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One Snapshot is Good; Two Are Better




If you get a high score on a mystery shop, is it safe to assume that the customer experience was similar for all customers on that day and time?

Maybe, but maybe not.

It’s not realistic to assume that each experience is exactly the same, though the thought that if one customer has an excellent experience, all the others did as well. That is the hope for businesses as they invest time and money on training and staff development.

Many businesses that utilize mystery shopping conduct one visit per month to gauge service levels. This is an excellent measurement tool and is extremely useful for this task. Others choose to conduct multiple visits at each location on a monthly basis in order to get deeper insight into a location’s performance – they realize that one shop is simply a snapshot in time and may want more data to work with.

When a client uses multiple shops per location in any given month, mystery shopping providers strive to conduct the shops across different days and times of the day in order to give the client a range of snapshots; there have been times, however, when the client chooses to get as granular as possible by conducting multiple shops at one location, all on the same day.

Consider this: a restaurant has a concern about one of its locations, particularly with the evening staff. Past mystery shop performance has not been strong during this time, and customer complaints seem to increase. To get a better sense of what may be happening, the client requests that two shoppers visit the restaurant on the same evening and around the same time (the dinner rush) to check for consistency.

Two shoppers visited the restaurant – one a bit earlier than the other, though their visits overlapped by a half hour. They sat in different areas of the restaurant and had different servers.

What did they find?

  • Each shopper had a different experience – one shop report received a 70% overall score while the other received a 95%. Taking a look at the two experiences, the client obtained some interesting information to work with:
  • The main difference between the two shops focused around timing of the meal and receiving the order. The lower scoring shop had a long wait to receive their meal, while there were no issues with the higher scoring shop.
  • The restaurant requires the manager to visit guest tables; this did not happen with the lower scoring shop. In fact, this shopper reported that the manager was not visible in the dining area at any time.
  • The server for the lower scoring shop was not able to greet the shopper within the required time frame, did not refill drinks during the meal, and dishes were not cleared in a timely manner.
  • There were other minor differences, though none existed with the host experience, the departure, or cleanliness aspects.

While this was just one night and one snapshot, it opened up some good conversation at this particular location. After looking at the staff involved with both shops, and having an open discussion based on these differences as well as data from prior shops, management learned some great information to help make improvements, such as:

  • There has been some turnover lately, and there are many new staff who are still learning the processes. Servers shared that it is difficult for newer servers working busy shifts, as the server “sections” (number of tables they are responsible for) are overwhelming for new staff. This led to a discussion of recreating sections of the dining area to accommodate new servers. With less tables to focus on during the rush, the more successful they could be.
  • Management shared that they do make every attempt to visit guest tables, but during the height of the dinner rush, they are focused on “putting out fires” and resolving issues as they come up. This takes away from table visits. The “fires” were looked at more closely to determine if they were isolated incidents that typically come up in the course of a day or if there were patterns to suggest that staff needed better training, if more staff were needed during busier times, etc.
  • Service processes were closely evaluated and adjusted to accommodate challenges presented not only in this experience, but across all experience data collected for this location.

It’s important to note that the client had concerns about this particular location before they conducted the multiple mystery shop exercise, and it was limited to one particular night, but it served as a good jumping point for closer inspection and conversation with employees to get their feedback, thoughts, and solutions.

Using multiple mystery shoppers in one day can be beneficial in many circumstances. When there are concerns, changing up a mystery shopping schedule to do a deeper dive can go a long way in uncovering challenges and improving the consistency of the customer experience.