How To Conduct An Effective Mystery Shopping Campaign

Our recent article on mystery shopping explained some metrics that you should consider when conducting a mystery shopping campaign. We wanted to expand on the subject, drawing upon our experiences working with clients, to discuss how you should actually go about actually planning an evidence-based campaign from start to finish.

Step 1: Define Goals

Mystery shopping objectives should always either address existing problems, potential problems or ensure that employees are adhering to standard procedures. Start by articulating these objectives in a goal statement.

If you are conducting a campaign to address a specific problem, make sure that there are actionable solutions that management teams can adjust for.

For example, if an online retailer is concerned that customers aren’t being properly engaged, an appropriate goal statement might read, “The management at XYZ Retailer would like to improve its employee training program by conducting a mystery shopping program for a subset of account reps to sample how effectively employees are engaging customers in accordance with their training.”

Step 2: Establish Metrics

Prior to your mystery shopping campaign you need to established your metrics. Your problem statement should address the need for testing sales reps according to your established metrics.

If you are looking to improve employee engagement with customers, you will need to define a series of metrics that can concretely quantify whether customers are being properly engaged.

Some metrics might include:

  • Are customers being properly greeted by phone?
  • Are reps using the proper greeting?
  • Do account reps ask the right questions?

If you are conducting a mystery shopper campaign over the phone, you will need to pay attention to other metrics like:

  • How long are customers being put on hold?
  • What is the average length of each phone conversation?
  • What is the customer’s status at the end of the phone call?
  • Are reps doing an appropriate job of following up with customers?

Step 3: Define the Scope of the Campaign

If you are going to conduct a mystery shipping campaign, you need to define your campaign’s scope. Depending on the business’ size, the scope of your campaign might be different. Determine what size of the business you are going to sample. If your campaign involves retail outlets, are you going to send mystery shoppers to every single outlet? 50% of all outlets? You also have to decide how many mystery shoppers will appear at each outlet.

Step 4: Define Appropriate Action Standards

When you’re testing sales reps, it’s necessary to define an appropriate set of action standards in order to quickly act upon your campaign’s findings. As Sean J. Jordan wrote on the Market Plan blog “[Action standards give] the management involved in the design of the study time to determine what the acceptable thresholds are for negative marks on a mystery shop so that there is less of an opportunity to overreact to them after the data has come in.”

Here are a couple examples of constructive action statements:

  • “If XYZ  employees are engaging in unprofessional conduct around customers in more than two locations, management will be required to conduct an investigation.”
  • “If customers are put on hold for more than three minutes, than management will need to investigate the need to hire additional sales reps.”

Step 5: Train Mystery Shoppers

Depending on your mystery campaign’s scope and budget, you might decide to handle your mystery shopping engagement internally or outsource it. If you decide to handle it externally, you can either hire a professional mystery shopping company or hire freelance mystery shoppers.

Freelancers will have to be properly incentivised with payment or gift cards that they can use to shop in outlets. They will need to be provided with a survey form that clearly outlines what they should be looking for during their shopping experience.

If you hire a professional service. It’s important that they are aware of your problem statement. They might be able to work with you to establish metrics that matter to your mystery shopping engagement.

Step 6: Repeat Over Time

I’m sure that you’ve heard the old saying “wash, rinse, repeat.” In order to measure progress, it’s essential to repeat mystery shopper campaigns over time. Improve the accuracy of your mystery shopping campaigns by conducting them every few months regularly rather than monthly. That will give you a truer sense of average rep behavior.




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