Mystery Shopping Draws Blank on Improvements

Mar 21, 2002

Gallup research finds that doing spot-checks in a company’s stores by surveyors posing as shoppers doesn’t work. “Mystery shopping fails to reflect how a vast, varied customer base actually feels about a company’s stores,” writes Gallup consultant Scott Ahlstrand in Gallup Management Journal. “And because it fails to capture customer experience, it has precious little to teach executives about improving customer service.”

In the article, Gallup proposes these alternatives, among others: Elicit feedback from a statistically significant sample of real customers and conduct in-person customer interviews as real customers leave locations. “To gauge the shifting truth of how customers feel and what they want,” Ahlstrand says, “there’s no substitute for asking them.”

The U.S. mystery shopping industry reaps an estimated $750 million in annual revenues and is growing, according to the Marketing Research Association.

Moderator Comment: Is Mystery Shopping a valid tool
for evaluating a shopper’s experience and customer service levels of a store?

How valid is it for a market research company to evaluate
a competitive practice and conclude that it should be replaced by, well, a market
research company? [George Anderson – Moderator]

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