Mystery shopping is a popular research method used to gather feedback from an audience. It’s common for mystery shopping to be conducted in-person, but can also be conducted via phone or by making online inquiries. Mystery shopping is not solely used for retail research, as it is commonly known for. During a mystery shop, a trained researcher evaluates several factors that impact their experience. If they are rating an in-person experience at a restaurant, retail shop, or event facility, the researcher will often evaluate factors such as food, staff interactions, and/or amenities. Telephone mystery shops are insightful for companies which employ customer service representatives that interact with clients/customers over the phone. Researchers can evaluate the experience by acting as a customer and investigating factors such as the friendliness of staff, knowledge of staff, and speed of resolution. Mystery shops are also valuable for companies providing an online service or product. Researchers may gather mystery shopping data by performing actions such as filling out an online inquiry form, making a purchase, or utilizing the online “chat” feature to evaluate the customer service experience. Regardless of the where the mystery shopping takes place, the researcher should be prepared to assess the factors most important to your company by developing an evaluation form. Results will allow your organization to obtain feedback regarding the customer experience and determine areas of opportunity to increase your competitiveness in the market. Below are three tips when preparing for a mystery shopping project.

Be Informed

A great market research firm will do their due diligence and ensure their mystery shoppers are informed on the company’s products, services, location(s), and other factors that may impact the research. To gather rich data, it’s imperative that the mystery shopper be comfortable with their surroundings (in the case of an in-person mystery shop), and be familiar with what the company offers so they are prepared to handle any unexpected questions from a customer service associate or staff member. Now that technology plays a large role in the guest experience for many businesses, it’s important for mystery shoppers to visit the company website and review social media accounts to get a picture of the company prior to conducting the research.

Create an Evaluation Form

In order to collect great data, the market research firm should create an evaluation form, including questions which address all factors that the client would like feedback on. This form should be created prior to conducting mystery shops, and is filled out by the researcher following the event.  Some mystery shops may also require a scenario which outlines the “role” that the mystery shopper should play when collecting data. The goal is to investigate potential paths of the customer experience by determining how the staff deals with the inquiry/issue. This is popular among banks and credit unions evaluating their customer service and banking procedures. RMS has also created in-depth mystery shopping scenarios for law firms investigating their competitors, and medical practices investigating the patient experience. With mystery shopping, the possibilities are nearly endless and can be customized to fit the needs of any business.

Ensure Objective Feedback

A third party is a key element to protecting the confidentiality of the project and ensuring the collection of quality data. If a company were to use its own staff, there is a risk that employees would recognize the employee and ultimately discredit the project findings. Even in large organizations where an employee could be pulled from another branch or location, there is a conflict of interest since the employee is invested in the success of the company. This makes it more difficult for them to provide constructive criticism which may ultimately be the information needed to make the company more competitive in the market. For the mystery shopping project to be successful, the researcher needs to be completely objective and take on the persona of a customer.

RMS is a full-service market research firm and has conducted mystery shops in a wide array of settings (hotels, banks, credit unions, law firms, medical practices, and retail environments). If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at