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Mystery Shopping vs. Customer Feedback: Which is Better?

Thanks to the internet and mobile technology, it’s become a lot easier to gather valuable feedback from a larger sample of customers. So does that mean that more indirect, “old school” methods like using mystery shoppers has become passé? Not necessarily – but it’s probably not the best method of gathering customer experience insights, especially if it’s the only solution you’re using.

While mystery shopping can still be a part of your customer experience management activities, it plays a supporting role as an auditing of minimum service standards. A trained mystery shopper can tell you whether or not a product or service is being sold in the way it was intended. Is the sales staff covering off key points when describing the product? How hard are they working to close the sale? Is it being displayed properly in the store?  What you won’t learn is how the customer feels about the actual product or the way it was presented to them. What’s more, mystery shopping isn’t overly cost efficient. For every one observation you get in a month, you can get 30 more from actual customers using customer feedback – and while you might be able to chalk up one bad mystery shopping experience to a bad day, it’s harder to argue with a multitude of real customers who feel your store isn’t living up to their expectations.

That’s not to say that mystery shopping can’t serve a purpose for you. You can still use it to provide an audit of your customer feedback efforts that will provide a better understanding of your customers, their expectations and their interactions with your brand.  A focused campaign of mystery shopping on underperforming locations can help uncover the tangible problems in that store or restaurant.

If it’s a true customer reflection you’re looking for, direct customer feedback can provide you with more relevant and more accurate “in the moment” information.  In fact, it’s become the method of choice for companies who are looking to understand the voice of their customers. And the ROI on listening to your real customers who are emotionally invested in your brand is far greater than feedback that comes from someone who’s paid to make observations on pre-determined criteria.

Mystery shopping has historically helped organizations understand the difference between good and bad – but only direct customer feedback allows you to understand great and striving to be great is the only thing that will transform your business.

Learn more about Customer Experience Management solutions.

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