Since the 1940s, when solely used to measure employee integrity, mystery shopping has developed into a legitimate practice used to gather important information and gauge overall performance. All this investment protects not only the business — it also translates into ethical protection for consumers. It’s not just retail businesses using mystery shoppers. Here, we examine the protection benefits mystery shopping provides actual shoppers.
Mystery shopping is applied to almost all industries, including health clubs, car dealerships, retail stores, banks, hotels, movie theaters, restaurants, restaurant chains, gas stations, apartments, and health care facilities. It also stretches to churches and government departments. Establishments see the value of mystery shopping because it helps them measure quality of service, compliance with regulation, and gather specific information about products and services. But what does this mean for consumers?
Mystery shoppers are employed to purchase products, ask questions, register complaints or behave in a certain way. They then provide detailed reports or feedback about their experiences. Consumers benefit from mystery shopping because company methods are expertly tested to expose areas requiring improvement. Issues are addressed and for consumers, this means a more reliable, safer, smoother experience. For example, should they need to return an item, that particular experience will have been perfected by the company to ensure the customer has the most pleasing possible outcome.
Take the auto repair field — traditionally a problem area for consumers. You take your car in for simple service but are met with a plethora of “other issues” that need fixing. It can be difficult to know if you are being taken for a ride. A repair shop that invests in mystery shopping is one that genuinely cares about its customers. It offers a level of protection and holds the shop to a higher standard, that customers have been shown to appreciate. Research shows customers return when they feel reassured, and are willing to spend more money for quality service.
In food and catering industries, customers are afforded protection because mystery shoppers assess and monitor facility conditions and overall quality over time. Food vendors want to know more than what you thought about their food. They want to know about the overall customer experience. That’s why they employ mystery shoppers to assess their servers, the cleanliness and comfort of the venue, delivery timeliness and food freshness. Mystery shopping helps improve the industry, which helps to protect customers.
Mystery shopping is not limited to retail services. It is all around us. Even in the medical field, consumers are assured of extra protection. Healthcare providers and medical facilities place appropriately trained “secret shopper patients”, to provide feedback about physician performance in the clinical setting. The tool is a vital way of providing protection and satisfaction across the medical service experience.
Mystery shopping also assesses experiences provided by local authorities and other non-profit organizations such as housing associations and churches, to provide an important layer of consumer protection.
Mystery shopping is always working behind the scenes — hiding in plain sight, you might say — to improve experiences and protect consumers. Consumers don’t know mystery shoppers are in their midst. But they do know when they are receiving an ethical, reassuring experience that encourages them return time and again, with a willingness to spend more money. And that is the value of mystery shopping.
“Mystery shopping new trend in Medical Tourism”, Novasans. Archived June 17, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
“Mystery worshippers test church”. BBC News. 2008-02-21.