The Value of Mystery Shoppers

Mystery shopping – the act of having someone pose as a customer, with the intent of gathering non-biased insight into the customer journey with your business – is a valuable undertaking.

The value of engaging a mystery shopper is directly related to two things:

  1. Your potential customer lifetime value (the higher the PCLV, the greater the need)
  2. The likelihood and social engagement of your customers (the higher the social engagement, the greater the need)

If you operate a business with a high PCLV, you should probably consider – at least occasionally – engaging a mystery shopper to give you insight.

If you operate a coffee shop – the chance of having highly socially engaged customers is likely high – pointing to the value of a mystery shopper even for a business with a low CLV.

If you manage a business with a high PCLV and customers with high social engagement…there’s no doubt about the value.

Here’s a real life case study:

I brought my car to a new dealer the other day for routine service, which included some diagnostic work (there was a noise in the dashboard that was increasingly concerning). Here’s how the day played-out:

  • The car was brought into service at 8:30am
  • By 11:30, I still had not heard from the shop about the level or type of repairs required – so I called, and left a message with the service receptionist
  • By 2:30, still no callback, and I began wondering: is there enough time left to complete whatever repairs are required? What exactly IS required? Why aren’t they calling back? What’s going on there? Did I make a mistake bringing the car to these guys?
  • By 4:30, I arrived, clearly annoyed at the lack of communication, but relieved that the bill wasn’t what I was expecting

In the end, I’d characterize the service delivery as a failure, and I suspect that the dealership would too.

For the owner of the dealership, the service management equation (at least for this customer) is:

  • = High PCLV (car repairs + periodic replacement car purchases) x socially engaged customer

Most people would agree that not returning telephone calls is a blatant service-quality misfire, but the question arises: ‘how often does this happen?’

A mystery shopper solves two things:

  1. It shines a light on service-improvement opportunities – big or small
  2. It keeps management and staff ‘on their toes’, and aware that the organization takes service delivery seriously, and links service delivery with business sustainability.