It may seem that an easy way to describe something is to compare it to something else. For example, “The menu at Jim’s House of Steaks is much more varied than The Cow Corral’s.” Or, “The store was much cleaner than during my visit two weeks ago.” However, comparisons of the client to similar companies, one client location to another, or one visit to another do not belong in your reports. Why?
The reason is simple: Mystery shopper reports provide a snapshot of what the customer experience was at a specific moment in time. Each mystery shopping visit should be approached as if it is the only time you have ever been to that location, and there is no other business like that one anywhere.
Mystery shops are designed to be objective evaluations. Each shop should be conducted by comparing the location’s performance against the criteria established by the client. The purpose is not to give your opinion of the business or to compare them other businesses.
Your answers to report questions should not be influenced by how this particular client or location compares to others, but only whether or not they meet the standards established by the client.
Let’s look at a hypothetical example. At one clothes store the standard is that the salesperson should escort you to the fitting room, then return within five minutes to check on you and see if you need different sizes, etc. Another store has the standard that the salesperson escorts you to the fitting room, then approaches you when you exit the fitting room to ask how the items fit.
Evaluating service in the second store as poor because the salesperson did not check on you while you were in the fitting room, “like they do at Sophia’s Boutique,” would be incorrect. If the salesperson did what she was supposed to do, according to the standards established by her employer, she did her job. The fact that you disagree with the standards is beside the point.
There is one exception to the “no comparisons” rule: When you are specifically asked to make a comparison. For example, some reports will ask a question such as, “How did this visit compare to a recent experience at a similar establishment?” It might even be appropriate to make a comparison if they ask a question about how they might improve.