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Baseline Mystery Shopping


When companies have not used mystery shopping to measure the customer experience, they typically find out more than what they bargained for.


Typically, they start with a standard evaluation to get a baseline of what is happening in their locations. In most cases, employees are not informed that this baseline program will be happening so that companies can get a true picture of what is happening in each of their locations. This covert baseline allows for true measurement, as employees will not be “on their toes” knowing this is happening. The program typically runs with shops at a higher frequency, once or more per week, over a four to six week period across a variety of days and times of the day. This is a great start to see where employees are the strongest, and what operational procedures need to improve.


However, it often time reveals information that the company may not have been looking for, yet is very useful when measuring the customer experience. This is most true when companies are not already using customer feedback programs or asking the right questions.


Take, for example, the retail store that has several locations. They started a baseline program to evaluate the employees, determine strengths and challenges, and roll out a new training program. In the evaluation report, they asked mystery shoppers to indicate whether they’d return in the future, and their reasoning for it.


While their operational checkpoints were strong, with employees tending to stick to the correct policies and procedures, they found that many of the shoppers would not return because of their selection of products. A secondary theme they found among the baseline reports revolved around the way cashiers were bagging items – while this was not a part of the standard evaluation, comments in the last section asking why a shopper would or would not return revealed that many cashiers were not bagging items correctly, often times placing lighter items underneath heavier items, or not double bagging heavier items. While this was not something the company set out to find, this was an issue that was affecting the customer experience and one that could easily rectified now that they were aware of it.


Another beneficial question to ask is “If there was one way your visit could have been improved, what would it be?” or the offshoot “What is one thing we can do to improve?” Companies have received helpful and valuable feedback by asking these two simple questions as part of their program, especially when it’s part of a baseline evaluation.


It’s the little things sometimes that can really stand out when companies are measured using a mystery shopping program. Make the most of your program by asking these types of questions in addition to the objective, operational based questions to get the most impact from your program.