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What Should You Measure in a Mystery Shop?

Laney’s meeting might have gone like this:

Victor: We need to get a handle on what’s happening in our stores
Laney: We get customer surveys and they aren't looking so great
Victor: We need to know what our employees are doing
Laney: Maybe we should send in mystery shoppers
Victor: Great idea—Laney make it happen!

what to measure in a mystery shop mystery shoppingSo—where does Laney go from here? 

She has been given a directive to mystery shop her stores.  But, what is her goal? And, in order to reach that goal, what is she trying to measure?  What information or data is she looking for?  And what will she do with the results? 

These questions are important to answer to ensure the best results and outcome of any mystery shopping program.  Let’s take a look at each question and delve a little deeper: 

What are you trying to measure? 

The answer to this question has a big impact on the direction of the program.  Being as specific as possible here will ensure the best results; and understanding that mystery shopping is vastly different from auditing will help you to focus your efforts.  Perhaps you are interested in measuring how employees are communicating about a new product, or maybe you want to gather shopper’s perceptions of courtesy.  Or, maybe you are interested in knowing if skills from your new training program are being utilized.  There are myraid reasons to mystery shop.  The beauty of a mystery shop is that it is inherently designed to measure human interactions as only humans can do. 

What information or data are you looking for? 

Now that you have determined what you are trying to measure, you can hone in on what items will help you meaure it.  Again, understanding that mystery shops provide rich, actionable information when designed well, focus your items on those things that are exclusive to what you want to measure.  For example, if you want to know if there was a sign at the register promoting your newest sale, you might ask : “Did you see a sign at the register promoting our 2 for 1 sale?”  This is very different from “Was there a sign at the register promoting our 2 for 1 sale?”  The former measures customer experiencemaybe the sign was there but was cluttered and the mystery shopper (and therefore a customer) would miss it.  The latter is an audit questionas auditors do not interact with employees, nor do they have the need to remain clandestine as a shopper would, they can “search” for specific physical items.  Understanding what data you are looking for is key to desigining your mystery shop program.  

What will you do with the results?

We highly recommend that organizations communicate with their employees about the mystery shopping program.  Collecting data and not sharing it with the people who have been shopped nor telling them that they could be shopped is disingenuous.  So, going on the premise that you will be sharing your results, you shouod decide how and with whom.  You should also have a plan for how to use the results for improvement or operational modifications. There is nothing more devastating to an organization than the breakdown of trust.  So, be sure to not use the mystery shopping program as a spying venturerather we recommend using it as an improvement journey. 

Many organizations decide to embark on mystery shopping to get a better idea of what is “going on” on the front line.  Your program will be better executed and you will achieve better results if you are prepared and your organization is in-sync with the answers of the three questions above. 


For more information on beginning a mystery shopping program check out:  

And, download our Sample Airport Mystery Shopping Form- complete with instructions!

sample airport mystery shop form airport mystery shopping