Over decades of managing mystery shopping programs we've seen time and time again that the overall success of a program hinges on the initial design. We've worked with brands across countless industries and, while specifics vary, the initial steps to launching a mystery shopping program are the same.
Whether you're building a program yourself or evaluating potential third party vendors, we want to walk you through the main 4 steps we follow so you can approach your next program like a pro.
The objective of any mystery shopping program is to obtain an unbiased analysis of your business from the consumer’s perspective using metrics designed for measuring customer experience. But the more you can focus your individual programs - that's right, you can run more than one - the easier it will be to drive actionable insights.
What is the goal? How will you be using the results to improve your business? What will you do with the data? The answers to these questions are crucial to determine what data you need to collect and how your reporting should be organized.
Step 2: Identify key metrics
Once you’ve determined the overall goal of your program, the next step is to determine what key metrics will allow you to measure change over time. These could be anything from elements of the sales process, employee availability, how customers are greeted, aspects of a promotion, or any other metric that is critical to your customer experience. Keep your key metrics centered around the “why” in order to avoid analysis paralysis – getting stuck overthinking extensive data rather than actioning important insight.
It’s also important to remember that the mystery shoppers collecting data in the field are only human. They need to enter a location and behave the same way any other customer would while collecting the data you require. Keeping your key metrics simple, focused, and inconspicuous will reduce the potential for human error through memory constraints, ensure the data collected is objective, as well as maintain the shopper’s anonymity and thereby the integrity of your program.
Step 3: Ensure optimal reporting
Speaking of analysis paralysis, the reporting platform your program data feeds into will be crucial to its long-term success. Look for a reporting platform that is flexible and allows you to easily visualize changes to your key metrics over time. Consider who needs to see the data as well. Do all stakeholders need access to everything? For example, you may not want to share data from every location with individual location managers. A platform that supports permissions settings based on your business hierarchy will help protect sensitive information.
It's also important to have a plan in place for how you want to act on your results and use them to your advantage, whether good or bad. Ensure that no matter what kind of results your locations are getting, they will be used to add value to your business. Processes for dealing with both positive and negative results should be established and communicated to staff.
Step 4: Establish a baseline
In order to assess the data that will be coming in from the field, you will need a model to measure it against. Defining the expected results will allow you to easily identify and address outliers as well as gauge improvement over time. Your baseline can be derived either from your brand standards, for example if a customer should be greeted by staff before they reach a certain threshold within the store, or by current industry benchmarks. Alternatively, you can use the initial measurements collected by your new program across all your locations to and use this to measure improvement over time.
Regardless of your industry or company size, following these steps will help set your mystery shopping program up for success. And, as always, if you need support with your program our team is here to help. Simply fill out the contact us form and one of our experts will be in touch to discuss your current challenges and what we could achieve together!