Mystery Customer or a Secret Shopper, is a tool used externally by market research companies or internally by companies themselves to measure quality of service, or to gather specific information about products and services. The mystery consumer's specific identity and purpose is generally not known by the establishment being evaluated. Mystery shoppers perform specific tasks such as purchasing a product, asking questions, registering complaints or behaving in a certain way, and then provide detailed reports about their experiences.
Mystery shopping was standard practice by the early 1940s as a way to measure employee integrity. Tools used for mystery shopping assessments range from simple questionnaires to complete audio and video recordings. Mystery shopping can be used in any industry, with the most common venues being retail stores, hotels, movie theaters, restaurants, fast food chains, banks, gas stations, car dealerships, apartments, health clubs and health care facilities.
When a client company hires a company providing mystery shopping services, a survey model will be drawn up and agreed to which defines what information and improvement factors the client company wishes to measure. These are then drawn up into survey instruments and assignments that are allocated to shoppers registered with the mystery customer company.
The details and information points shoppers take note of typically include:
- number of employees in the store on entering
- how long it takes before the mystery customer is greeted
- the name of the employees
- whether or not the greeting is friendly, ideally according to objective measures
- the questions asked by the shopper to find a suitable product
- the types of products shown
- the sales arguments used by the employee
- whether or how the employee attempted to close the sale
- whether the employee suggested any add-on sales
- whether the employee invited the shopper to come back to the store
- cleanliness of store and store associates
- speed of service
- compliance with company standards relating to service, store appearance, and grooming/presentation
While gathering information, shoppers usually blend in as regular shoppers at the store being evaluated. They may be required to take photographs or measurements, return purchases, or count the number of products, seats, people during the visit. A timer or a stopwatch may be required.
After the visit the shopper submits the data collected to the mystery customer company, which reviews and analyzes the information, completing quantitative or qualitative statistical analysis reports on the data for the client company. This allows for a comparison on how the stores or restaurants are doing against previously defined criteria.
Sourced from Wikipedia