We asked an experienced senior manager with over thirty years experience managing Mystery Shopping companies, what they think are the areas to look out for when selecting a Mystery Shopping provider. The response was as follows:

In todays market there are a number of important factors. Technology advances so quickly, how up-to-date is the companies’ online reporting platform? Field resources – can they get the work done on schedule without sacrificing the quality. And of course, one of the most important factors and one of the things not to forget, is the Mystery Shopping companies carbon footprint.

This has been a focus point for a while, but since the climate summit ‘COP26’ in Edinburgh in November 2021, this will be, or should be, a contributing factor regarding the choice of a Mystery Shopping company as your provider.

Mystery Shopping Provider

Like all companies, Mystery Shopping agencies are no different and have a long way to go to improve their carbon footprint and assist their clients in their reduction of emissions objectives.

The Mystery Shopping companies’ business structure is important. How many team members will be involved and who takes ownership, there is nothing worse than having to be passed around different team members to get an answer, and you can never get hold of the team member responsible.

When searching for a Mystery Shopping company and creating a selection checklist, I hope the following short list will assist you in the process:

How long have they been in business?

Well, I don’t feel this is too relevant. In fact, sometimes it is the opposite in finding the correct partner. Mystery Shopping companies who have been established for many years will probably have out-of-date technology that would have developed many years ago. The newer entrants to the market may have the latest on-line reporting platform on offer. It’s also team experience that counts more than the length of time the company has been going. You could have a company that has been going for three years and have a great deal of experience, because the team have gained a lot of experience working with other companies. Another company could have been in business for twenty years and have a high turnover of staff, resulting in a less experienced team.

Questions to ask:

A. What is the Mystery Shopping companies’ team experience?

B. How did the team get that experience?

C. Who will be the Project Manager and how many years experience do they have?

D. Technology is at the forefront of most business these days, what expertise does the team have that manages and develops the online reporting platform?

E. What is the structure of the business, who takes the ownership and how accessible are they?

Does the Mystery Shopping Company have experience in your sector?

Again this might not be as relevant as you would think. After all you are the experts in your industry sector and Mystery Shopping companies are experts in theirs. If a Mystery Shopping company has experience across a number of sectors, this could be an advantage, as they bring a fresh look to your project. A professional Mystery Shopping company will liaise with your team to assess and agree you overall objectives.

Questions to ask:

A. What industry sectors they have worked or are currently working in?

B. What they have done for those industry sectors and for how long?

C. How do they develop the reporting structure?

What is their field structure and how it is managed?

This is key to a well-organised Mystery Shopping company. Most of the fieldwork is completed by freelance Mystery Shoppers. These Mystery Shoppers tend to work for a selection of companies and become experienced in what they do. The key to a good Mystery Shopping company is how they utilise the Mystery Shopper, how they manage them and how they select both geographically and from a profiling perspective.

Questions to ask:

A. How many Mystery Shoppers do they have?

B. What is the geographical spread?

C. How do you know the correct prolife of Mystery Shopper will be used?

D. What is the methodology for allocating the work out to the field?

How do they quality control their work?

Accuracy of data, analysis and reporting is crucial when looking at Mystery Shopping companies. Some companies do one check, some do two, and some Mystery Shopping companies don’t do any. It’s important for you to know the methodology relating to quality control. The correct

way for a mystery shopping company to operate is to get the mystery shopper to complete the report within 30 minutes of the mystery shop taking place and then the quality team, prior to uploading to the clients online portal, should complete a second quality check of the report.

Questions to ask:

A. Does the Mystery Shopping company get the field Mystery Shoppers to complete the report after they have completed the mystery shop, if so, what is the time lapse between the shop being completed and the shopper completing the report?

B. Does the Mystery Shopping company do a second, internal, quality check, if so how does that work and what is the methodology?

C. If Video Mystery Shopping is being completed, is the footage checked against the report and does an internal team check the framing quality?

D. What process is in place for mystery shops that don’t pass quality control?

How does the Mystery Shopping company feed the data back to you, ‘how good is their reporting platform’?

As I said earlier some online reporting technology is very old with some Mystery Shopping companies. You should expect the very latest cloud-based technology available. You should expect an array of adaptable reporting options, with many organisational levels of password-protected data.

Questions to ask:

A. How old is the technology and how often do they update it and add new features?

B. Can the Video Mystery Shopping element be streamed along side the report?

C. Is the reporting cloud based, or does the company hold the information on their own systems? What happens if their systems go-down?

D. Does the Mystery Shopping company have a mobile app, if yes does it work on different operating platforms?

E. What is the companies on going plans for technology development, how does that work and how regular?

How do I know that Mystery Shopping companies are good value for money?

In these economic times, you will need to find a Mystery Shopping company that provides good value for money, whilst at the same time provide a good level of service. You will need to look at how they operate. Do they all drive Porches and Range Rovers? Do they have very large expensive offices? The cheapest is not always the best, but good value for money is important. If you can find the least expensive Mystery Shopping company that provides a great service, offers the best delivery platform at the lowest cost, that would be an ideal situation.

A. What is the Mystery Shopping companies cost reduction strategy?

B. Are costing savings are passed on to the clients?

C. What makes one Mystery Shopping company better value for money than the others?

D. Ask what differentiates their Mystery Shopping company from others?

What initiatives do they do to reduce their carbon-footprint?

This has been import for a while, but its very important now. Each company has to work hard to continue to reduce their carbon footprint. When looking at Mystery Shopping companies, you will need to ask a number of questions about their operation that will ascertain their progress in this area.

Questions to ask:

A. What is their overall strategy going forward for reducing their carbon footprint?

B. What makes them different to other companies in this area?

C. What action has the Mystery Shopping company taken over the past 24 month to reduce carbon emissions?

D. How do they compare with their competitors regarding their carbon footprint?

I hope this helps, good luck on your search!

My View Research specialises in customer improvement initiatives, including Mystery Shopping, both telephone and report based, Video Mystery Shopping, Customer Surveys, Customer Focus Groups, and Social Media Customer Feedback & Monitoring. Our clients find our service and expertise invaluable, at a cost they find attractive.