We’ve covered mystery shopping before in a number of different posts. Those blog posts defined mystery shopping as a market research service designed to measure the quality of customer service or gather specific information about products and services. Mystery shopping accomplishes that by sending a trained secret shopper into a facility or storefront to evaluate their experience as a true customer. The mystery shopper knows they are there to evaluate the customer service, while the customer service rep treats the mystery shopper as a true customer. Our past secret shopping posts focused a lot on benefits and examples of our mystery shopping services in Syracuse, NY. However, this post will focus more on refining the logistics of these specific market research studies to provide the researcher with more comprehensive findings.
Mystery shopping is in essence, a very subjective evaluation of a process. Training is put in place at the front end to ensure that shoppers evaluate their experience based on the same factors. However, many unforeseen variables may impact the ratings for specific categories. For example, the customer service rep may not have answered your question completely, but the rep was very accommodating and answered as best he/she could. Case in point, the mystery shopper is asked on their evaluation form, “How well did the customer service rep answer your question?” The shopper may be more inclined to rate that interaction more positively because of the kind effort. This subjectivity can be minimized through good training and experienced/objective shoppers, but these variables that impact ratings are always on the table.
This emphasizes the necessity to allow room for narrative on your mystery shopping evaluation forms. Don’t just ask your mystery shoppers to rate a bunch of factors on a scale of 1-10. Have the mystery shopper explain why they rated each factor the way they did. In some cases, the analysts working on the report may actually do all or some of the mystery shops, which offers great value. I would recommend this if it’s possible. However, if the project is large enough, the research team will need to use other resources to complete the shops, which create disconnect between analyst/reporter and the evaluator/shopper. Therefore, it’s recommended you add additional quality control measures to provide your client with the most reflective data as possible.
One thing improve the form’s quality is to add a full-page to the end of each mystery shopping evaluation form to allow for the mystery shopper to write a story of what happened from start to finish. This narrative provides the analyst insight as to exactly what happened on the telephone call or the in-person shop. This narrative might also point out some overlooked findings that the shopper might not think matters, but may be an interesting finding for the analyst or client. This page allows the analyst and client to feel like they were there without being there.
- Vance, our Senior Research Analyst and bunker author states, “incorporating more narrative is a way to take advantage of the inherent subjectivity of the methodology. Mystery shoppers are subjective, but so are real shoppers. A narrative approach captures something close to what a real shopper might talk about their experience with a friend – thereby giving the client true word of mouth type insights/feedback.”
Another thing we consider is scheduling a window of time after each mystery shop is completed to have the analyst quickly debrief with each shopper. This will help clarify exactly what happened during the experience. It will also add some more depth to each evaluation form and give an opportunity for the analyst to further train each shopper.
Do you have questions about how to best set up your mystery shopping project? Contact Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS), a market research firm in Syracuse, NY, by calling 1-866-567-5422.