We are involved in a number of mystery shopping programmes in both the housing and health sectors. Mystery shoppers are paid to use services specifically for audit or evaluation purposes without disclosing their identity as evaluators. They have proved to be effective in different environments, providing detailed, constructive feedback on elements of service provision. Here are a few suggestions on how to get the most out of mystery shopping:
Keep it simple
Evaluate responses to a simple request presented in a straightforward manner rather than a complex or difficult problem. Use clear and uncomplicated evaluation forms. Avoid using ‘If you answered ‘Yes’ then go to … ’ types of question.
Recruit and support
Tenants and service users are the best judges of customer service but make sure you give them the support and training they need. Use trial shops and roleplays to ensure they are confident and comfortable with their role.
Better results are obtained when a small number of services receive a large number of ‘shops’. A minimum of ten shops per service is required to provide robust feedback on a service: 15-20 shops is ideal.
Doing the shops over a short period of time can compromise confidentiality and result in mystery shoppers being easily identified. Spreading activities over a four to six week period works well.
Long term results
It takes time to develop successful mystery shopping programmes. You can get rich and useful information from the start but your mystery shoppers will need to grow into the role, particularly in developing self-confidence, team work and feedback skills.
Discuss the programme with all those who are likely to be ‘shopped’ at an early stage to explain the plan and discuss any concerns. Be open with then. Advance knowledge in itself can lead to improved performance.
Focus on the positive
Customer satisfaction is an essential element of high quality service provision. Mystery shopping is about improving organisational performance and identifying the development needs of those in customer service roles.
On one hand, if feedback is anonymised staff have confidence that they will not be individually reported on. On the other hand, this makes it impossible to attribute instances of high quality or very poor service to a particular member of staff. Are you evaluating a service as a whole or looking at individual performance? Decide which is most important to you and remember to discuss how you intend to use the results with your staff before you start.
Mystery shopping based on clear customer service standards makes sense to everyone involved and provides the benchmark for service improvement. It is also a good way of reminding everyone what those standards are.
Run sessions where the mystery shoppers discuss their experience with service providers and provide an opportunity to discuss proposed improvements. Do the full service improvement loop.
Talk to us
We can help you to design, set up and run a mystery shopping programme with your residents or service users.