7 Steps to implement an in-house mystery shopping program

7 Steps to implement an in-house mystery shopping program

7 Steps to implement an in-house mystery shopping program

There’s no doubt that mystery shopping can give you a fresh perspective on your customer experience. But how should you go about it to get the best results within your budget?

While you may be tempted to outsource the responsibility to a professional mystery shopping agency, you might not realize how easy and more cost effective formulating an in-house program can be. These 7 steps to implementing a self-conducted mystery shopping program can give you a good indication of what’s involved:

Step 1:  Define your goals.

There are a multitude of reasons to start a mystery shopping program, and infinite insights to gain. But what, precisely, do you want to know? Consider the following:

  • What is your main purpose for mystery shopping?
  • Who do you want to target?
  • What information do you want to find out that can’t be observed without being discreet?
  • How do you plan to use the information you discover?

Once you establish your goals, refer to them as you tailor your mystery shopping strategy to keep your program laser focused.

Step 2: Determine your budget.

The amount you are willing to spend on mystery shopping will largely depend on what the results are worth to you. At the minimum, you will need to include the following expenses:

  • Pay rate for the shopper
  • Reimbursement for a purchase (if necessary)
  • Frequency of how often a location is shopped
  • Cost of mystery shopping management platform
  • Miscellaneous costs associated with the program (the time spent analyzing the results, recruiting shoppers, facilitating the program, etc)

If you aren’t sure what to pay your shoppers, take a look at average shopper pay other companies offer compared to the amount of work involved. You can also specify they pay in cash to reduce credit card processing fees.

Step 3: Invest in a mystery shopping platform to facilitate the program.

Reading paper questionnaires isn’t just time consuming, it also makes it difficult to compile results over time or look back at the program’s history. Investing in an online platform, like ShopandTell, to analyze the data saves time, money, and hassle for both you and your shoppers. The shopper can quickly and easily input their results, and the computer generates a report. Yes, it’s another cost, but one that will certainly pay for itself in time and payroll savings.

Step 4: Craft specific questions that address your KPIs.

Refer back to your original goals to determine what questions will help you meet those goals. You may want to include questions that address the following areas:

  • Cleanliness
  • Visual appeal
  • Employee behavior
  • Product availability, price, and quality
  • Overall customer experience

Once you draft your questions, you should compile those questions in a logical, easy-to-read format for the shopper to ensure nothing is overlooked. You should also consider the best way to phrase each question, as well as decide on the appropriate format (multiple choice, open-ended, yes or no, etc). Consider asking for help from your research or marketing faculty.

Step 5: Set specific parameters on how to execute the program.

It’s important not to forget the fine details that may have nothing to do with your goals. Some points to consider:

  • How will you pay shoppers?
  • Should shoppers fill out an application or tax forms?
  • What days or times should shoppers complete the assignment?
  • How many days should you give shoppers to complete the assignment?

Step 6: Recruit students to shop for you.

Advertise on campus or in the community to build a team of shoppers. When shops become available, you can email your pool and offer jobs on a first-come-first-serve basis. Make sure you establish shopper guidelines and provide some form of training for quality control.

Step 7: Ask for your shoppers’ opinions to continually refine your mystery shopping program.

Get input from your shoppers to find out how you can make the program better or more effective. A simple change in questions, software, or shop requirements could have an impact on your overall results.

Happy shopping!


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