The evolution of Mystery Shopping: how are technologies for evaluating the quality of service changing?

The current trend for sales and selling comes with emotions. Goods and services are now synonymous with the customer’s impressions of the staff. The Mystery Shopper research is evolving along with changing trends in the world of retail and service delivery.

The modern “Mystery shopper” is an effective method that allows you to determine how close the customer’s actual experience at an outlet is to their desired one. An objective assessment of the service provided (eg compliance with standards) in the company and the intention to improve it are mandatory conditions. Therefore, determining the quality of customer impressions is a vital part of the sustainable success of any company.

No fraud

Only quality research with real results gives business breakthroughs. Often companies lose confidence in the program because of unreliable data. 4Service Group has a professional approach to the design of the research project itself and to the selection of mystery shoppers.

We do not allow any frauds to conduct mystery shopper visits,

— says Yevgenii Poloz, Development Director of 4Service Group proudly.

In this context, we are using the word fraud to refer to various types of fraudulent behavior in the field of information and data. The work of our mystery shoppers always corresponds to the task, they are responsible and even proactive in its implementation and participate in the program not only to earn money but also for the sake of the greater, common mission “to improve customer service around the world”. Among them, there are a lot of progressive-minded people who want to live in a better world with better service and are willing to work hard for that.

If customer expectations have changed, it’s time to change the standards 

Consumer expectations are constantly rising and purchasing power is shrinking. This is all taking place in a highly competitive environment. The research identified the strengths and weaknesses of customer service and identifies unrealized customer needs. It gives companies the opportunity to see their employees through the eyes of the customer: whether they comply with accepted standards of service, whether they make efforts to retain customers and whether they show genuine goodwill or comply with standards formally.

We provide an effective tool for improving the quality of service. It provides 100% local retail control with timely and periodic research providing an opportunity not only to monitor the implementation of the established service standards, but also to make a decision on their change in time. Standards should be updated somewhere every two or three years,

— confirms Yevgenii Poloz.

Changes in customer trends and behavior require continuous improvement from companies. Efforts are needed both to meet existing expectations and to anticipate needs that will arise in the future. The goal is to build customer confidence by constantly improving the level of service they receive.

Between 40% and 70% of buyers make the decision to purchase a product or service while communicating with the seller, so formal compliance with standards is not enough. A show of fake politeness and engagement can alienate the customer.

Mystery Shopping staff control

Initially, the main function of this research method was control. Every manager knows that their subordinates work as hard as possible when they are constantly observed.

  • the report of the Mystery Shopper is much more objective than the result of the Manager’s check, because the employees are recognized by sight;
  • the very understanding of the launch of the program in the company instantly helps to change the behavior of the staff in a positive way, raising service standards.

How Mystery Shopping is changing

The upgraded Mystery Shopping evaluation protocol is an important part of the service design and includes additional evaluation criteria:

  • the subjective block-evaluation of staff politeness, friendliness, competence and other attributes of good emotional perception of the service;
  • empirio — the ability for mystery shoppers to criticize or respond approvingly from the perspective of their experience;
  • focus questions are added depending on the needs of the customers. 

For example, the questionnaire contains the following question “What are your expectations from the visit?” The answer allows you to get a cross-section of brand/company views before and after interacting with the client.

Mystery shopper has become an important part of service design

Under the influence of business realities, Mystery Shopping has improved. 4Service Group has found and successfully implemented a method for the objective analysis of subjective impressions and specific facts, which became the results of the “Mystery shopper ” study. This integrated the subjective index and the NPS (consumer loyalty index). The method is no longer just a control function, it has now become an important part of service design.

Mystery Shopping is an effective and productive method for obtaining objective data and is used by leading companies. It has long exhausted its status as a classic tool for control. Companies use it when building a service design to get statistical data of customer impressions,

— says Yevgeny Lobanov, Director for Central and Eastern Europe/Turkey, 4Service Group

The main value of this type of research is to get feedback and impressions from real people who go through the same motions as an ordinary buyer. Thanks to high-quality feedback, this method collects a lot of detailed user stories and allows companies to gain insights from customers.

Back in 2005, Sergey Pashkovsky, Director for Southern and Eastern Europe/Central Asia at 4Service, suggested adding a subjective evaluation aspect to the “Mystery shopper” study. In fact, this is what now makes it a tool for evaluating the quality of the 360º service,

— notes Yevgenii Lobanov. 

Objective studies of subjective impressions

At this stage, Mystery Shopping technology is used to get the consumer’s opinion about a particular stage of the customer experience. The business owner wants to make sure that the customer is always satisfied. The mystery shopper’s task is to determine the zone that needs to be refined. For example, the shop interior or politeness. 

To a large extent, the assessment of the service level is always subjective: like or dislike. Under the influence of your personal subjective opinion, you go or don’t go to a restaurant/store/bank/movie theater again. But business accepts formatted information.  To make decisions, we need the most reliable and digitized data: coefficients and indicators.

How do I get pure data? 

Research confirms that there is a big difference between what a person claims and the actual situation. People are known to lie and what they say cannot always be taken as the pure truth. For example, after visiting the bank the “mystery shopper” might note that he/she did not like the service, when in fact they simply found the service rates too high.

The advantage is that the method allows you to compare obviously “lying” indexes with the real actions of the buyer and objective facts from the questionnaire of the classic Mystery Shopping. The analytical method checks the subjective assessment made by the client.  

A popular trend in the use of the “Mystery Shopper” method has been the comparison and analysis of data obtained during secret visits with the “customer satisfaction” research method.

Mystery Shopping is constantly evolving through the integration with other research technologies and techniques, such as Customer Feedback, Social Media Analysis (information analysis of social networks). Consequently, companies get more opportunities to explore customer satisfaction.

The future of this method is to combine traditional technologies with innovative ones. It encourages businesses to improve their relationship with the consumer in the fight for profit. Research results help to make optimal changes to the company’s service policy in order to increase profits.

It is possible to organize separate studies (both qualitative and quantitative) but the challenge for the company is often to combine indicators and data into one “service diagnosis”. It is convenient to link it with the company’s financial, marketing, and HR indicators and to evaluate the effectiveness of investments in the service.

4Service Group helps to determine the “service diagnosis”, to derive an integral indicator with a set of necessary business studies at the moment.


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