Sometimes portrayed as a rather odd way for casual workers to earn a little extra money, mystery shopping services play an invaluable role in the modern business world. Figures provided by the Mystery Shopping Providers Association show that more than a million mystery shopping assessments take place in the UK every year, and the industry is worth over £70 million. Why do so many companies use mystery shoppers, and what role do they play in improving customer service?
What is Mystery Shopping?
A mystery shopper, or secret shopper, is usually a selfemployed worker who is contracted by an agency. There are a variety of agencies in the UK providing mystery shopping services, some offering bespoke, highly detailed audits, while others specialise in fast, tick-box reports. The agencies work closely with the organisations hiring them to pinpoint areas that need evaluation. This is usually done by scheduling a mystery shopper to visit a business in person, while posing as a normal member of the public. Members of staff are sometimes pre-warned that a visit is scheduled, but they will have no idea exactly when, or which customer is the mystery shopper. The agency will have provided a detailed questionnaire, highlighting things that must be observed, remembered and later written up in a report. This is usually submitted by uploading it online to the agency, who will process it. The valuable information is then passed to the customer.
Why is Customer Service so important?
Winning a new customer costs around five times more than retaining a customer a business already has. Loyal, returning customers are a valuable asset that businesses are prepared to pay for. One of the best ways to keep customers is to provide them with good service. Service levels need to be constantly monitored and assessed to make sure that every member of an organisation is striving to keep customers satisfied, and that the systems and procedures of the business are being correctly implemented. Some tangible elements of customer service, such as how long it takes to answer a phone, can be measured using recording technology. In most cases, however, human interaction is most easily assessed by using real people.
How can Mystery Shopping improve Customer Service?
Surveys have shown that only ten percent of dissatisfied customers will complain; the rest will simply leave and use another business in future. Customer feedback mechanisms, such as after-sales surveys or questionnaires, are often unreliable, as many customers either refuse to participate, or rush through them putting random answers. Using mystery shopping services to evaluate the normal levels of service in a business provides valuable feedback that is impartial and trustworthy. The gap between promised and delivered performance can be managed in an accurate and effective way, with any problems clearly seen before the business loses real customers.