Mystery Shopping, the ultimate undercover shopper guide

Jun 11, 2019

A mystery shopper anonymously evaluates a shopping or service experience either in person, online, or over the phone. We have written a lot about how a mystery shopper can evaluate service, performance, policy adherence, product knowledge, display, environment, and more. As we know, mystery shoppers complete a report to give feedback on the factors being investigated. While some companies employ their own teams, most contract the services of a company, like FMI who specialize in such tasks. The benefit of outsourcing is that the workforce is ready to go, trained, and adaptable to gathering data specific to each company’s needs.


Why Use Mystery Shopping?

Investing heavily in recruiting new customers is wasted if their experience falls short.

Thousands are spent to gain new customers; their first experience of your service determines whether they choose you again and/or recommend you to their friends.

Repeat business is crucial and to attain this positive word of mouth is priceless.  It is not new customers who ensure the success of a business, it is the loyal customers who do so; so why would you leave that pivotal circumstance to chance?

Allocating a portion of your marketing budget to ensure your brand promise is delivered at point of purchase is fundamental to building a loyal customer base.


How Can Mystery Shopping Help?

By enabling you to get real, independent, unbiased feedback in order to;

  • To improve customer service and satisfaction.

There’s a big difference between what you, as management, see happening in store and what happens when you’re not there. Only a real customer can have a true experience in store and see what is lacking, what needs improving, and what’s being done well. The data thus procured, ensures that your training budget is spent effectively, by indicating programs or strategies that will have the biggest impact.

  • To make a competitive comparison.

How does your in-store experience compare to your competitors? A mystery shopper can deliver a factual unbiased account as to how you compare. Competitive analysis allows you to learn from your competitors, giving you the chance to capitalize on their areas of weakness and to learn from their areas of strength.

  • To identify opportunities for increasing sales.

Mystery shoppers are consumer experience experts. They’re trained to identify areas of opportunity and to provide customer-focused insights.

  • To understand the success of a new strategy, campaign, service, and/or product listing

Your customer-facing employees are pivotal when it comes to explaining changes, implementing new practices, and selling new services or products. Metrics exist to track advertising related to these fundamentals; mystery shopping enables you to track their delivery at point of purchase.

  • To check for consistent brand delivery

Your brand delivery needs to remain consistent throughout every contact the customer has with your brand. Traditional and digital advertising communications can be tightly controlled but you need to monitor your customers’ in-store experience to ensure consistency to message.

  • To incentivize staff

Your workforce is your biggest resource. A mystery shopper campaign that supports an incentive program is a great way to motivate your team. Focus your team on customer service and you’ll drive positive customer interaction.


What Makes A Good Mystery Shopper?

Mystery shoppers should blend in with the other shoppers, and look like an everyday regular customer. They need to have transport, be reliable, have a good memory, and to be literate, professional, and reliable.


Why Is Mystery Shopping Feedback Better Than Other Research Tools?

It’s objective. Mystery shoppers have no emotion attached to their visit and will report back on the facts of their experience.

It’s specialized. Mystery shoppers are customer service experts; they’re trained to identify areas for improvement and feedback valuable insights that can improve customer satisfaction.

It’s specific. Mystery shopping campaigns get to the detail you’re looking to examine.

It’s honest. Even when customers are unhappy, not many complain, the customer simply goes elsewhere. Mystery shoppers report everything; turning a negative experience into an actionable opportunity.

It’s natural. It’s the only research tool that’s uninformed so people act and respond normally.


Should Mystery Shopping Be A Secret?

The answer to this depends on what your aims are for the campaign and how you will use the results.

If you are looking to establish a baseline and identify some key areas for improvement for input into new strategies then you could keep it a secret. The key thing to consider here is trust. How would your employees feel if they found out that you have been running a secret mystery shopping campaign?

However, telling employees will affect their behaviour and effect results. The knowledge that there is a mystery shopping campaign running will automatically improve service or adherence to (new) policies. In this way, it can be used to incentivize and motivate.

Your decision, therefore, as to whether or not the campaign should be secret would reflect the requirements of your business at that time.


Is Mystery Shopping Right For My Business?

If you have a business that involves serving a customer in any way; whether that’s in-store, online, or over the phone, a mystery shopping campaign is invaluable. No matter what product or service you are offering, a campaign will take the guesswork out of customer experience; offering you the chance to make relevant improvements and increase sales and loyalty. Get in touch with the team at FMI at, they are best placed to give you practical advice about how they can deliver a mystery shopping campaign which will suit your business.