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What Is a Secret Shopper? How Can It Help Your Business?
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Mahatma Gandhi is quoted to have said, “The customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him.”

This is one of the key components in understanding how to run a successful business. Businesses that realize this are much more likely to weather scandals, survive downturns and last long term.  

However, understanding a customer and managing their expectations isn’t as straightforward as it seems. More often than not, there is a disconnect between the customer’s expectation of service and what the company perceives as good customer service. In such cases, managers are either unaware or do not correctly interpret the customer’s expectations.

Mystery shopping can offer comprehensive data to help companies fill this gap and encourage them to have a clear understanding of the customer’s expectations. But the benefits of engaging mystery shopping companies aren’t limited to managing customer expectations. You can hire a mystery shopper to identify policy gaps, look for compliance issues and even analyze competitor performance. Some of the industries that could benefit from mystery shopping include:

• Retail Industry:

The retail industry usually employs two methods to monitor service excellence: customer satisfaction surveys and mystery shopping. While customer satisfaction only focuses on the outcome of a customer’s journey, the latter focuses on the process of the service as much as the outcome. Mystery shopping helps you understand what’s actually happening inside a store. You get to know how products are displayed in the store, what product gets displayed prominently, and other information that’s otherwise difficult to find. Businesses also use mystery shopping to evaluate service delivery gaps and identify the need for retraining. Is the staff attentive to the customer? Do they take pride in their work? Are they patient towards customers? How do they handle objections?

• Finance Sector:  

A survey conducted by the professional services firm Duff & Phelps found that banks have paid over $204 billion in compliance-related fines since the financial crisis of 2008*. Around 73 percent of risk and compliance managers did not know about non-compliance penalties. The consequences of non-compliance in the financial services industry can be damning, both in terms of financial impact and loss of reputation. Sometimes, noncompliance could result in the company losing its ability to sell a financial product. Media exposure about this noncompliance could result in a loss of investor confidence. And sometimes, it could result in criminal convictions as well. Mystery shopping can help financial service companies avoid this. A mystery shopper can identify employee compliance during an investment inquiry, check if mandatory communication has been made, and they can see if employees adhere to the company’s rules when interacting with consumers. Mystery shoppers also help to improve sales and service. For example
, you could look for missed sales opportunities: do employees remember to offer an application? How well do they understand your products?

QSR and Fast Casual Restaurants:

Overall experience matters a lot in the restaurant business. So much so, it could make or break your business. And to ensure great business, restaurants have to go beyond serving great food. Of course, food is an integral aspect of the experience, but if you’re looking to build customer loyalty, there’s a whole list of factors that must be considered. Another challenge for restaurants has to do with their ability to make it easy for people to order. Convenience matters as much as experience these days. Mystery shopping companies can evaluate your restaurant business to make sure your business focuses on customer experience and convenience. From checking to see if it’s easy for customers to order through multiple channels and asking about their dining experience, to checking for basic hygiene protocols such as maintaining clean bathrooms, mystery shopping can cover the whole gamut of customer experience. You can also use mystery shopping to look for regulatory compliance, training issues and food quality.

But to get the best out of a mystery shopping experience, you need to customize the survey to suit your customer profile and choose your evaluation parameters.


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