Successful mystery shopping doesn’t just happen. It requires more than someone just deciding to do it, and then finding a provider. Here are some things to consider:

Know your objectives.  Goals must be defined in specific and measurable terms. Do you want to reinforce the lessons of a recently completed training program or do you want to establish a baseline before a training program is implemented? Do you have standards or behaviors that you want to ensure measure? Has one branch or store been the target of consistent complaints –or praise – and you want to obtain an objective picture of what’s happening at that location?

How will you use the information?  Will the shopping reports be used as part of an incentive program for managers, employees or both? Will they be used as a competition, with the branch or store with the highest score winning a reward of some sort? Will a member of your management team review the evaluations with individual employees or will they be part of an overall score for the branch or store? Will the shopping reports be part of a performance review? Reports should never be the sole criteria for such a review but they are often one of many factors considered.

Keep it simple.  It’s tempting to develop lengthy questionnaires that attempt to cover all possible behaviors. But experience shows the simpler, the better. Confusion and frustration are avoided and the information reported is more reliable.

Identify the mystery shopping company that best suits your company’s needs.  Some companies specialize in particular industries; others limit themselves to specific geographic areas. Some companies offer mystery shopping as an adjunct to other services such as customer surveys, brand image research and focus group moderation. Others specialize in mystery shopping only. Which type of company will best meet your needs?