The Pros and Cons of Using Mystery Shoppers


The Pros and Cons of Using Mystery Shoppers

Finding out what your customers like or dislike about your products and services should be at the top of your daily list of things to do.

But how do you find out that vital information without it taking too much time, costing too much money and most importantly, without annoying your customers?

Mystery shopping programs are used by businesses around the world to elicit customer feedback. It commonly involves engaging a mystery shopper service who has trained mystery shoppers that will review your website, visit your workspace and/or call your workplace with a pre-agreed list of items to assess and rate.

You gain the mystery shoppers insights via a written report or scorecard. These insights can help you improve products, services or processes, reward and recognise staff, gain new ideas and identify training opportunities. Of course, all this wonderful information comes with a price tag and how much information you gain and how often you want it will determine the cost.

Before you engage with a mystery shopping service, weigh up these three pros and cons:


1. It’s professional.

Professional mystery shopping providers will have experienced and trained mystery shoppers, customise comprehensive assessments to suit your business and will work with you to prepare your team for the process.

2. It saves you time.

Once your program is set up, you don’t have to do anything else. The provider makes it happen and sends you the outcome reports.

3. You get a rational view of your business.

The mystery shopper has no emotional attachment to your products, services or staff so they can assess all aspects without the need to make a purchasing decision that affects them.


1. It can upset staff.

Some staff can feel anxious about this process which leads to them acting differently and less confidently with your real customers.

2. It costs money.

Yes, you could ask family and friends to do it for free, but they are unlikely to feel comfortable advising you if your business has problems.

3. You need to do it regularly.

One mystery shopper, once, only gives you a single perception of your business on that day and in that moment. You need to have mystery shoppers visiting regularly, and over a longer period, so you get a balanced view of your customer’s experience.

No matter how you decide to gain information from your customers, don’t stop talking to them over the phone or face to face. Remind your staff to routinely ask customers for feedback so you can identify ways for the team to do more, better, different or less.

If your business is online only, don’t let that stop you from picking up the phone, introducing yourself to customers and thanking them for their orders. If you don’t have phone numbers, a personal email to say thank you goes a long way towards building a positive feeling about your business.

Genuine, real-time questions to your customers about your business can provide you access to free marketing; i.e. your customers telling everyone they know that your business provides excellent service.

If you’re thinking about using customer surveys to gain feedback make sure you read my previous article, The Positives and Negatives of Customer Service Surveys.

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