Lots of people casting shadows down a highstreet

How can a mystery shopper improve your business?

19 August 2019

Mystery shopping is when a member of the public will visit your business under the guise of the regular customer, but during their visit, they will be looking at various aspects of how your business operates to give feedback from a customer’s perspective. Mystery shop visits can be performed in many businesses such as shops, salons, restaurants, hotels etc.

Whilst some mystery shopping is designed to catch you out, such as an underage person trying to buy alcohol, most mystery shoppers are there to find where you can make improvements. We take a look at how you can use mystery shoppers to help improve your business.

Mystery shoppers aren’t trying to steal your secrets to pass on to your competitors or trying to catch you doing something wrong. However, it is often a great way to obtain objective feedback to make improvements to your business or validate what you’re doing is right.

As a business owner, you can hire a mystery shopper to come in and test how your shop operates and if it works for customers, which will give you a chance to see what the shop is like from a customer view.

A mystery shopper also could be sent by a third party company, looking to see if you are complying with regulations, such as whether or not your CCTV abides by GDPR, or to see if you are taking third party accreditations, such as the Investors in People, seriously. An example of a third-party mystery shopper is when your local constabulary will send an underage person into your shop to buy restricted products to see if you are adhering to the schemes like Challenge 25 and the law.

As the title suggests, a mystery shopper will try to conceal the fact that they are mystery shopping, which can make it difficult to know who is a genuine customer. You may have hired a mystery shopper to gain feedback on your staff and may be aware of when they intend to visit your premises. But, mystery shoppers can come from a variety of sources, from third party companies or even your local police force, who may be checking that you are challenging for restricted products.

If you haven’t hired a mystery shopper, take a look at our guide below which may help you identify a mystery shopper.

Asking lots of questions

Whilst your regular customers might ask a few questions about certain products, a mystery shopper will be particularly thorough with their questions. They might ask about your staff and how they are trained, specific questions about your products, your business practices and the history of your business. Make sure that if you have any staff, that they are equipped to answer these questions. They may also ask for things like your name, or pay particular attention to your name tag.

Making notes

Your customers may come to your store with a shopping list, which they might be carrying with them and crossing off items as they go around, but watch out for anyone making notes, as they could be a mystery shopper. When they come to your business, they will be tasked with making observations on some of the aspects of your store, so may need to take notes.

Taking photos

Snapping the odd selfie in public isn’t unusual these days, but be sure to watch out for anyone taking photos of your shop. Whilst your customer could be sending a “is this the right one?” message to someone back home, they could be using photos for their mystery shopping report.

There could be a few reasons that a mystery shopper would be visiting your business if you haven’t requested one

Competitor research

Depending on your location, shop type and a variety of other factors, you may have some key competitors in your local area. At some point, they might be keen to find out how you run your business and may send a mystery shopper to gather information on your successes.

Market research

Whilst you may use a mystery shopper for market research, other companies carry out market research for a range of reasons. Make sure to keep an eye out for anyone paying attention to prices of your products, asking about sales records or products that are selling particularly well.

Compliance with regulations

You may receive visits from governing bodies from time to time who may pose as customers to find out how you comply with regulations.

  • Compliance with GDPR - as the Independent Commissioners Office (ICO) isn’t keen to start handing out large GDPR fines, they are working with companies to help them keep to GDPR guidelines, such as CCTV and personal data storage.
  • Health and Safety – Health and Safety inspectors have the right to come into your shop and speak to your employees and people responsible for safety, so be prepared to answer questions about your Health and Safety practices.

Third-party accreditation schemes

If you have been accredited by an industry association, such as a Food Hygiene Standards accreditation, you may be inspected by the Food Standard Agency, but they will usually present themselves as inspectors, rather than keep their identity concealed.

Your customers’ point of view

By using mystery shoppers, you will get an insight into what shoppers see when using your business, service or product. If you receive feedback from your mystery shopper use it to your advantage, implementing suggestions for improvement can enhance the shopping experience for your customers.

Increased sales

Once you have taken the reviews of mystery shoppers into consideration and implemented changes, you will hopefully be able to attract customers to return more often and attract new customers too.

Help create future business plans

When you get feedback from a customer, you can incorporate this insight into your future business plans. For example, a mystery shopper may help to identify particular products that are selling well or spot new business opportunities.

Your staffs’ strengths and weaknesses

One of the main pieces of feedback to listen to from your mystery shopper is how your staff interact with your customers. You and your staff are the faces of your business, so getting this right is important. A bad experience with a member of your staff can not only put one customer off, but they will be quick to share their negative experience with others.

Every business sector is different, whether you own a shop, restaurant or a hotel, you will need insurance covers that are right for your business and protect your livelihood.

At Premierline, we understand that a one size fits all approach to business insurance doesn't always work. That is why our insurance experts will assess your business' needs to find business insurance that is right for you.

It is important to make sure that you have the right insurance in place to protect the business that you have built. Every business is different and has its own business insurance needs, which is why we work with some of the UK’s most well-known insurers to ensure that you are getting the right insurance cover for your business.
The information and tools contained in this guide are of a general informational nature and should not be relied upon as being suitable for any specific set of circumstances. We have used reasonable endeavours to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the contents but the information and tools do not constitute professional advice and must not be relied upon as such. To the extent permitted by law, we do not accept responsibility for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information or tools in our Insight Hub.