What does a Mystery Shopper do?

By Niamh McCarron, Operations Mgr, Wednesday, 18th November 2020 | 0 comments


It seems like a distant memory now, but remember how we used to go on nights out or to a party with friends? On those nights, when we’d often end up in conversation with a friend-of-a-friend, and inevitably the chat would come round to “so what do you do?”


“I work for a Mystery Shopping and Customer Experience agency”


Unless our conversation is with someone who has been mystery shopped as part of their own job, most people don’t really know what a Mystery Shopper does, and what our role is as the agency.


A mystery shopping programme can be set up for any business that has customers. The role of the mystery shopper is to act as a typical customer, interact with the company or staff members, and report on their experience. Sounds simple, but there are a lot of factors to consider.


First, we work with the client to map out what the customer experience should look like. The “best practise” that they want their staff to implement. From this, we build a specific questionnaire. The questionnaire covers everything from when a customer arrives at the premises (or goes on to the website for online mystery shops), through their interaction with staff, making a purchase, asking about products and so on. A mystery shopper can also ask questions about products or services, to evaluate if the staff member is able to answer the query.


The mystery shopper completes their questionnaire shortly after the visit and submits it on our PANnet portal.  Our reviewing team checks it, follows up if any further clarifications are needed, and we send the final report off to the client.


In today’s online world, members of the public can add a review or comment about a business in a few clicks on their phone. This can be valuable feedback, but a review can only be verified up to a point and isn’t always useful to the company.  A customer complaining that they don’t like the pattern on your new coffee cups when you’re café business has  spent time and money promoting your new drinks branding, might not be the feedback you want to focus on right now!


A mystery shop allows the business to hone into an area of their operations that they want to check across their entire network. For example, if they’ve launched a new product and invested in training their staff on its benefits. Mystery shoppers can go into each of their stores and ask the exact same question “how does the new ABC Product work?”.


Let’s say they have 20 stores across the country. All our mystery shoppers receive a briefing document. They know what they need to look for and to ask about in advance. We train our shoppers before they start a project, to make sure they are clear on their brief. We keep in touch during the fieldwork, to see if anything unusual happens.


This all results in the business getting 20 individual reports, and a range of summary reports, outlining how well staff are promoting ABC Product. It will highlight the areas that are performing well and show if there are some tweaks needed to the training. When the reports highlight something that has been missed, it can be invaluable. 


One of our best examples of this is sending an online query via each store’s individual webpage – two stores didn’t receive the query at all. There was nothing showing on the customer side to indicate their message hadn’t been received. The detail in our mystery shop report allowed the client to figure out that those two webpages had a fault in them. It would make you wonder - how many real customers had sent a query, got no reply, and moved on to a competitor company?


For more information about mystery shopping and how we can help your business improve its customer experience, get in touch via email abushnell@panresearch.ie or phone 01 2993800.

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