Mystery Shopping During The Holidays?


It’s interesting to see how companies use mystery shopping programs, and how they adjust their schedule of shops during certain times. We are into one very interesting period of the year – the holiday season – where companies are mixed on ideas for their mystery shopping programs.


We’ve seen some companies opt to reduce their programs during the holiday shopping season, citing that customer traffic is much higher, and they want to focus on holiday traffic and not have mystery shoppers “take up” time that can be spent with true customers.


Interesting concept, and in a way I can see the point. For example, we would never send shoppers into retail venues on Black Friday, unless it was requested by the client. This is a completely non-typical shopping day, and any results gained at that time would not be truly reflective of service standards (possibly).


However, there are other retail and restaurant clients that actually increase frequency during the holiday shopping season. Their thinking is that this is when the bulk of their sales come into play, and with all of the competition out there, they have to be on top of their game. Mystery shopping is used to measure their service levels, and they watch reports very carefully and make adjustments as needed to ensure that holiday shoppers keep coming back to them.


With that said though, I do see value in adjusting frequency based on typical consumer traffic. Park districts, for example, tend to be busier in the summer months and, for those with fitness center options, at the start of every new year when people are making resolutions to lose weight or become more fit. There are lulls in traffic patters during slower times of the year, and mystery shopping programs are reduced slightly, not only to keep costs down, but to mirror customer traffic.


Another example is based on performance. Some businesses, especially with several locations, may employ a performance based schedule. For example, if a  particular location scores over a specific percentage for several months in a row, their frequency will decrease. Conversely, locations who score under a specific percentage will receive a follow up shop within two weeks, or their frequency will increase.


Companies need to consider the benefits of the mystery shopping results when determining frequency of their program. We are always a slave to budgets, but mystery shopping programs have great value and can actually save money in the long run.


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