5 Ways Clients Sabotage Their Own Mystery Shopping Programs

At Above Benchmark we guide our clients on how to construct their Mystery Shopping program. We are working with over a decade of experience. Ultimately it is the client’s choice as to what questions they direct the shopper to ask, what they want to know about their business, what they want their team to be doing and saying, etc. Sometimes clients see only the big picture and don’t realise how some things will (or won’t) work in the real world of the mystery shop.


Here are 5 ways clients unknowingly sabotage their own Mystery Shopping program:


1: Inconsistency


When a client says they want an intermittent program, we advise them against it because consistency is key to a successful Mystery Shopping Program. It’s not just statistics, monthly reports with qualitative commentary builds the story of what’s happening in their business. They can also use a consistent program in every facet of their business, from hiring to praising. If they have an on-again/off-again mystery shopping program their staff will quickly work out the schedule. A wave will be repeated through sales as they know to focus on customer service one month and relax the next month, knowing they won’t be visited by a mystery shopper.

Instead: Clients should tailor Mystery Shopping to an affordable budget that allows them to perform regular surveys.


2: Focusing on the bad, not the good


Far too many businesses use Mystery Shopping to catch staff out and the first action is to jump on poor results. If the client’s team feel their Mystery Shopping Program is designed to point out everything they are doing wrong, the client won’t get the best out of their team. Anything negative that is identified is helpful, especially regarding long term growth, but should not be the end game.

Instead: Celebrate great customer service and experiences and take a moment to acknowledge and publicly praise those who are excelling. Many of our clients introduce a reward program or offer incentives to team members who do well and this helps to encourage enthusiasm and support for the program.


3: One-sided Design


The job of the Mystery Shopping provider is to understand the client’s needs and what they are trying to achieve, but also they need to consider what is fair to the client’s staff, what’s realistic to ask of the Mystery Shoppers, and what is reasonable for their teams of schedulers and quality controllers. Chances are the main decision maker, who just wants the data, hasn’t considered all of the other elements needed for a successful program. It’s combining what works for everyone that will ensure the program’s success and that can means getting creative with how we collect the data.

Instead: The client should speak with all members of their team first to determine what they would like the mystery shoppers to evaluate and then discuss that with a few providers. They should not rush into a decision to get quick results, it’s best to think long term and make sure the mystery shopping provider has an understanding of the client’s business and what they are trying to achieve. They should bring suggestions to the client, demonstrating that they are thinking of all elements of the client’s program, not just telling them what they want to hear.


4: Product Knowledge Questions; Stupid and/or Obvious


Getting your Mystery Shopper to ask how something basic works, the ingredients in something, or anything even a 10-year-old would know the answer to, is embarrassing for the shopper and doesn’t demonstrate much product knowledge from staff.

Similarly, Captain Obvious questions are to be avoided. Let’s set the scene: the store is basically wallpapered from floor to ceiling with signs advertising the current promotion. The client requests that the Mystery Shopper ask a staff member, “What’s this month’s promotion?” A world of ‘no’, just… no.

Mystery Shoppers are pretty used to coming across to staff like they’re a sandwich short of a picnic, but just because they’re used to it, doesn’t mean it should be acceptable and we try to steer our clients towards more natural questions. This not only provides a more comfortable interaction in store, but it gives the client a realistic point-of-view of the customer service being received by everyday people.

Instead: Think of the Mystery Shopping survey template as an evaluation of the client’s customer service, not an audit. The client should have open lines of communication with the Mystery Shopping Provider, consider what is really important and what will be a natural interaction, and discuss with them what they would like to measure.


5: Making choices based on prices


Going with the cheapest Mystery Shopping Provider may look like a great idea to your accountant, but it’s not good business sense. Mystery Shopping providers all use online reporting software, have administration costs, and pay the mystery shoppers for their reports. The purpose of a Mystery Shopping program is to help build the client’s business, through better services, experiences, more loyal customer, increased spending, better reviews and referrals.  A good Mystery Shopping program is an asset to the client’s business and should help them increase it. It would be fair to say a poorly designed and budget Mystery Shopping program will have the opposite effect.

Instead: A client should choose a provider who cares about their clients, who takes the time to design a survey template with them and ensures that everything they want to know about their business will be reported. Shop around and ask questions!  

Keeping these 5 points in mind from the beginning of a Mystery Shopping Program will ensure client’s get the results they want.

  1. Inconsistency
  2. Design
  3. Product knowledge questions, obvious or stupid
  4. Focusing on the bad, not the good
  5. Making choices based on price


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At Above Benchmark its all about You. Our mission is helping you increase sales and customer loyalty. If you’d like to learn more, contact us today.