The secret to choosing a great mystery shopping company lies not in the questions you ask but in the responses you receive. It’s important to listen carefully to the answers you get because you may need to ask more questions.
There are questions to ask your customer. And then there are the questions to ask the vendor conducting the research. When you contract with a mystery shopping research firm, it is important to make sure you screen for credentials, experience, and compatibility with the goals of your organization.
The Mystery Shoppers
Let’s talk about the people your mystery shopping provider contracts with to conduct your secret shopping.
First, they are never employees of the company. They are independent contractors who match the profile of your typical customer – and sometimes of your not so typical customer. Mystery shoppers are researchers, observers, and writers. They understand the quality of the information they provide must meet the highest of standards and have plenty of detail.
You want these people to be the best. Some of the questions you might want to consider asking a prospective mystery shopping company:
- Who are your shoppers?
- Where do they come from?
- Can you segment your shopper database?
- Do you train your shoppers?
- Will the shoppers be coached on my project and the things that are important to me?
So you’ve got the basics. Now here are some other questions to ask that allow you to dig a little deeper.
- What is the longest someone has shopped for you?
- Do you grade or rate your shoppers?
- What is your policy when there is a conflict of interest for a shopper?
- Will you provide me with some shopper references?
- What’s the worst thing that ever happened to a mystery shopper and what did you do to resolve it?
The relationship a company has with its mystery shoppers is usually indicative of the relationship they have with their clients, so it really pays to explore this area of a mystery company’s operations.
Choosing a Mystery Shopping Company
Beyond the relationship a mystery shopping company has with its shoppers, what else should you be asking about as you screen for your best fit?
Let us recommend that you ask about the background and work experience of the owner. Ask what qualifies them to conduct service evaluation studies.
Mystery shopping is a serious business. It has the potential to affect the lives of people and the success of businesses being evaluated. Mystery shopping is also labor intensive and can be complicated.
When doing your due diligence look for companies that are owned and managed by professionals with backgrounds in the fields of marketing, market research, and customer service. These are professionals who can guide, recommend, and analyze to your best advantage.
Program components such as survey instrument design can be tricky. If not done properly, poorly designed reports can lead to inaccurate conclusions. The people designing your data collection instruments need to understand what you will be doing with the information.
We believe form follows function.
You also want someone who can partner with you on this journey and offer you the best possible advice when it comes to customer retention – one of the most important factors in your firm’s profitability.
As you prepare to research mystery companies, do a little background checking to ensure you are getting qualified, capable professionals to handle your program. You’ll be glad you asked this question and surprised at some of the answers you’ll get.
Remember…the customer is always watching!
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