There is a blanket of smokey, enigmatic smog hovering above the title “Mystery Shopper.” From what we’ve read, most people (Mystery Shopping organizations aside) have some unusual misconceptions about the practice. As a result, Mystery Shopping is shrouded in myth. There is a pretty good reason behind the underlying confusion. Mystery Shopping began in the 1940s as a trend started by a research company who hired real private investigators to measure the integrity of employee cash-handling. Since then, the Mystery Shopping (or Secret Shopping) trend has been adopted by companies all over the world so they can use measurable results to improve policies, communication methods, sales, and customer service standards. From private investigators to stay-at-home bloggers, Mystery Shopping is coveted by all. Is it right for your business? Read more to find out!

What is a Mystery Shopper?

A mystery shopper is a paid consumer who is hired to “shop” in stores or institutions in order to collect data on the quality of the customer service experience. A company, such as JB Communications, converts their feedback into reports that these companies can use to develop training programs to improve their customer service and, subsequently, the customer experience. Mystery Shopping allows business owners to evaluate their staff’s performance and quality of service that they provide the shoppers. In addition to customer service standards, secret shopping also tests company policies and procedures. But what goes into mystery shopping, and how can these secret shoppers stay so sneaky? The answer lies in the amount of screening and training these shoppers receive. 

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Creating the Questionnaire: Tips for the Best Mystery Shop

A lot goes into creating the perfect secret shop survey. Your Mystery Shopping company will work with you to develop a customized questionnaire for the shoppers to fill out that suits your needs. Suppose you are a company that implements training programs and wants to make sure your staff is abiding by those standards. In that case, your questions will likely be very specific regarding the steps they take to enhance the customer experience. If you are working on developing new training standards, a more ambiguous shop will help highlight areas that need the most work. 

Your Survey: Cadaver’s Costume Emporium

Let’s say you just opened your new Halloween store, Cadaver’s Costume Emporium. Congrats! Things are looking good until you notice a few 3-star online reviews. Your costumes are top-notch, but the customer service needs a little work. Mystery shopping can tell you where to start. 

Simple Rules for a Good Survey

When creating your questionnaire, you can take a few steps to ensure you are making the most of your secret shopping survey. The following are important rules to implement while considering the questions you want the secret shopper to answer. A good Mystery Shopping company (like JBC) will abide by these rules and make specialized suggestions based upon your needs.  

  1. Keep Questions Objective. Objective questions invite definitive answers. For example, if you want to know if your staff is encouraging customers to try on their costumes, you will want to word your question objectively. Ex: “Did the customer service representative invite you to try on a costume?” An example of a less helpful, subjective, question is the following: “Did you feel like the staff wanted you to try on costumes?” It may sound like common sense, but you might be surprised how often secret shopping efforts are sabotaged by a bad questionnaire.
  2. Keep Competitors in Mind. Mystery shopping is more than an exercise in self-improvement. You want to make changes based upon the needs of your customer and what works right for them. Don’t be afraid to ask your Mystery Shopping company to research your competitors! They will be able to cross-reference information about your company vs. Gary’s Halloween House to determine effective changes in training or protocol.
  3. Anonymity is Key. When considering your survey, you can request that the shoppers ask questions or make requests of your staff. These must be questions anyone coming in might ask and will not give away the secret shopper’s position. Your Mystery Shopping company can help you determine which questions are just sly enough to slip under the radar.

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The Company’s Role in Mystery Shopping

Once you get the ball rolling, it’s time to sit back and relax and wait for those useful reports to roll in! However, there are two things JBC has noticed in our 25 years of mystery shopping experience that makes the process the most effective for business owners.

  1. Anonymity (Again) is Key. This could not be more important. While your staff likely knows your company participates in mystery shopping (they are being reported on, after all), they should have no idea when or who is conducting the shop. Once your staff begins to suspect a shopper, all that hard work goes out the window. If you suspect your staff has found ways to discover mystery shoppers, nip that habit in the bud and contact your Mystery Shopping company so they can revise their strategy with the team of shoppers.
  2. Privacy. You will inevitably receive bad reports. Our shoppers are trained to be honest and objective during their assessment. During these times, review what happened with the employee or employees privately. You can also use this as a good coaching opportunity to re-implement training strategies for the whole staff. If one person is making the mistake, it’s likely the rest of your staff needs a refresher.
  3. Reward Employees. Mystery Shopping can sound scary for staff in the beginning because it is a new form of accountability. However, it is also an opportunity to reward staff for exceptional service. Mystery Shopping is a consistent way to maintain a consistent level of service as well as reinforce positive behaviors.

Mystery Shopping During COVID-19

A lot has changed in the last year. Due to COVID-19, businesses are rapidly modifying their training procedures and strategies. Mystery Shopping is an ideal approach to keep up with staff performance. If you are having difficulty keeping up with staff training, a consultant will be able to help you organize your next training strategy.

Contact JBC for a Mystery Shopping Consultation Today!

JB Communications has been helping businesses improve their customer service standards with quality Mystery Shopping programs for over 25 years! If you are interested in Secret Shopping or Training services, contact JBC for a consultation!