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What is a mystery shopping?
Mystery shopping (literally “incognito purchases” and more properly “incognito audit“) is a method to detect the quality of services – including the sale of products – to customers / users / citizens. It is a strategic tool adopted by public or private organizations for the purpose of improving performance and customer satisfaction and it is mainly used by large companies in different sectors – from catering to automotive – to monitor and verify anonymously the correct supply of the service itself.
In order to do so, Mystery Shoppers (literally incognito clients) are used: their task is to go to a specific point of sale pretending to be normal buyers and customers (for example making a purchase, staying at a hotel, taking an air flight and so on) and testing the quality of the service offered.
For example, within a point of sale, the mystery shopper – simulating a real purchasing situation – evaluates the professionalism of the sellers, the level of cleanliness and efficiency of the point of sale, the presence of advertising / illustrative / promotional material, check the prices applied and the discounts offered, the presence and arrangement of the products, etc.
Mystery shopping activities can be carried out:
in person at points of sale
by phone (Mystery-Call)
by e-mail (Mystery-Mail)
browsing E-Commerce websites
with hidden cameras
talking to staff or other customers
How to set up a mystery shopping
The methodology adopted by mystery shoppers is very important and a great part of the result depends on it.
You have always to begin with the definition of objectives and goals and with the creation of a checklist – a typical work tool of the Mystery Shopper – which is developed together with the customer Company using the quality standards of the sector and competitors: it is, in fact, important to understand how mystery shoppers can be useful for reaching the ideal state of service.
Before fieldwork, a careful selection of shoppers is necessary in order to choose those that are as representative as possible of the target customers: recruitment and training of shoppers is very important and must be carefully conducted by specialised personnel.
What does a mystery shopper do?
After selecting from database the most suitable profiles to carry out a particular mystery shopping, a brief is sent that explains in detail how the work should be done (often the frequency of an online course is required that simulates the task).
The selected candidate on the dates and at the established time goes to the point of sale and carries out the visit according to the agreed procedures.
At the end of the visit, the Mystery Shopper fills out an online questionnaire answering the pre-established questions telling their own experience and providing an evaluation based on specific parameters and sending any required documentation (photos, documents, receipts, etc.).
The evaluation provided by the mysterious customer is then collected, aggregated to all the others and sent to the customer Company who requested the survey with the aim of identifying any areas of improvement of the service itself.
After carrying out the assignment each mysterious client is evaluated by the agency and receives (positive or negative) feedback.