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How to Choose a Mystery Shopping Company

How to Choose a Mystery Shopping Company

Whether you’re launching a new mystery shopping program or improving an existing one, third party mystery shopping providers, aka MSPs, are a big help. A professional mystery shopping company not only manages the execution of your program, but is also an objective partner.

Mystery shopping programs are typically used to ensure your employees are performing their job according to the standards you set. So finding a provider that understands your business objectives is the first step on your path to launching an impactful program.

But with so many mystery shopping companies out there, choosing the right partner isn’t always an easy task. Here, we’ll look at four simple questions you should ask when determining which MSPs will best serve your needs.

  1. Is the mystery shopping company positioned to be a strategic partner?
  2. Can the mystery shopping company provide the right mystery shoppers for you?
  3. Does the mystery shopping company provide technology that enhances your program?
  4. Does the mystery shopping company facilitate your brand’s growth?

1. Is the mystery shopping company positioned to be a strategic partner?

In addition to managing the day-to-day execution, a key benefit to working with an MSP is their deep knowledge of the practice. The same way that you are an expert in your field, so are they. And this expertise usually comes from decades of working in the field.

But where this experience is gained is also important. A service provider that has expertise in your industry will more easily understand your goals and challenges. But finding one that also has wider experience in other industries will help them think outside the box.

Consumers are customers across a wide range of industries. This is why trends that pop up in another industry are likely to impact yours in time. A mystery shopping company that works with multiple industries will have a deeper understanding of changes in consumer habits and expectations. This makes them an ideal partner to help you look ahead and ensure you are measuring what will matter in the future.

Additionally, the size of brands they work with is also important. The infrastructure required to support a brand with locations in multiple cities, states, or provinces is very different from that of a brand with just a few locations.

A mystery shopping company that has worked with similar brands won’t exceed their abilities in meeting your needs. They can accommodate your company hierarchy for reporting purposes and provide an operations team and pool of mystery shoppers that can support visiting all your locations.

2. Can the mystery shopping company provide the right mystery shoppers for you?

An MSP will manage the day-to-day execution of your program. This means recruiting mystery shoppers, assigning them to locations, and reviewing the data received for quality and completeness.

Most service providers use an independent contractor database to recruit and assign mystery shoppers. Look for a provider that offers a large database. This means it will be easier for them to find mystery shoppers that fit your criteria. But specific programs may still require specialized recruitment efforts.

For example, financial institutions need mystery shoppers that are eligible for their programs in order to assess their processes. This could require a specific credit score, amount of debt, annual salary, or other personal details. A mystery shopping company that has access to multiple contractor databases or conducts their own recruitment efforts outside of these will be able to ensure they have shoppers that meet your specific criteria.

The pool of contractors a mystery shopping company has access to will also ensure better data. If the same mystery shopper visits a location too frequently, staff might begin to recognize them. If this impacts the way they interact with the shopper, the data collected will not reflect the experience of a common customer. A larger contractor database also means a wider variety of shoppers that can visit your locations more frequently to drive meaningful insights.

3. Does the mystery shopping company provide technology that enhances your program?

The data collected by an MSP is only helpful if you can use it. This is why the software they provide to view and analyze the results of mystery shopping visits is so important.

More advanced software will include tools to enrich your data and make it more usable. A platform that allows you to tag your data will make it easier to organize and compare. For example, you can tag mystery shopping data with the region each location is in. This will make it much simpler to compare the performance of one area to another.

Built-in automation is also a major time saver. The best platforms will allow you to build alerts to let team members know when a new record requires attention. Automation can also trigger regular reports to key stakeholders instead of having to manually create them.

Many MSPs use third party software, but some have developed their own proprietary software. Working with a mystery shopping company that has developed their own software means their expertise will be built in. They will have developed it based on their decades of experience so that it aligns perfectly with your program. And, as we mentioned previously, their expertise is the main reason to work with a mystery shopping company.

4. Does the mystery shopping company facilitate your brand growth?

As your business continues to grow, you will want an MSP that can grow with you. This is another way in which partners who develop their own software will shine.

Mystery shopping companies with proprietary software are constantly making improvements. And these improvements are often driven by the clients they work with. If they use 3rd party software, they will have limited influence over changes to the platform. But if they’ve built it themselves, they have complete control.

Mystery shopping is a powerful measurement tool. But it is only one lens with which to evaluate your location's performance. Integrating your mystery shopping program with metrics like point of sale data or the results from daily checklists will give you a 360° view of your business. And a partner that provides additional measurement tools will help you avoid disjointed or siloed data.

By asking these three simple questions, you will be able to narrow down your search for the right partner for your program.

Want to know more? We broke down 3 reasons to use a professional mystery shopping provider here. We also outline the mystery shopping process in 5 steps here.

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