[adapted from 1to1 Media newsletter]

Social media like Facebook ad Twitter aren’t affecting the value of hiring a mystery shopping service. That’s the view of Customer Perspectives owner Judi Hess and others in the industry. Mystery shopping is “a means to measure customer service, product knowledge, and sales ability,” Hess said. It offers subjective, targeted feedback that companies just can’t get from less structured kinds of feedback, like social networking tools or surveys.

Ron Welty, a member of the Mystery Shopping Professionals Association, says comparing mystery shopping and social networking is like comparing apples to oranges. Mystery shopping can capture specific, detailed information on exactly what the business wants and needs to have evaluated. Customers using social media to comment on a business are usually doing so because they’ve had a bad experience. That kind of feedback may be valuable, but it doesn’t give a complete or accurate picture of what happened.

Hess agrees: Astute companies will do both—hire a mystery shopping service AND use social media to gauge customer experiences.