What Should Your Mystery Shopping Program Look Like?

After going through the necessary vetting process of choosing a mystery shopping vendor, it can be easy to step away from the program and expect the results to start pouring in. Whether you’re a mystery shopping novice, expert, or anywhere in between, the following suggestions will ensure you’re getting more powerful insights and greater value out of your mystery shopping program:

  1. Measure what you train to:
    • Your customer service/experience training programs and materials are one of the best indicators of your Brand’s Promise. By focusing on operational and behavioral standards that are clearly communicated in training, the operational feedback provided through mystery shopping can be directly tied back to existing standards, increasing the actionability of the resulting data. There are fewer ways to lose credibility more quickly with the filed than to hold them accountable to operational and behavioral expectations that they were never trained to.
  2. Interactional touchpoints are of primary importance:
    • Your associates, and their actions/behaviors in service to your customers, are the most important and actionable drivers of customer advocacy. Resist the common temptation to measure minimum Customer Experience expectations. Minimum expectations demonstrate very little variability and are rarely key drivers of customer advocacy. In addition, shortcomings in delivering minimum expectations will be identifiable well in advance of a mystery shop by business performance patterns and/or field management representatives.
  3. Rotate scenarios on a regular basis:
    • Scenarios, or the more scripted elements of a mystery shop, are one of the most important aspects of program design. However, when the same scenario is used time and again, it provides clear cues to your associates as to the identity of the mystery shopper, which significantly diminishes program integrity. For mystery shopping to be optimally effective at driving behavioral change, the identity of the mystery shopper must remain a mystery.
  4. Customer advocacy is critical:
    • A well designed and executed mystery shopping program will draw upon mystery shoppers that are current/potential customers well before and after they complete a single mystery shop for your brand. However, mystery shoppers are distinct form your customers in a very important way: they are intentionally trained to make objective observations through your brand/organizational lens. Measuring customer advocacy within the context of mystery shopping provides an important dependent variable for analytical and statistical modeling purposes, and is essential for transforming data into insights.
  5. Recognize frequently, Reward consistency:
    • Most organizations excel at rewarding consistency, often through a host of incentive-based compensation strategies and plans. However, many overlook the importance of recognizing the positive day-to-day Customer Experience achievements in more systematic ways. The reality is that recognition is much more effective for driving sustainable Customer Experience improvements than are Rewards. Why? Because recognition programs provide more frequent positive reinforcement and can be easily seeded within organization at the front lines of service delivery.
  6. Model results to business outcomes:
    • Few things are more important than to demonstrate the return on investment of your mystery shopping program. If your mystery shopping program cannot speak to the ultimate drivers of business performance, it will be doomed for failure. Imperative then is to routinely model and quantify the underlying relationships that the key operational and behavioral standards from your mystery shopping program have on unit-level financial performance. Actionable Customer Experience drivers of business performance will galvanize the focus of your entire organization in a way that few other things can.


Second To None empowers customer-centric brands to deliver consistent, intentional and authentic consumer experiences.

We adeptly design and manage mystery shopping, compliance, engagement and voice of customer solutions grounded in strategic relevance, program integrity and actionable insights. Our solutions are developed on the basis of solid research and statistical science. We achieve success through a relentless focus on quality and innovation, consultative relationships and a talented team of professional associates.

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