The first rule of Mystery Shopping is: you do not talk about Mystery shopping…
…The second rule of Mystery Shopping is: you DO NOT talk about Mystery Shopping!
Luckily eXPD8 are prepared to break the rules and talk about this taboo subject… and under the cover of darkness to protect their identity… a few eXPD8 Mystery Shoppers are also willing to discuss this ever growing retail service.
A mystery shopper at eXPD8 is someone who poses as a real customer whilst conducting an assignment at a specified location. The assignment could involve assessing staff performance, customer service, store tidiness and cleanliness, or it may be to check on merchandising or to audit a store in some way. Each assignment can be very different, depending on the needs of the client.
There are approximately 50,000 mystery shopping trips carried out every month in the UK, according to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) and retailers are becoming increasingly aware that shoppers who are prepared to physically visit a store, want a service and experience that is different to one they get online. Mystery Shopping measures how well these stores are delivering on that experience.
Here are some of the many benefits that mystery shopping provides retailers and brands:
- Monitored and measured service performance
- Improves customer retention
- Makes employees aware of what is important in serving customers
- Monitors facility conditions
- Ensures product/service delivery quality
- Supports promotional programs
- Allows for competitive analysis between locations
- Identifies training needs and sales opportunities
- Ensures positive customer relationships on the front line
- Enforces employee integrity and knowledge
So what does it take to be a good Mystery Shopper and what is it like to be a modern day retail spy? I managed to speak to some eXPD8 Mystery Shoppers who were unusually willing to give us the all-important low down on this secret service! (*names removed to protect Mystery Shopper identities!)
Q: What makes a good Mystery Shopper?
Mystery Shopper 1: A good mystery shopper reads and understands the brief first, and has a very good memory so that they are relaxed and confident when asked questions or are getting information.
Mystery Shopper 2: Definitely someone with good attention to detail!
Q: What is the best thing about being a Mystery Shopper?
MS1: Being able to give unbiased feedback to help the company you are mystery shopping improve.
MS2: When everything is in place and you can give the staff a positive, glowing report.
Q: Are there any downsides to becoming a Mystery Shopper?
MS1: I think the downside is when you are being tempted to prompt staff to give the right answer if they are ‘off course’. It’s so frustrating knowing they will be marked down.
MS2: No downsides! But it is hard memorising all the details as you are obviously unable to openly write anything down.
Q: What gives you most satisfaction as a Mystery Shopper?
MS2: When the visit is successful and you get to write an awesome report and give good feedback.
MS1: Returning to a store I have previously mystery shopped and seeing that the standards have improved – I believe that is down to us mystery shoppers. Not only does the store see the benefit in their scoring but all shoppers are getting better service too!
Q: Any other tips for Mystery Shopping?
MS1: Remember it’s not a test but a survey – do not be too sharp with your questions.
MS2: The one thing you must never EVER do is reveal yourself as a mystery shopper – posing as a normal customer is essential!
So overall it seems ‘Mystery Shopper’ is just another word for Secret Agent. As well as being an excellent sleuth, a master of disguise and be able to assume false identities when working undercover, they need to perform effective surveillance while avoiding detection, pay attention to detail and have excellent powers of recollection.
The rest of us are warned – with the trend for Secret Agents… ahem… Mystery Shoppers increasing across all platforms, we should always be on our best behaviour and offer the best service possible at all times – as you never know who you are dealing with… you could be being Mystery Shopped!