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Want To Know What Staff Say? Hear For Yourself!


Mystery shopping has been a great tool to measure the customer experience from an objective perspective. The first time I heard of mystery shopping was back in 1994 when my Grandma worked for Kmart. She had called me, all excited that a “secret shopper” was in recently and “shopped” her. I had no idea what she was talking about, and little did I know that I would eventually end up in the industry.


We have come a long way since then – technology has been mystery shopping’s best friend! There are so many advances in the way things are done that it really makes the service even more beneficial for clients who use it.


In the past, narratives were the “bread and butter” of the report. The performance scoring data is a huge benefit, of course, but clients took away some great information from narratives, as they were written in a way to get the full picture of the experience, feeling like they were right next to the shopper as they went though the interactions.


Now we are at a point where it has gotten even better – many clients are turning toward audio based mystery shopping. Very simply put, shoppers can audio record interactions while shopping at stores or dining out. These audio recordings are then edited for “dead space” and/or personal information being shared, and then uploaded right to a mystery shopping report.


Below is what that audio clip would look like on a report; click the image to hear a sample!


Pet sample



Adding the audio recording can offer several benefits, including:


1. Adding authenticity to a mystery shopping program: no more of the “he said, she said” disputes when lower scores come in. Audio is valuable to enforce to staff that scores are accurate, and allow no room for these types of disputes.


2. Training programs: it is easier to identify which staff many benefit from additional training. Additionally, you can incorporate the stellar interactions to your new staff training and orientation. It’s a very cost effective, realistic way to train new hires.


3. Get a “real life” feel of what the customer experiences: an employee can be knowledgeable and helpful, but perhaps their tone of voice is sending a different message? Having staff hear themselves assist customers can be a game changer. It is definitely uncomfortable in the beginning, but employees can really learn a lot by getting this outside perspective of their interactions.


Adding audio to a mystery shopping program is fairly simple. There are just a few things to remember:


1. Consent forms need to be in place: in your new hire information, it is typical for companies wishing to employ audio and/or video recordings to require a form signed by each staff giving their consent to this. Most companies, especially those with call centers, have this in place already.


2. Be aware of the laws in your state: there are some states that require both parties to give consent to be recorded (two party consent) and others that only require one of the two parties involved in an interaction to give consent (one party consent). Competitive evaluations typically cannot use the audio component, particularly when they are in a one party state. The most current list of one party states is as follows:


  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania
  • Utah
  • Washington


Audio recording is cost effective and efficient in evaluating staff. While video adds the visual component, it is often very costly and only truly effective in certain industries.


As technology becomes even more advanced (is that even possible?), mystery shopping programs will become even more beneficial to companies.