This post was written by our guest blogger Mark Dengler, President of Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS), a market research firm in Syracuse, NY.
What is mystery shopping or secret shopping? Mystery shopping can come in all forms – from phone calls, online inquiries and most commonly, in-person visits. Typically, a script or checklist of what is expected from an employee and/or a customer experience is developed. Posing as a customer, a researcher then analyzes the experience, collecting data and rating the encounter based on those measures. Mystery shopping has become a popular market research tool for monitoring customer experience.
With more in-depth mystery shopping projects, clients may create scenarios of specific situations that a customer would bring to a company to see how the staff deals with the issue. These scenarios can be as uncomplicated or as complex as requested. Information collected from mystery shopping experiences is used to continually track performance of employees.
Unlike other market research that companies may contemplate doing in-house, mystery shopping requires a third-party vendor due to the element of disguise. A company cannot use its own staff because targeted employees may recognize the mystery shoppers, thereby biasing the research results. Even if someone was pulled from a different department to do the mystery shopping, there is no guarantee they would be 100 percent objective.
RMS recently wrapped up a project with a client that wanted to test how well clerks were selling a specific brand of cigarettes in a convenience store. The client undertook an advertising push to promote their cigarettes and employees were trained to encourage the brand sales at the register. Employees were told of their expectations.
RMS researchers created different scenarios whereby mystery shoppers would walk in and ask for a competitive cigarette brand and see if the clerk suggested the client’s brand instead (as instructed). If the clerk failed to mention the brand, RMS asked its shoppers to inquire about the client’s brand to hear how the clerk responded. The mystery shopper also noted how well the brand was advertised at the point-of-sale, how friendly/knowledgeable the clerk was, and specific stock levels of each cigarette brand. At the conclusion, the mystery shopper rated the overall experience.
Through this research, RMS was able to provide the client with feedback on specific employees, specific store locations, and provide data on the cigarette’s advertising campaign execution – all from the perspective of an everyday customer.
Are you interested in using mystery shopping services provided by RMS? Contact or Director of Business Development, Sandy Baker, at SandyB@RMSresults.com or give us a call at 315-635-9802. We can customize a mystery shopping project for you no matter where you are located.