Keeping your customer satisfied is the ultimate goal of every business. However, with intense competition, demanding customers and advancements in technology, retaining clients is a big challenge. With so many substitutes in the market and low switching costs, consumers are often willing to try a new brand. The marketing mix which constitutes the product, price, place, promotion, processes and people, should be carefully designed to meet customer needs successfully.

Numerous tools are applied by businesses in order to evaluate their services and keep customers coming back to them. One such tool is mystery shopping where a person is sent to a company to purchase a specific product and observe the product and/or service offerings of the company. For example, a restaurant may be suffering losses but cannot identify the root cause of the problem. A mystery shopper can be hired to go to the restaurant and note specific elements of his/her entire experience.

How does it work?

The mystery shopper will fill out a detailed questionnaire after the visit. The focus of this should be on collecting feedback on ambience, attitude, service delivery and quality of service. Questions like how efficiently were complaints handled are helpful in improving customer experience. In addition basic information seeking can be included as well in the questionnaire like was the order taken within 5 minutes after you were seated? Were you informed about the deals of the month/ chef’s special for the day? Was the service courteous? This will reflect customer experience more comprehensively and will enable the restaurant to pinpoint issues and problems that are resulting in unhappy customers. Hence this is a useful tool that businesses can use to evaluate their services, behavior of staff, quality, operations etc. It is a quality control measure enabling the firm to enhance its services.

Enhancing Customer Satisfaction

Mystery shoppers need to be good observers who have an eye for detail. He or she must be able to pen down the experience accurately for effective measurement and analysis.

Mystery shopping is useful for the service industry as the quality of service provided needs to be rated while it is being delivered. A product can be observed by the company itself, its pricing, distribution, promotion and process can be examined.However, for services, only the person in direct contact with the service can evaluate it. For instance, only a customer can directly observe employee behavior and attitude, speed and accuracy. Hence a mystery shopper who is in direct contact with the employee can report these aspects of the services accurately.

The details that the mystery shopper will bring back will enable the business to find out where the service quality is lacking and make corrective measures. It can help the company identify issues such as follows:

Issues identified

  1. Was the product/service provided according to what had been advertised?
  2. Was the staff responsive and courteous in providing the service?
  3. Was the facility understaffed?
  4. Are the employees following a proper SOP while delivering the service/product?

Mystery Shopping used as a tool to enhance customer experience of people with special needs

Research conducted by Ofcom in 2010 came to the conlcusion that Broadband ISPs and Mobile Operators were unable to serve UK customers with disabilities as required by the rules and regulations of the country. Mystery shoppers were hired to test compliance with set standards. About 37% of these shoppers were given information about atleast one service offered to disabled customers without more prompting. The percentage increased to 75% once they were prompted. This was a huge drop as compared to a 91% figure in Ofcom’s 2006 research. Only 70% of email queries got a personal response instead of an automated reply.

The information in this research provided became basis for a code for broadband service providers. This initiative was not only a step in safeguarding the rights of disabled persons but also to ensure that they were not overlooked as customers who deserved special attention. In addition service providers can use this to identify areas of concern e.g. the need for more training and workshops, hire people who have experience in handling people with disabilities etc. in order to serve customers efficiently.