Top Five Factors in Designing an Effective Mystery Shopper Program


A well-designed, comprehensive mystery shopper program is a highly effective way to get an honest, detailed look at your business through the eyes of your customers. It is critical that organizations have access to current and objective feedback about the customer or guest experience to ensure brand standards are being met, operations standards are in compliance, and customer expectations are being exceeded.  But sending in random volunteers without good structure, frequency, and reporting capabilities will not get you the results to help you make better business decisions. 

Here are five critical elements in designing an effective Mystery Shopper Program that drives results. 

#1 Plan an appropriate schedule and frequency. 

An effective program relies on your ability to have a market research mentality. That means you must approach the program with a plan for collecting enough data to form a good representative sample. This subset of secret visits must accurately reflect the experience of the general population. For example, collecting data for weekends as well as weekdays, or if you have morning, afternoon or evening customers (or breakfast, lunch and dinner), ensuring each is represented in your sample set. Only in this manner can you determine what is a trend that needs to be addressed versus a one-time outlier that is self-correcting. This will result in better allocation of time and resources to solve areas that require real improvement rather than being reactive to a single point in time. 

#2 Rely on proven templates. 

Every business is different. But after visiting a high volume of similar businesses, there are also a lot of similarities. Leveraging existing, proven questionnaire templates that are tailored for your industry allows you to take advantage of knowledge compiled by many, then you can tailor it for you specifically. This not only accelerates setup time, but also allows you to benchmark your findings against others in your industry to know how you compare and where you can find opportunities to differentiate. 

#3 Use real-time reporting dashboards. 

Most everyone will be able to provide you an emailed copy of the shopper’s report when it is complete. But referring back to #1 – that’s not enough to identify trends. That will give you a picture of a moment in time, but will not help you determine which areas require your time and budget to improve customer satisfaction. Having access to a real-time online dashboard allows you to view volumes of data at a time and often provides visualization to help you consume these metrics more easily.  

#4 Market for shoppers like they are your next best customer. 

Selecting shoppers requires outlining your target demographic, then offering some kind of compensation or reimbursement for their efforts – which can be extensive. What many forget is if you are targeting that demographic for a shopper because those are your target customers – the shopper is your target customer. By enticing them to complete the job with good reimbursements not only gets the data you need, but also a new customer that will likely spend more and come back again. 

#5 Choose your mystery shopper partner wisely. 

There are many choices when it comes to companies that contribute to the mystery shopping industry. But service levels and quality of shoppers and reports vary greatly.  Ensure the company you work with has access to an acceptable database of shoppers that provide coverage for your area and your target demographics. Additionally, be sure your provider doesn’t just sign you up and leave you hanging. A dedicated client service manager should be part of the deal to work with you in setting up your program for maximum effectiveness and ongoing management to adapt to changes as needed. 

These top five factors will help ensure you have a successful mystery shop program. But the list doesn’t end there. Working with an experienced partner will help you by providing best practices for integrating the program into your training plans, operational processes, and internal bonus programs. Contact us today to learn more.