Question from a secret shopper:
Do businesses that we shop tell their employees that they will be mystery shopped? I have heard that they do, but that doesn’t make sense to me. If we are supposed to be checking up on them, why tell them that they will get shopped? Do they tell them what we will evaluate them on? And doesn’t that mean that we are more likely to be spotted if the employees know to look for mystery shoppers?
Most businesses that use secret shoppers tell their employees about the program, and there are some very good reasons to do so.
First of all, whenever you measure something you get better results. Mystery shopping is a good example of that. When employees know that they may be mystery shopped, but they do not know when or by whom, they will treat each customer as if he or she were the mystery shopper (at least in theory).
Companies usually let employees know what the evaluation criteria are. Mystery shopping programs are designed to verify that employees are following the policies and procedures established by the business. That means that all the mystery shoppers are doing is checking to see that employees are doing what they were already trained to do. For example, are they saying thank you? Upselling? Smiling? Serving customers promptly? I have been in businesses as a customer where I have seen memos and mystery shop report forms on the counter by the cash register. These businesses knew exactly what the mystery shopper would be evaluating them on.
Does that make it easier for employees to spot the mystery shopper? Not usually. In most cases, they know that they will be mystery shopped on a regular basis, and the shopper will be checking to see if they are upholding the standards established by the business. Employees are not told what scenario will be used, or exactly when the mystery shopper will visit.
The existence of a secret shopper program should not be a mystery. Educating employees about standards and expectations, and letting them know that mystery shoppers will be checking to see that they are living up to them, is a good way to make sure that customers receive top quality service—even when the mystery shopper isn’t looking.