A Step-By-Step Start Guide For Mystery Shopping

Customer experience has always mattered. Various research shows businesses that consider customer experience important enjoy higher customer loyalty and profits.

However, delivering an exceptional customer experience has become difficult for various reasons. These include:

  • Changing market
  • Increased customer expectations
  • increased ease of online and mobile shopping, and 
  • Complex multichannel retail environment. 

The excellent news is that mystery shopping has emerged as a solution to alleviate such issues for businesses. It allows companies to gain valuable insights into the customer experience and other aspects of their operations. 

If you’re new to this concept or don’t know much about it but want to leverage it for your business, this mystery shopping guide is for you. 

This beginner’s guide will help you understand the basics of this approach, including what mystery shopping is, various mystery shopping solutions, and the detailed process to help you get started. 

1. Understanding the Basics of Mystery Shopping

The first step to implementing any new approach is understanding its principles and familiarising yourself with it at its core. So, here’s everything you need to know about a mystery shopping program. 

What is Mystery Shopping?

Mystery shopping is a tool or strategy to assess and improve the quality of services and experiences a company provides to its customers. It involves hiring trained individuals, called mystery shoppers, to perform the assessment. They pose as regular customers and collect details about the customer experience and other considerations. 

Significance of Mystery Shopping

Executing a mystery shopping program offers businesses numerous benefits, including:

1. Improves Customer Experience 

Mystery shopping lets businesses get direct and unbiased feedback on their services, products, and employee performance. The data collected helps companies determine their shortcomings and find ways to improve delivering superior customer services and experiences. 

2. Helps Maintain Brand Standards

Mystery shopping programs ensure that employees consistently follow the brand standards and policies

3. Boosts Staff Performance

Data from mystery shopping evaluations help businesses determine training needs and improve employee performance.  

Various mystery shopping solutions 

Reputed mystery shopping companies offer a suite of solutions that can be tailored to your specific needs. The various mystery shopping solutions include 

1. Onsite Mystery Shopping

This mystery shopping program sends secret shoppers to physical locations, such as restaurants, retail stores, or service centers. They assess and report on various aspects of the customer experience. These individuals observe service quality, employee behavior, cleanliness, and adherence to brand standards. 

2. Digital Mystery Shopping 

It involves assessing and evaluating the online customer experience. The mystery shoppers interact with a company’s online presence, such as websites, social media channels, or mobile apps, to imitate typical customer interactions. They observe website usability, content quality, responsiveness, and the purchasing process. 

3. Telephone Mystery Shopping 

In this type of mystery shopping, secret shoppers pose as regular customers and make phone inquiries to businesses. They carefully record their experiences, noting key factors such as politeness, the ability to address customer queries, 

4. Competitor Mystery Shopping  

It involves assessing the competitors and their business performance. The secret shoppers observe and evaluate competitors’ products, services, and customer experiences. The collected information helps businesses gain insights into competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to improve their operations. 

2. Define Your Objectives

Now that you know the ins and outs of mystery shopping, the next step is to determine the specific goals that you want to achieve with this program. Do you want to enhance your customer experience, assess employee performance, or track compliance with brand standards? 

Clear objectives help businesses in gaining focus and purpose. In short, having well-defined goals enables enterprises to leverage mystery shopping as a targeted and result-driven improvement tool.

3. Select the Right Mystery Shopping Provider

A mystery shopping company can manage the entire mystery shopping program for you. As such, choosing the right service providers is essential. They ensure that your mystery shopping program is conducted professionally and generates actionable data, helping you achieve your desired goals.  

Start by researching for a reliable provider with a good track record. Look for referrals from people in your industry and check for online reviews to assess their reliability and performance. 

4. Personalise Your Program 

With varying goals to achieve, not all mystery shopping programs are ideal for every business. So, work closely with your selected mystery shopping provider and get a customized program that fits your business’s needs and goals.  

Define the evaluation criteria, key performance indicators (KPIs), and other aspects you want to consider during the assessment. 

5. Implement The Program

Upon designing a personalized program, the mystery shopping provider will hire mystery shoppers to execute it. They will offer these individuals the necessary mystery shopping training and guide them accordingly. Finally, the mystery shoppers will visit your business locations as regular customers, keeping the guidelines in mind. 

6. Collect Data and Reporting 

The mystery shoppers will submit the data collected to the mystery shopping providers. You can collect information from evaluation forms, audio or video recordings, or even written reports. 

7. Analyse Key Findings 

Study and analyze the data collected with the guidance of your mystery shopping provider. Look for trends, patterns, potential issues, and areas for improvement.

Reflect on both positive and negative feedback to closely understand the customer experience delivered by your employees. 

8. Develop and Implement Changes

Based on the findings of mystery shoppers, develop and implement actionable strategies to address the issues. This may involve employee training, revising operational processes, or physically improving your business. 

9. Monitor Progress 

Make the mystery shopping program a crucial part of your business growth strategy. Continue to use it as a tool to track and improve your business. Ensure to measure the impact of the changes and refine your strategy accordingly. 

10. Provide Feedback and Recognition

Employee recognition is a great way to boost their confidence and productivity. Hence, reward the employees who consistently deliver exceptional customer service. Also, based on the mystery shopping findings on employee performance, provide constructive feedback to your staff, pinpoint improvement areas, and offer training as needed. 

11. Evaluate the Mystery Shopping Program

Review the effectiveness of your mystery shopping program periodically. Are you achieving your objectives? Do you need to refine or expand the program? 

Based on your evaluation findings, make continuous improvements to your mystery shopping program. 

12. The Importance of Training for Mystery Shoppers

Before diving into the world of mystery shopping, it's essential to understand the significance of proper training. Mystery shoppers are the eyes and ears of businesses, and their feedback can make or break a company's reputation. Formal training ensures mystery shoppers have the tools and strategies to provide honest, unbiased, and valuable feedback. This training includes understanding the objectives of the shopping task, the key performance indicators, and the specific details that need to be observed and reported.

13. The Role of Technology in Mystery Shopping

In today's digital age, technology is pivotal in enhancing the mystery shopping experience. Companies are now leveraging advanced tools and software to streamline collecting and analyzing data from mystery shoppers. These tools offer effortless reporting solutions, allowing businesses to receive feedback in real time. Moreover, with the rise of online shopping, digital tools help evaluate the online customer journey, ensuring that the virtual shopping experience is as seamless as the physical one.

14. Challenges Faced by Mystery Shoppers

While mystery shopping offers numerous benefits, it's not without its challenges. Mystery shoppers often have to deal with varied scenarios, from uncooperative staff to technical glitches, while assessing online platforms. Businesses must understand these challenges and provide the necessary support to their mystery shoppers. This includes clear guidelines, a straightforward reporting system, and timely feedback to ensure that the data collected is accurate and actionable.

15. The Future of Mystery Shopping

The world of mystery shopping is continuously evolving. With the changing market dynamics and increased customer expectations, businesses must stay ahead of the curve. This means adapting to new methodologies, exploring different industries, and expanding the scope of mystery shopping. For instance, with the rise of e-commerce, there's a growing need for digital mystery shopping solutions that assess the online shopping experience. As technology advances, we can expect more innovative solutions that cater to the ever-changing needs of businesses and customers alike.

16. Building Trust Through Transparency

One of the primary objectives of mystery shopping is building customer trust. By actively seeking feedback and making necessary improvements, businesses are committed to customer satisfaction. However, it's equally important for companies to be transparent about their mystery shopping programs. Informing customers that their feedback is being actively sought and valued can foster a sense of trust and loyalty, ensuring long-term success for the business.


Mystery shopping is a pivotal tool for businesses aiming to boost customer experience and service quality. This guide provides a roadmap for companies to effectively utilize mystery shopping by emphasizing professionalism, detailed reporting, and setting clear objectives. Selecting the right service provider, monitoring the program's performance, and making ongoing improvements is crucial. Mystery shopping offers a unique lens, allowing businesses to see their operations from a customer's viewpoint. The insights can lead to enhancements in employee training, brand standard adherence, and more. The guide also touches on the role of technology, challenges for shoppers, prospects, and the importance of trust and transparency, offering a comprehensive overview of the mystery shopping domain.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the primary purpose of mystery shopping?
Mystery shopping aims to assess and improve the quality of a company's services and experiences to its customers.

How do mystery shoppers provide their feedback?
Mystery shoppers typically submit feedback through evaluation forms, audio or video recordings, or written reports.

Is mystery shopping limited to retail stores?
No, mystery shopping can be conducted in various settings, including restaurants, service centers, online platforms, and even over the phone.

How often should a business conduct mystery shopping?
The frequency depends on the business's objectives, but it's recommended to conduct mystery shopping periodically to track improvements and stay updated with customer expectations.

Can mystery shopping be done online?
Yes, digital mystery shopping evaluates the online customer experience, assessing website usability and content quality.

What are the benefits of digital mystery shopping?
Digital mystery shopping helps businesses understand the online customer journey, ensuring a seamless virtual shopping experience.

How are mystery shoppers selected?
Mystery shopping companies hire individuals based on specific criteria, ensuring they can provide unbiased and valuable feedback.

Is training necessary for mystery shoppers?
Yes, proper training ensures mystery shoppers have the tools and strategies to provide honest and valuable feedback.

How do businesses analyze the data from mystery shopping?
Businesses study and analyze the data with the guidance of their mystery shopping provider, looking for trends, potential issues, and areas for improvement.

What actions can businesses take based on mystery shopping findings?
Businesses can develop and implement actionable strategies, such as employee training, revising operational processes, or making physical improvements.

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