What Is Mystery Shopping?

By Paul Bell, Director of Business Development, on April 04, 2017

Mystery shopping requires a shopper to interact with a company under the guise of being a prospective customer. The shopper then observes the interaction and assesses performance based on specific pre-defined criteria that the business is trying to measure.

This criteria can involve customer service skills, selling skills, how well employees are adopting specific behaviours, whether certain practices are followed and much more.

Since the 1940’s, forms of research designed to assess and track operational and behavioural performance were established - this became known as mystery shopping. Yet, really mystery shopping began to grow in the retail industry in the early 1990’s. The industry expanded at a rapid pace as the Internet grew in the mid 1990’s. That’s when mystery shopping went beyond its original roots in the retail space and became the invaluable tool it is today in a broad cross-section of industries.

Image of interior of shopping mall to help show what mystery shopping is.

In general, mystery shopping requires a shopper to visit or call a company under the guise of being a prospective customer. The shopper then observes the interaction and assesses performance based on specific pre-defined criteria that the business is trying to measure. This criteria can involve customer service skills, selling skills, how well employees are adopting specific behaviours, whether certain practices are followed and much more.

Mystery shopping can also examine operational aspects of a business such as cleanliness, merchandising, maintenance etc. Shoppers evaluate the look and feel of a business, on top of the employees.

Depending on the type of company, certain businesses use mystery shopping specifically to ensure that their local laws and standards are being met. Companies that deal with regulated products such as tobacco or alcohol use mystery shopping to ensure that their employees are complying with age and identification requirements.

Mystery shopping is commonly used as a tool for auditing the execution of specific customer service and operational standards, whereas to assess ongoing customer satisfaction and attitudes; customer satisfaction surveys are more reliable. To measure any aspect of your business and evaluate how your teams are performing, mystery shopping provides insight you wouldn’t otherwise be privy to.

In this three part blog series, we’ll explain everything you need to know to implement a mystery shopping program at your business.  

In this series, we’ll cover:

  1. Different Types of Mystery Shopping
  2. The Mystery Shopping Process
  3. How To Design A Mystery Shopper Program 

Start improving your customer experience. 

Begin with the first post in this series: Different Types of Mystery Shopping 

Find out more about your customer experience. 
Explore IntouchShop mystery shopping programs.
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