What to look for in a good mystery shopper

One challenge facing many business owners is being able to view their own organisation and service objectively. As with many things, being too close to something can make it difficult to evaluate the whole situation – the bigger picture, if you like.

Using mystery visitors/shoppers to experience your offering from a customer’s perspective can be a great way of bridging this gap and observing your business on a day-to-day level. It can help to uncover gaps in your staff knowledge or your business offering, experience failures (or successes) in customer service and highlight key opportunities to improve.

Done well and with good mystery visitors/shoppers, this type of feedback can often delve deeper and pick out key details that may be missed by a traditional feedback survey, which sometimes offers little opportunity for customers to highlight aspects of their experience in depth. But what makes a good mystery visitor/shopper?

1. Independent and neutral: a good mystery visitor/shopper must be able to experience your product or service from an objective point of view. Making sure they’re completely neutral means there are no pre-conceptions or loyalties to affect their opinion and the feedback they give back can be unbiased and reliable.

2. A natural customer: at the same time, there’s no point recruiting a mystery visitor who has no natural affinity to the type of product or service you’re providing. They must be a good fit for your company – a potential customer – one who represents the demography, lifestyle and behaviours and understands the wants and needs of your actual customers. Just because they are neutral doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the same expectations of your offering as those who pay to use your services.

3. Attention to detail: it can be all well and good having a natural and independent mystery visitor/shopper, but without attention to detail, the findings they feedback can be weak and may not tell you anything new. A good mystery visitor should be able to tell you something that you don’t already know about the service you’re offering and often this resides in the finer details.

4. Articulate: being able to communicate well is critical at two stages of a mystery visit. Firstly, when the mystery visitor/shopper is engaging with your staff, it is important that they are comfortable and confident enough to test and evaluate the type of customer service being provided without revealing their identity. Making sure they can communicate well is key to finding out how staff members are normally interacting with your customers. Secondly, they must be articulate in reporting their findings in a clear and succinct way. Often they have a lot of detail to highlight so making sure this is conveyed back accurately not only leads to more quality feedback, but can also make the process run quickly and smoothly.

5. Able to relax and have fun: it is paramount that a mystery visitor/shopper remains just that – a mystery. A good mystery visitor must be able to carry out their tasks in a relaxed and confident way so as not to arouse suspicions about their role. Making sure they are able to enjoy the experience can often lead to better quality feedback.

Posted by Ben

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