customers, who might have individual preferences and bugbears, the Mystery Shopper reports on everything, impartially.
The quality and depth of this feedback can’t be matched, even by piecing together comments from complaints and reviews, and feedback from customers who can be persuaded to take part in any sort of survey or interview.
They can differ in many ways.
Often, there are tangible differences in terms of service features and capabilities – literally what the companies can offer, in terms of types and volumes of interactions, and how these are handled, and the reporting output they can provide.
Different companies set different standards in terms of interaction quality (and realism), adherence to client briefs, and the accuracy of individual reports. Companies will also differ in terms of their standards of account management, flexibility and responsiveness. Reporting systems and capabilities will also vary, along with levels of engagement, and the support that they offer to clients on a strategic level.
Different reporting platforms have different features for end clients. These features, and how things are set up, can have a big impact on how much time clients spend examining and dealing with the insights form their data, and therefore on the overall ROI.
One key area is around the pool or database of mystery shoppers that the company has access to. In terms of delivering realistic interactions and feedback from them, a mystery shopping company can only be as good as the mystery shoppers that it uses for assignments. The best companies maintain great relationships with the best mystery shoppers. Other companies… don’t.
Another key area of difference, which can be hard to pin down, is is around the overall quality of service, in terms of project and programme set-up and management, individual interaction quality, and the quality and accuracy of individual reports.
Some companies provide a more “bare bones” service where they are more reactive, and concentrate almost exclusively on delivering the required numbers of interactions the client requires. Some companies are more focused on volumes, margins, and their own business performance, sometimes perhaps at the expense of results for clients. But of course, they might not acknowledge this.
Here at Customerwise, we aim for excellence in all of the areas above. The feedback we receive from clients (many of whom have used competing providers previously) overwhelmingly confirms that we achieve this.
Yes. There are a few main types of Mystery Shopping including
- Standard “in-person” interactions (which can be very different depending on the industry)
- Those where the Mystery Shopper “reveals” themselves as a mystery shopper (usually at the end of the assignment / visit), and may provide feedback and / or recognition to staff members.
- (covertly) Video recorded interactions
- Telephone Mystery Shop enquiries, which might be used to assess customer service and / or sales effectiveness, or might be used to gather competitor information or market intelligence.
- Online “shops” where again the entire experience can be examined and reported on. It is also possible for a Mystery Shopping to be used to assess almost any part of parts of a transaction.
Different mystery shopping companies also have their own approaches and styles. Differences include the quantity and the quality of standard “yes/no” questions and “score out of x” questions used within questionnaires and reports, and the quality and quantity of commentary sought and provided from the Mystery Shoppers themselves.
Some companies provide reports that are very brief and basic, and some are long and exhaustive.
It’s obviously possible for reports to be lack important detail, either through an inadequate brief or questionnaire, or through a poor job done by the shopper themselves.
It’s also very possible for reports to focus on yes/no questions that are too vague or too restrictive, or don’t allow for the variety that exists in real human interactions. Some companies provide reports that are very lengthy, and yet don’t necessarily provide much value to the time-pressed reader.
Indeed, poorly designed projects can fail to highlight real problems, or highlight problems that don’t really exist.
We try to focus on the issues that have the highest impact on customer satisfaction and sales. Questions are carefully worded in order to be clear, but not overly restrictive. We include “scoring questions” where appropriate in addition to “yes or no” questions, and we invite commentary where it’s needed, but not for the sake of it. We work closely with clients and welcome their ideas and suggestions, and we’re totally open with them about which areas of their organisation are reported on and how.
Our solutions are custom-made and tailored to meet the needs of our clients. Each project and program is priced on an individual basis.
When Mystery Shopping is included as part of our services, the payment we make to mystery shoppers typically represents our largest cost. We determine our own fees based on these “shopper fees.” In order to establish a fair Mystery Shopper fee for any assignment, we require a clear understanding of the following:
- The specific requirements or conditions for finding or assigning the task.
- A detailed overview of the tasks involved, from start to finish, including any necessary preparation, all potential interaction stages, and any subsequent time required (e.g., report writing).
- An estimate of the total time the shopper is likely to spend and how the different steps or stages may be spread out over time.
- Any potential factors that could make the assignment particularly challenging or uncomfortable.
Once we have a clear idea of the shopper fees, we also take into account the amount of work necessary to deliver the desired output for the client.
Typically, we charge a fixed fee for each individual interaction or enquiry report of a specific type. Additionally, there is usually a setup fee for new projects and programs, and we may also charge for analysis reports and presentations.
We maintain an extensive database of UK Mystery Shoppers, which includes individuals who handle various types of assignments:
– Report-based assignments.
– Video Mystery Shopping Assignments.
– Telephone Mystery Shopping Assignments.
– Online Mystery Shopping Assignments.
– Multi-stage and multi-channel assignments.
Furthermore, we actively seek out suitable individuals worldwide for multi-stage B2C enquiries and niche B2B enquiries.
Our existing Mystery Shoppers come from diverse backgrounds, encompassing a wide range of ages, income levels, and interests. We value this diversity as it allows us to select the most suitable individuals for each assignment.
When it comes to Video Mystery Shopping, shoppers are chosen and selected based primarily on their track record and their ability to conduct realistic interactions and adhere to instructions.
For assignments that involve a report, we only allocate them to individuals who possess strong and clear written English skills.
In the case of Video Mystery Shopping, reports are typically not completed by the Video Mystery Shoppers themselves. Instead, they are compiled centrally based on the recorded footage. However, we do incorporate feedback from the shoppers into the reports.
The common qualities that all our shoppers must demonstrate from the outset are keen attention to detail, a good memory, and reliability.
We work closely with clients to tie up all of the important details and to create a tight brief.
Our job is to ensure that for each interaction, the Mystery Shopper is going handle the interaction correctly, and is also going to be observing and reporting on the right things.
Before the shopper attends any assignment, whey will have read a clear and comprehensive brief, and if relevant, the questionnaire that they will be required to complete after the visit. If a shopper is going to be performing an assignment for a client or project that is new to them, there will always be a thorough telephone briefing with one of our team to check their understanding of everything, and to ensure that they will be fully prepared. Usually telephone briefings will involve a role-play aspect.
Our Mystery Shoppers are given plenty of support, coaching and feedback on an ongoing basis.
In the case of Video Mystery Shopping, reports are nearly always completed by our back office team, based on the footage itself. So, accuracy levels are extremely high. As the saying goes “the camera never lies”.
As a more general point, assignments are only allocated to shoppers once they have passed our strict selection process.
We make our requirements for accuracy, and above all honesty, clear during the initial induction process. Reports require very specific and often quite detailed information, usually including precise visit times and staff names or descriptions.
Each and every report is double checked for quality and consistency by a member of our team. If any claims within a report appear to be contradictory or inconsistent, these issues will be investigated.
If we ever have concerns about information in reports not being accurate, then we’ll address these with the shopper concerned. If we were not totally confident in the information that we had been given, we’ll arrange for a “shop” to take place again (of course at no cost to the client).
If a member of staff at a client organisation disputes any claim made by a shopper, then we work with the client to establish the truth. Where this is not practical, we will offer to have the visit repeated, or credit the client’s account.
In reality, there are multiple levels of quality control that prevent issues like this affecting our clients… the first one being the recruitment of reliable, diligent and honest Mystery Shoppers.
We make reports available to clients quickly. It’s a maximum of 3 working days from the visit taking place, but it’s normally well inside of that.