How to design a mystery shopping survey
March 5, 2024

How to Design a Mystery Shopping Survey

Designing a mystery shopping survey is a strategic process that requires careful planning and consideration. Think about when a customer comes into your business, what do you want them to experience? By following a systematic and introspective approach, businesses can create mystery shopping surveys that effectively capture valuable insights and drive improvements in customer service. But how do you design a mystery shopping survey? 

Here are some of the steps to designing a mystery shopping survey:

Get the team together: 

Organise a meeting with your key contributors, not every stakeholder. This is a group exercise where you’ll need to talk through the objectives, it isn’t a task to delegate to just one person. 

Define your objectives: 

Clearly identify the specific goals you want to achieve through the mystery shopping program. Are you seeking to evaluate overall customer service, assess product knowledge, or measure compliance with specific standards? Defining your objectives will ensure that your survey is focused and aligned with your desired outcomes. 

Determine the target audience: 

Consider who will participate in the mystery shopping program. Will it be geared towards a specific product and/or type of customer? What needs do they have and what are the benefits?  Identifying the target audience will help tailor the survey to gather relevant feedback and insights from the perspective of those individuals. Every shopper at Above Benchmark is personally selected from thousands in our database, so we can ensure they’re a good match for our clients.

Establish the communication medium:

Is the mystery shop to be conducted in-person, over the phone, online, or a combination of the three? Determining the medium will enable you to select the correct sections and survey flow. Each section will have a set of questions pertaining to that aspect of the customer-Team Member interaction. 

Craft well-designed questions: 

This is a tricky one and something that we at Above Benchmark have mastered over the course of our two decades in the mystery shopping business. Mystery shopping surveys need clear and concise questions that address your objectives. It’s important to avoid ambiguity, leading or biased questions. 

It’s also vital to ask one-part questions; as soon as you introduce a second part to the question, you risk burying the data. For example, “Did the Team Member smile and greet you?” This question is problematic for two reasons: greet you is not specific and we’re asking two things (smile and greet). You won’t know if the shopper marked no because they weren’t given a smile or greeting, or if they were given a smile, but not a greeting. 

Use a mix of question types: 

Yes/no questions are great, but there’s also a place for multiple-choice (e.g. features and benefits), and rating scale questions (e.g. NPS), and narrative comments to collect both qualitative and quantitative data. 

Focus on key areas:

Prioritise the areas you want to evaluate and develop targeted questions related to those areas. For example, if you want to assess customer service, include questions about wait times, friendliness, product knowledge, and problem resolution. This will provide valuable insights into critical aspects of your customer experience. We speak more about target customers and mapping the customer journey. 

Allow for additional comments: 

Include an opportunity for participants to provide additional comments or suggestions. This allows for open-ended feedback, which can uncover a missing aspect and provide a deeper understanding of the customer experience. 

Keep the survey concise: 

To maintain engagement, it’s crucial to keep the survey length manageable. Focus on the most important aspects and avoid overwhelming participants with unnecessary questions. Things like dust on the shelves or broken lightbulbs could be picked up by your regional managers. We speak more about survey focus in this article.

Write thorough instructions: 

Ensure that the instructions allow for all variables that a mystery shopper may encounter while conducting their survey. It may seem like you need a crystal ball to do this, but your data will thank you if you take the time to prepare.

Test and refine: 

Prior to deploying the survey, test it with a small group of mystery shoppers to identify any issues or areas for improvement. Consider their feedback and make necessary adjustments to ensure the survey captures the required information accurately. 

Analyse and take action: 

Once the survey is complete, collect and analyse the data to gain insights and identify areas for improvement. Look for trends and patterns that emerge from the responses. Use these findings to make informed decisions and implement actionable changes that enhance the customer experience.


By following these steps, businesses can design effective mystery shopping surveys that generate valuable insights and drive improvements in customer service. 

However, if you would like expert guidance in designing and implementing mystery shopping programs, Above Benchmark is here to help. Our team of customer service experts can assist you in developing tailored survey strategies and data gathering to unlock your business’s full potential. Take action today and contact us to gain a competitive edge by delivering exceptional customer experiences.

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