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Mystery Shopping FAQ's

For answers to the most frequently asked questions, you've come to the right place!

Mystery shopping can be an invaluable tool for businesses looking to make improvements to customer experience and satisfaction, as well as product and service offerings. There are, however, some misconceptions and misunderstandings surrounding mystery shopping services.

At Shoppers Confidential, we have proudly been working with businesses and mystery shoppers since 2005 and are proud to be one of the leading mystery shopping agencies in the country.

We’ve compiled some of the most commonly asked questions surrounding mystery shopping. Whether you’re looking to enroll in a mystery shopping program or are simply interested in pursuing a mystery shopping role yourself, here are the answers to commonly asked mystery shopping questions.

PS:  As questions come up, or the landscape changes, we will be adding to this list to ensure that all your questions are addressed. 


What is a Mystery Shopping Company, or MSP?

A mystery shopping company is a service used by companies to evaluate and their customer experience and product and service offerings. Mystery shopping companies may also be used for market research purposes to evaluate industry trends or to provide watch-dog organizations with specific information regarding products, services, or the customer experience of specific businesses or industries.  Wikipedia has a great resource about Mystery Shopping if you want to dig a little deeper.


How do you find a reputable Mystery Shop Provider or MSP?

There are several different ways that you can source if MSP (Mystery Shopping Provider) is reputable. Check for things like:

  • Are they registered with a BBB organization?
  • Do they have had a long history of being in business?
  • Are they registered with the MSPA?
  • Do they have a history of Social Media?
  • Do the number to call connect you with a person to speak with?

We do have several blog posts that we have addressed about scams and fraud and reputable mystery shopping companies if you want some more detailed information about great MSP's.


What makes a Mystery Shop Provider great?

Good question! When you are looking to start a Mystery Shopping Program finding a provider that is best for your business can be daunting.  We think that a great MSP will have serval key factors:

  • Multiple Services or Products that link in with your Mystery Shopping Program:  Mystery Shopping is only one angle of the Customer Experience.  Granted, Mystery Shopping is very detailed and in-depth and will provide your business with specific objective observations that address your KPI's.  However, if you want a 360° holistic view of your customer experience, ensure your provider can offer you other metric programs like Social Listening, Voice of the Customer Surveys, Employee Satisfaction Surveys, Competitor Intelligence Programs, NPS or Net Promoter Scores, and Action Planning (for Corrective Actions) all in one place. This ensures that you and your team can effectively drill-down into your KPI's and action your data to continually improve and increase your bottom line.
  • They have a history:  Check Social Media, are they present and do they have a new account?  Do they showcase some clients they have worked with on their website (this can be tricky as secret shopping involves a high level of secrecy and not all clients want to be public)?
  • They are registered with top-level organizations:  For example, Mystery Shopping has a specific organization called The MSPA (Mystery Shoppers Providers Association) that is active all over the world.  Many great companies are proud to be a part of this organization and will ensure prospective clients know they are a member.  Also, check out their local BBB to see if they are a member.  Are they also a part of any other industry-related groups or organizations?  The more information your selected MSP has access to, the more information they can share with you and your program.  
  • Response Times:  If you are asking for information, a meeting or a quote, how quick were they to respond?  This is a key indicator as to how responsive they will be when your program is active. 
  • Access to Qualified Shoppers:  Depending on the locations of your Mystery Shops, you want to ensure that your prospective MSP can assure you that they have access to shoppers in that area with the demographic you need for your project.  Be sure to ask in the discovery phase of your journey about the MSP's shoppers as this is a very important part of the process.


What makes a successful Mystery Shopper?

An ideal mystery shopper will be reliable and follow the mystery shopping brief in order to provide the client with insight into the service or product offering that they are evaluating. A good mystery shopper is friendly, and approachable and will have a keen eye for details and above all else will behave just like a regular customer. They will also have exceptional writing and communication skills so that they can easily communicate the details of their mystery shopping visit to the client. And lastly, a good mystery shopper will be able to follow directions and stay focused during their visit, working to address and uncover the insight that clients are truly interested in.  We have resources in our blog about how we grade shopper reports and how we suggest you install Grammarly to ensure your product (submitted survey) is top-notch!


What is the purpose of Mystery Shopping for businesses?

The purpose of mystery shopping for businesses is to evaluate different areas of a business, in order to determine areas for improvement. Whether it be staff and employees, services provided, user experience, or product offering, businesses that enlist mystery shopping companies are then armed with the necessary data and information to make business improvement measures to improve customer satisfaction, sales and profits.  Mystery Shopping can also be used for Competitor Intelligence, Compliance Auditing, Integrity Audits, Employee Rewards and Investigative purposes.  There are so many ways to use the Mystery Shopping Methodology to drill-down and gain objective evidence that aligns with the KPI's you need to measure.


Why do companies use Mystery Shoppers and MSP's?

Mystery or Secret Shoppers provide businesses with an unbiased review of products or services offered from the perspective of the customer. The information that mystery shoppers provide to businesses is used to improve products, services or to better train staff and employees.  A lot of businesses also find that creating data from the customer experience is difficult to complete in-house.  Many clients start by making their own surveys and having employees complete the process.  While this is a great place to start and gain some insights and understanding,  this is actually more of an Internal Audit than a Mystery Shop. In-house employees completing the Mystery Shops come with biases and background information that a regular customer would not have.  Also, a survey that is generally created solely in-house may be built with biases to the responses without even realizing it. It is important that if you want to take your Customer Experience Audit or Mystery Shopping program to the next level and to get real, actionable data that you seek outside professional support.


What are the advantages of Mystery Shoppers?

There are a number of advantages to enrolling in mystery shopping services, they all depend on your business or company goals and objectives for mystery shopping. Those advantages include:

  • Increase company revenue and enhanced profits
  • Identify potential revenue leakage for businesses
  • Understanding, evaluating and analyzing industry competitors
  • Building trust with competitors
  • Keeping employees engaged and satisfied
  • Improve internal procedures and operational components
  • Identifying employee training opportunities
  • Improve customer retention


What do Mystery Shoppers look for?

Mystery shoppers are utilized by businesses, typically businesses dealing with the public who provide goods and services to customers (including B2B and B2C). Depending on the goals, or purpose of a business that is enlisting mystery shopping services, a mystery shopper will look into different areas of concern. This may include:

  • Evaluating the customer service of a business
  • Evaluating the process and procedures while interacting with a business
  • The quality of goods and products sold
  • Evaluating store or commercial space cleanliness, first impressions or areas of improvement
  • Evaluating staff or employee interactions and communication
  • Evaluation of user experience, on-line, by phone or in-person


How often do Mystery Shoppers complete missions?

The frequency at which mystery shoppers will come around and visit a business will vary significantly between each client and their individual needs. Depending on the goals of the mystery shopping project or assessment, mystery shoppers may visit a store at varying times to provide a more in-depth assessment of the business. Mystery shoppers may visit a store more frequently, depending on staff shifts or to analyze the business at different times of the day. More frequent visits will provide a more comprehensive understanding of the business.


Why is Mystery Shopping important for your business?

Mystery shopping is important for businesses who want to continue to deliver exceptional products and services, to improve their current offerings or enhance customer satisfaction. It can also help with employee engagement or retention. It allows businesses to monitor the quality of service offered in an effort to continuously improve on their customer offerings and make future business plans designed to maintain customer satisfaction levels.


What is included in a good Mystery Shopping survey?

A well-written mystery-shopping survey is an essential part of a successful mystery shopping program. It will help to inform the client about the status of their mystery shopping visits and will flag key areas of concern, highlight positive visit attributes as well and provide specific details regarding the visit. Each report may differ, based on the goals and the intent of the visit, however, here’s a look at some essential items to include in a good mystery shopping report include:

  • Include the names of staff and products:  Including the names of staff that the mystery shopper interacted with, along with details regarding products purchased or services used, is an essential element of a well-written mystery shopping report and will allow the client to understand exactly which items require attention.  In many cases, this is a requirement of the survey.
  • Areas for improvement & action items:  A well-crafted mystery shopping report will include action items or areas for improvement. These will be action items that clients can easily review and create strategies to resolve the highlighted experience.
  • Mystery shop visit details:  A mystery shopping survey should also include information about their visit to the business as a whole. Was it a positive experience? What are the initial thoughts when entering the business? How was the interaction with the staff? What time of day was the visit?

Where are Mystery Shoppers sent?

When you think of mystery shopping, the initial thought that comes to mind is a retail store visit. Mystery shoppers, however, can be sent to a wide range of business types and industries in order to evaluate customer experience and product and service offerings. Some examples of businesses that mystery shoppers may be sent to include retail stores, automotive businesses, educational facilities such as schools, colleges and universities, banks and financial institutions, government offices and agencies, health and fitness facilities, hotels, motels and spas, as well as bars and restaurants.


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