By Steven Cooley, Customer Impact Editor

Have you ever thought about the term “mystery shopping” and wondered why there has to be a mystery aspect? Another term for mystery shopping is “secret shopping,” which again, has a mysterious, secretive component. So why all the mystery and secrets?   Here are a few reasons why there is a level of secrecy needed in the mystery shopping industry.

  1. Employees may act differently around their managers. 

    At the most basic level, mystery shopping is giving the management or owners of a company information on how their employees are behaving. These managers are already supervising the employees at the restaurant or store on a daily basis. A mystery shopper can clue those managers in on things that may be happening when they are not watching. For example, an employee might be rude to customers when they know their manager isn’t around. Or, they may be providing superb service that the manager just hasn’t seen. Either way, the fact that an anonymous mystery shopper is collecting the information allows the managers to see how the employees are acting when the boss isn’t keeping a direct eye on them.

  2.  Getting the average customer’s perspective. 

    Another advantage of the mystery shopper being anonymous is that they will experience typical service at the location. If it’s a restaurant, their dining experience will be the dining experience any other random customer might find when visiting the location. This can help the management see things that they might not have seen before, because they are getting the customer’s perspective. From the survey that the mystery shopper fills out, they can learn how easy their menu is to read, or how organized their merchandise is, all from the point of view of a typical customer. This allows them to make changes that will make their customers happy, which is win-win for everyone!

  3.  So that you can return as a mystery shopper in the future
    The final reason is one that many mystery shoppers might not have considered. Because being under cover is so important, if you are identified, the mystery shopping company cannot send you back to that location. If the employees knew that you were a mystery shopper, they would not treat you like a regular customer, and your experience would not be a typical customer’s experience. Therefore, the MSC would have to disqualify you from shops at that location, or sometimes even for all of that client’s locations. Obviously, if you enjoy mystery shopping that client, this would not be a good thing! 

So there you have it: three reasons on why there has to be a level of secrecy in mystery shopping. In order to help maintain that level of secrecy, keep the following items in mind when you’re mystery shopping:

  • Never use your name in the narrative of your survey
  • Don’t use terms like “wife” or “husband,” as these can clue the client in on your identity. Instead use terms like “partner” or “companion.”
  • Don’t do anything during the shop that a typical customer would not do. This could be asking unusual questions, or just behaving abnormally while you’re in the location.
  • Never take the client guidelines into the location you are shopping.
  • Be discreet when taking notes, so that it is not obvious what you are doing.

Hopefully if you follow these tips, your identity will remain a mystery to the client, and the information you provide can remain as useful as possible.