Choosing a mystery shopping provider
July 25, 2023

How to choose the best mystery shopping provider

The best way to choose a mystery shopping program for your business is to do your due diligence and take into account more than just price when making your decision. A good mystery shopping provider should be transparent and reachable. The MSP should have a range of clients and detailed proposals that include all the information necessary to make an informed decision. Here are some key factors to consider when you’re looking for a reliable mystery shopping provider:

Do a reputation audit of the mystery shopping provider

To get an idea of how reputable a provider is, do a reputation audit. Look at their website. It should be easy to navigate, with clear contact information and transparent policies. If the business doesn’t have a website, that’s a red flag; you can’t tell if they’re legitimate if you can’t find out the basic details of the operation!

Read their blog or news page to find out their values. Sometimes the core values a company states on their “About Us” page are the ideal version, but their regular posts tell the real story. For example, take a look at Above Benchmark’s ‘News’ page and you will gain an excellent understanding of our business and the mystery shopping industry in general.

Next, check out the business’s social media presence on Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin . Are mystery shoppers interacting with the business online? What are mystery shoppers saying about their experiences working with this company? Look for mystery shopper testimonials. If there are lots of negative comments, or none at all, this could mean that either no one has ever used that particular service before or else everyone has had bad experiences with it so far. Either way would mean trouble for your own business down the road.

Finally, read the client testimonials; are they unique comments that show the client values the business relationship or stock standard comments? These testimonials will give valuable insight into which providers build client relationships and bring value.

They should be a member of MSPA-AP

Reputable mystery shopping providers are members of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association – Asia Pacific. The MSPA-AP establishes the professional standards that mystery shopping providers must adhere to. Clients and mystery shoppers can use this site to find reputable providers and more tips on how to choose a provider. If a mystery shopping provider is not a member of the MSPA-AP, you need to ask why. 

Look for a track record of providing quality results

When you’re researching mystery shopping providers, it’s essential to look at their track record of providing quality results. Look for a provider that has been in business for at least 5 years (preferably 10 or more). You want to make sure that the company has been in business long enough and had time to work out any kinks in their operation. Therefore, their experience should be clearly communicated. 

At Above Benchmark we are proud to have been providing mystery shopping services for over two decades. We mention this on our website and social media platforms. Most importantly, our experience is clearly conveyed in our interactions with clients and our unparalleled knowledge of the mystery shopping industry. 

You need to know who to call when you have questions

When you are looking for a mystery shopping provider, assess how easy they are to contact. If you don’t know who to call when you have questions, then that company may not be a good fit for you. You need to be able to get in touch with someone who knows the answers to your questions. This is not just in the initial stages, but during the program you need to know who can help you through any issues that arise. It would be unrealistic and not maintainable to expect immediate responses, but if it’s difficult to get prompt help, then it’s time for another provider.

Are they using technology in ways that benefit clients?

A good mystery shopping provider will use technology in ways that benefit its clients, as well as itself. The best providers will also have an eye for the future and know how to adapt their business models so that they can continue to provide a valuable service for years to come.

At Above Benchmark we use the international industry leading Sassie Mystery Shopping platform. With this platform we conduct mystery shops and process the results for our clients. Click here to read more about the Sassie platform and the many ways we use its features to help our clients. 

Selecting the right mystery shoppers 

One of the most important things to look for in a mystery shopping provider is one that will choose mystery shoppers based on your specific needs. Many mystery shopping companies allow shoppers to self-select assignments. However, we find it’s best for a team of schedulers to handpick shoppers that best suit the parameters of individual mystery shops. 

A good provider will be able to work with you to design the mystery shopping program, and make sure that it is relevant to your business. For example, if you’re an online retailer of pet supplies, then it makes sense for us to send a shopper who has some knowledge about animals. 

Don’t just look at how much they are charging 

If a provider is charging less than everyone else, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Sure, they might come in with a low quote, but how do they achieve that? You should ask about their completion rate. Some mystery shopping providers guarantee only 85% of surveys will be completed within a cycle. In our 21 years of operation, Above Benchmark have only missed two surveys, both of which were in regional locations. 

A mystery shopping provider’s cheap quotes also suggests they accept substandard reports from their mystery shoppers. Many providers use the same group of mystery shoppers for every survey, aren’t paying attention to their clients’ needs, and are outsourcing their work.

It may also mean the provider does the bare minimum during the handover. A more detailed insight of the data is essential for any program. You want a mystery shopping provider who uses feedback to help improve your business and drive sales. Merely cold numbers and ticked boxes are useless on their own. 

Furthermore, if “free design” is part of the program, look very carefully at what they’re offering. Free design may just mean you’re getting stock standard survey templates. Mystery shopping survey design is the most important aspect of the entire mystery shopping program; therefore, it needs to be customised with care and attention to detail. 

The best providers take the time to understand your business and its customers. They then use this knowledge to provide actionable insights that help make it better. They dig into areas like customer service and product quality. This enables them to give you useful feedback on how things are going behind the scenes at every level of operations.

Look for who challenges you

You may have an idea of the mystery shopping program you want for your business, even a set of questions ready to go; that’s a great starting point. A good mystery shopping provider will challenge your pre-existing ideas and push back on what won’t work. When potential clients dictates to us what they want, we either help them find what will work or watch them go to a competitor. It’s likely we’ll see them again in 6 months. Just as you would trust any other professional (e.g. accountant, marketing manager, even your GP), you need to trust that Above Benchmark are the mystery shopping experts. 


In conclusion, we hope this article has given you some ideas about what to look for when choosing a mystery shopping provider. If you keep these tips in mind and do your research before signing on with any company, you should be able to find exactly what you need. If you’d like to learn more about our Mystery Shopping Programs please contact us for a no-obligation chat. 


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