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How Mystery Shopping Helps C-Stores


Below is an excerpt from a recent commentary discussing the benefits of using a mystery shopping program to determine what drives customer satisfaction in the C-store industry that I find interesting and applicable to most, if not all, industries…


“The client’s mystery shopping program scores its channel partners three times year and what’s been revealed is that locations attaining high marks on mystery shops and audits sell more gas, regardless of fuel prices. In the first year of the program alone, the client’s channel partners experienced a double-digit increase in average monthly volume.”


You can read the entire article by clicking here. It’s a good read and drives home the point that mystery shopping is not only used as an objective measurement for operational standards, but can help pinpoint factors that will make companies a success.



New Feature: Customer Feedback Scores Incorporated Into Mystery Shopping


Many clients choose to use their mystery shopping provider to dispatch customer feedback surveys as well. This is a great idea, as the data is all collected on one portal, making the data capture more efficient for companies.


Over the years, clients wished there was a way to easily see data from their feedback program incorporated into the mystery shopping report. Well, the time has come!


One of our new features allows the satisfaction score to be displayed on a mystery shopping report. When customer feedback programs capture data filtered by the location the customer visited, this data can be imported on a location specific basis.
What does it look like? Take a look at this sample mystery shopping report. The header of each report provides dashboard reporting to help clients see at a glance how the company and/or location is doing. The boxed area now displays customer feedback satisfaction scores for that period of time for both the location and company levels in this example:


Because the dashboard widgets at the top of the mystery shopping reports are fully customizable, you can choose how you’d like to see the data so it makes the most sense to you and key stakeholders.

Just another nice feature we wanted to share!


5 Tips to Keep Your Mystery Shopping Program Fresh


A successful mystery shopping program is extremely valuable in the world of business. It takes work to keep it fresh and make sure there is a general employee buy in, otherwise the program can run into challenges. Below are some tips you can use to keep your programs fresh and a true mystery to your staff!


1. It doesn’t matter when and where – many clients opt to keep the date and time out of mystery shopping reports. It’s human nature to play “guess the shopper,” and the focus can shift from evaluating employee performance to trying to recall the shopper and dispute a lower score. Set the stage early with your staff. Explain that it’s not important who the shopper was, but instead focus on what happened during the experience, noting both the good and the areas that need work. Taking the focus off of “when and who” can help if you’re seeing employees focusing too much on guessing the shopper and disputing details.


2. Don’t show employees the reports right away – there are times when a report will contain concerning information that needs to be addressed right away. However, in most cases, there is no urgent need for staff to see the mystery shopping report. When clients conduct shops on a regular basis, many opt to let upper management see the report right away, but don’t share the  report with their location staff until the month is over. Why is this? If staff know each location is shopped once a month, and they get their report on the 15th, they know they are “free and clear” for the rest of that month. By not sharing the report until the month’s end, they will stay on their toes the entire month, never knowing if they’ve been shopped yet.


3. Throw them off course once in a while – because it’s human nature to guess shoppers, employees come to learn specifics of their program – they think, “Okay, we are shopped once a month, and the shopper will visit the restroom and ask a knowledge question.” Customers who do the same things as shoppers will be suspects. Change up the program for a month or two – don’t require a restroom check, or cut out the knowledge question. Another option is to change the frequency. Maybe add an extra shop a month for a while, or allow the high performing locations to only be shopped every other month. Throw the employees off a bit and it will keep them on their toes.


4. Focus on the positive – clients’ mystery shopping programs go a long way when there is a focus on the positive. Some clients will publicly share high performing shops across all of their locations. In monthly newsletters, they may highlight locations or specific employees who received high ratings on a recent mystery shopping report. A simple and public “kudos for a job well done” can go a long way.


5. Continually raise the bar – the best mystery shopping programs are those that grow with a company. Use analytical reports wisely; when you see that scores are consistently high, that signals that the staff are doing well with current standards and it’s time to raise the bar a bit. Review your program on an annual basis at a minimum and make revisions as needed to make sure you’re measuring current expectations and operational standards.


Maintaining your program takes time, but will pay off in the long run. Consult with your mystery shopping provider on a regular basis to get insight and suggestions for your program. Because they work closely with your program and have the experience from a variety of perspectives, they can often provide ideas and suggestions to keep your program the best it can be.