Mystery shopping, sometimes referred to as secret shopping, is a form of research designed to assess and track operational and behavioral performance. It's origins trace back to the 1940's but really began to grow in the retail industry in the early 1990's. The industry expanded at a rapid pace as the internet came into prominence in the mid 1990's. It broadened beyond its initial roots and retail, and is now an invaluable tool in a broad cross-section of industries.
Mystery Shopping, in general, involves an individual visiting or calling a company location under the guise of being a prospective customer. The shopper observes the interaction and assesses performance based on specific pre-defined criteria. This criteria can involve customer service skills, selling skills, how well employees are adopting specific scripting or behaviours introduced in training and coaching.
Mystery Shopping can also examine operational aspects of a business, such as cleanliness, merchandising, maintenance, lighting, etc. Companies that deal with regulated products such as tobacco or alcohol will use mystery shopping to ensure that their employees are complying with age and other requirements.
In the past, mystery shopping was viewed as an opportunity to get a 'customers viewpoint' on a company's operations. Now, most organizations are using the more reliable voice-of-the-customer solutions to assess ongoing customer satisfaction and attitudes, and using mystery shopping as a tool for auditing the execution of specific customer service and operational standards.
RetailTrack began in 1992 (originally as StoreCheck) and is one of the most established mystery shopping companies in the world.
Some Of The Types of Mystery Shops
Industries That Commonly Use Mystery Shopping
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