Essential Guide to Mystery Shopping

Essential Guide to Mystery Shopping - smiling woman on phone headset

Mystery shopping is a tried-and-true way to assess your business operations and staff performance, and this essential guide to mystery shopping will show you how to make it work for you.

Simply observing how your staff interacts with customers gives you only part of the picture. You see the customer experience, but from your own limited perspective.

Mystery shopping, on the other hand, gives you deeper and more meaningful insights and lets you see the experience from the customer’s perspective.

Mystery Shopping is an Assessment Tool

Mystery shopping is when someone interacts with your company under the guise of being a potential — or even actual, in some cases — customer. But they do so with the intention of assessing the experience based on specific criteria outlined in a questionnaire. Multiple mystery shoppers will use the same questionnaire while performing their own independent assessments.

The intention is to receive a neutral, third-party observation and assessment of the customer experience provided by your company and staff.

Traditional mystery shopping once occurred only in-person at a physical location. But these days, mystery shopping happens wherever your customers interact with your business — on the phone, in live chats, via text, email, online, etc.

Goals and Benefits of Mystery Shopping

The primary goal of mystery shopping is to collect data. Then, analyzing that data will give you insights about how you’re doing but also highlight specific opportunities for ongoing improvements.

If standard operating procedures are being followed and how effective they are.

Mystery shopping can show you:

  • If standard operating procedures are being followed and how effective they are
  • Possible gaps in staff training and development.
  • A clear picture of the customer experience at different stages of the customer journey.
  • Competitor analysis

Best Practices

  • Mimic a Realistic Customer Experience — Your staff shouldn’t be able to tell that they’re being mystery shopped. The questionnaire should only ask for data that would be able to be observed by a typical customer.
  • Score Key Meaningful Metrics — Determine key elements of a typical customer experience that will give you insights on performance and areas for improvement. These can include call etiquette, listening skills, response times, accuracy, thoroughness, and more, depending on your unique business concerns.
  • Collect Data not Opinions — Keep the questions on your questionnaire objective rather than asking for an opinion or judgment. For example, asking if the customer service agent was friendly requires judgment. Asking if they said, “Thank you for contacting us. Hope you have a great rest of your day” or something similar at the end of the interaction, is more objective … either they did, or they didn’t.
  • Keep the Scope Narrow — Limiting the observations you’re asking for your mystery shopper to complete lets them give more attention to those key questions. And this means you get better data. Generally speaking, your mystery shopping questionnaire should be limited to 10-15 observations.
  • Use in Conjunction with Customer Surveys — Get a fuller, more robust picture of how your company is performing by combining third-party, neutral mystery shopping with the voice and feedback of real customers obtained through customer surveys.

Implementing Mystery Shopping

Mystery shopping is a complex endeavor. For the best, unbiased results, it should be implemented and managed by someone outside of your own organization.

That’s where ARC comes in. For more than 25 years, we’ve helped organizations just like yours empower and transform their customer experience teams. And we’re here to help you, too.

If you want to learn more or need help implementing mystery shopping for your organization, we invite you to get in touch.

To get in touch, use this form to book a call or you can reach us directly at 1-800-397-3515. If you prefer email, you can contact us at


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