What do Mystery Shopper Companies do?

Felicia Dye

Businesses often need assessments to help them maintain or grow their market share or uncover problems. However, it can be very difficult for a business to assess itself. To solve this problem, many businesses hire mystery shopper companies to make undercover assessments and to provide feedback about their findings.

Secret shoppers may fill out online forms and surveys in relation to a store's service quality.
Secret shoppers may fill out online forms and surveys in relation to a store's service quality.

The experiences people have when they patronize a business are very important. These experiences play an essential role in the success or failure of a business. Knowing this, many businesses are willing to invest in improving and maintaining a high standard of customer service. The problem is they do not know exactly which areas need improvement. This is where the services of mystery shopper companies can be used.

Mystery shopper companies recruit associates, commonly referred to as secret shoppers. In some instances, these people are employees. In other cases, these individuals are free agents who accept assignments when they want to but who are under no obligation to work. Some associates do not even receive financial compensation. Instead, they receive free goods and services to compensate for their time and effort.

After the mystery shopper companies have recruited individuals, they direct them to go out and patronize certain businesses. Sometimes, secret shoppers also access telephone or Internet services. In any case, these individuals are not supposed to allow any of the employees know they are assessing the business.

The secret shoppers generally have a list of items to assess. They may be required to ask certain questions or to interact with a certain number of employees. Mystery shopper companies commonly require their associates to do things they would not normally do or to create unnecessary situations. For example, a secret shopper may be instructed to make a purchase and then to ask for a refund, simply to see the level of customer service that will be provided when she does so.

In some instances, businesses have special concerns about certain aspects of their customer service. The mystery shopper companies they hire will generally work to target those areas during their assessment. In many instances, however, it is the mystery shopping companies that develop the entire program. Depending upon the needs of the company, it may be necessary to develop a personalized secret shopping program.

Multiple associates are likely to assess a business before a final assessment is made. Once this is done, the hired mystery shopper company generally provides feedback to its client. This may include reports, statistics, and secret shopper comments. Mystery shopper companies are also commonly involved in helping their clients develop strategies to improve their performance in areas where there is such a need.

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