How to design an effective Mystery Shopping Program?

While an organization is about to establish a new mystery shopping program to be incorporated within its system to evaluate performance efficiency- most of the times, serious confusions arise. This is due to the fact that, a good number of the people working in organizations are not clearly aware of the mystery shopping process. Being a new idea in the industry- there hasn’t been much scope for the establishment and practice of rigid rules regarding mystery shopping.

Now what would you do if you are a manager and want to integrate a mystery shopping program in your organization’s system? Surely, the feedbacks or references from the different departments aren’t going to be much helpful. They will focus on their individual needs and their agenda will be myopic to their scope only. As a result, you- the manager will always be in a to and fro run between the causes and the effects. However, the good news is managing a mystery shopping program need not to be that a hassle if you just can clarify some basic questions and can follow some necessary steps.

The burning questions!

To start with you need to be clear of your objectives and the best way to do this is answer the following simple questions:

  • What result is to be gained from the program?
  • What information is to be gained from this program in terms of operations?
  • How will the top management accept it?
  • What expectations does the top management have?
  • How will the other functional departments of the organization be affected from the program?
  • How the other departments need to be integrated in the system?

The Blueprint:

  • The first thing to determine is the standards and factors- upon which the performances will be evaluated. If there is any operations manual or any other form of formal guideline within the organization that can direct the activities it is prescribed to follow.
  • Most of the mystery shopper agencies have a generic format designed by them. However, many companies come up with their versions of compatible formats. The organization/manager should decide on which format to follow * While planning on the evaluation format- not all the factors should be given equal weight- therefore the factors should be assigned appropriate weights as per their importance.
  • The next thing to consider is the key areas where the customers have repetitively complained, and also what complains has been given most. These issues need to be reflected in the evaluation.
  • Now, the focus should be turned towards the format of the evaluation paper. The ranking, scoring methods, the length etc have to be decided.
  • For evaluating more than one location- the frequency need to be calculated- i.e. how many times will each location be evaluated? Hence also this need to be clarified that, whether the evaluation will be done for a specific sample or for the whole population?
  • If the evaluation process requires shopping/ expenditure of money- then the organization needs to decide on the mode of payment.
  • What will be the duration of each shopping sessions?
  • Will the shopper have to return the products/service that has been purchased?
  • Will the same shopper be allowed in a location more than once?
  • What other tools should be incorporated so that the subjectivity of the survey can be lessened?

The decision of the Administration of the system:

  • Which functional department will be delegated the authority to manage the internal affairs with the mystery shopping? Is it marketing? Quality Assurance? Or Operations?
  • Can a single employee be delegated the authority instead of a whole department? If yes, then what criteria should the person have to provide liaison between the internal affairs and the evaluation?
  • Hence an opportunity can be assessed- in some agencies they provide personnel to administer the process- any organization finding it worthy can outsource the process.
  • How the program can be linked to several HR issues- such as, compensations, bonuses, performance appraisals, motivational programs etc. It also needs to be decided whether the employees should be given monetary/non monetary bonuses.
  • The format of the presentation of the evaluation is important as well. The manager/organization needs to decide before hand of the format of the report- it can be a summary, an analysis, numbers- according to the requirement.
  • What profile of the shoppers is required to carry out the evaluation and that will compliment the profiles of the target customers
  • Will the shopper be allowed to get recognized by the operations? What back up strategy should the organization have if the shopper gets exposed anyhow?
  • What limiting factors does the organization have which might inhibit a shopper’s visit, e.g. business hours.

The Usage of the System:

  • How will the information retrieved be analyzed and put into action?
  • How can the program be included in the marketing tools?
  • Several other organizational tools like motivational training, corrective process, incentive etc might be needed for the program to yield the best effect
  • How will the problems identified be handled?

It’s true, designing a mystery shopping program requires much extensive research of the organizational needs. As a manager, you might find the numbers of questions to be answered pretty scary. But the fact is, as influential an effective campaign can be- a faulty one can be equally devastating. So do ponder and plan nicely!

Call Toll Free 800-CPSHOPS, to find out how Customer Perspectives’ mystery shopping programs can improve your bottom line!