Nowadays, there are many techniques developed for conducting market research, like Survey methods, Focus groups, personal interviews, observations, field trials, etc. Not all studies are performed outside of the company to measure the rate or value of any product or service, there are also different types of analyses which are undertaken in the organization to keep a check on the regulations of various departments of the organization to ultimately help improve the working of the group by detecting and solving the problems from the inside. One of the most widely used tools by market research companies, or government organizations or even the company or organization themselves is termed as “Mystery shopping” or “Secret Shopper.”
What is Mystery Shopping?
Mystery Shopping is a tool which can be used by different organizations or even the companies themselves to measure the service quality or relevant information about the products or services provided by the company and also to check whether the system is working as per compliance with the regulations provided by the organization or the company. The people who conduct these types of researches are known as ‘Mystery Shoppers.’ This tool was developed somewhere around the late 1940s to calculate the integrity of the management system, whether they are loyal towards the company or were just taking money for doing nothing. Over time the popularity of this technique grew, and now the net estimate of the Mystery Shopping Industry is around $600 million in the US market. Speaking of US, why should India lag behind? India has now become of the most frequent users of this tool, which is actually benefitting the overall company’s worth and customer experience. Mystery shopping has become a trend in India, where companies are hiring interns or college students to become the mystery shoppers and visit different sites. This is giving a lot of employment, especially for college going students to earn some extra cash out of their pocket. Mystery shopping is one of the greatest tools for keeping a check on employees and branches of organizations to enhance customer satisfaction and experience which is popular till today.
Mystery Shopping is a form of market research tool available within the market today. It is basically a process in which a person or ‘Mystery Shopper’ visits a location like a retail store or a chemist or a bank branch, even a restaurant to check the status of customer satisfaction. For example-
- Monitoring the behaviour of the staff with their customers.
- Testing the efficiency of work, by focusing on the waiting line.
- Checking the patience of the staff members with their customers.
- Reviewing the products available on display etc.
Based on these points on an average, companies, and organizations hire MYSTERY RESEARCH AGENCIES to conduct regular audits and send a report to the parent company to as one say, ‘cure the cause of the Internal bleeding’ within the company. Mystery shopping entirely depends on observations, which can be carried out on both large and small scale across various sectors even the central and local government.
Mystery Research – Process:
The process involves a researcher going undercover as a regular shopper or customer who reviews the overall activities of the site and notes every detail carefully as they have been asked to do. These activities could be anything for instance-reviewing the staff activity, friendliness of the staff to make the customer comfortable, or test the knowledge of the team about their products, etc. could be the base of conducting the research. The researcher also can ask other relevant questions directly to the staff members or queries to the shopkeeper regarding a specific product or service before buying the product. After the research is complete, the researcher has to fill the questionnaire or any other mode of collecting the data which further has to be reported back to the agency for henceforth processing and analysing of the received data to help improve the company’s customer satisfaction department and overall benefit of the company.
A general skill of the staff members or sales person to sell their product is vital in the company if the seller doesn’t know how to sell; the product will never be sold. This is a critical point that a researcher has to keep in mind. Also, the researcher never reveals his identity, never! It is a secret, only known to the researcher or the Mystery Shopping Agency.
Reading this type of research tool may excite some of you readers, to be like a RAW Agent and work undercover, well, anything that motivates you to be one is a profit for the Agency and your pockets as well.
Who can be a mystery shopper?
The answer to this anonymous question is that anybody can be a mystery shopper. If anybody is interested in being one, he/she can simply take up mystery shopping assignments from different market research agencies and also get paid for their shopping tasks as per the requirements. It is not necessary that the companies will pay you out straight, but they will reimburse the money whenever the audit report is verified. It is indeed in very popular demand these days, especially in big metropolitan cities. Thus, the answer is simple; anybody can be a mystery shopper.
Let’s suppose that you intend to join any ABC company as a mystery shopper. The next most ethical thing to do is to verify if the company is real or fake. Anyone would either ask any of his known references if any or simply Google, the name of the company.
Just for your information, there are lots and lots of spammers and fraud people, who create such websites and create such demands in the market, collect money in any way possible, like registration fee being the most common, and then just vanishing or not refunding the money back.
But, the simplest way possible is to Google” Is ABC company real?” in answer to which Google will lay down all the details available on the Internet. This step of verification has to be done with in-depth critical analysis as if one person is registering with a company or a firm; they will have to lay down potential personal information, which if encounters with the fraud doers, will create a lot of damage and loss.
After that with all the details filled and sanctioned, the company will verify you as an authentic personnel. After that, we just have to complete all the formalities, check your city, if any assignment is available. And you are good to go!
After an abundant amount to experiments and testing on mystery shopping, the professional auditors have laid down specific tips and tricks to enhance the performance of the mystery shopping agencies and mystery shoppers, to avoid mistakes and better the output of the research.
- Measuring the hygiene and overall personality of staff:
The marketing and retail of any business is a significant factor when it comes to building a brand name and creating desires within the customers to visit their stores. After success with this step, who will the customers interact with? The answer is obvious, the staff. Now, it is essential for any brand or company to correctly groom and train their employees to communicate with the customers in a rather unique and intriguing way. The sale representatives are the so-called ‘Brand Ambassadors’ of the company or simply the face of the company. Upon this underlying assumption, the first step to build a positive image of the store or the brand is proper personality grooming and hygiene of the employees.
Example– hair should be appropriately combed, clean and ironed uniform, restricted jewellery, etc.
- Taking your stand:
The mystery shopper enters the store and starts recording the actual on ground realities. This is one of the jobs where the auditor has to be completely honest with his observations and note them keeping the ethics of the Mystery shopping agency in mind. In market research audits, authenticity on ground is the main focus of any agency, so to ensure that authenticity of the audit report, the auditor has to get his report signed by the store manager. Once the report is signed, it is validated by the agency for further proceedings. But, not all store managers sign the report very quickly, because of the apparent reason of a bad report. There is no requirement to argue, follow the ethics of the agency and try convincing the shop manager. If in-case nothing follows, report to the agency.
- To play the part, look the part:
Dressing appropriate on the day of the audit is very important. It is taught to prepare physically for an audit, by this I mean, to wear appropriate clothes according to the type of venue and audit. The shopper has to smartly choose an attire to compliment his day of audit research.
Example– A shopper should wear formal while going to the sales office of the office purchase or wear casual clothing to a movie audit.
Not just these, there are many different audit tips given by different professional auditors and researchers some of them can be; reading the questionnaires beforehand for better understanding, certifications, improvement comments, etc.
Mystery Shopping Agencies in India-
- Translucent Pixel Otter Pvt. ltd. (TopHawks)
- Floor Walk Consultants Pvt.Ltd.
- LeCapri Market Research LLP
Mystery shopping is merely letting some mystery man review your business as a customer for noting down the measure of customer satisfaction in your own business. Well, I am sure that by now you all will be able to understand what mystery shopping is as a process. This tool of market research helps to find out what customers really think about your brand or business. The detailed audit report is then sent to the Mystery Shopping Agency for analysis. This method helps in monitoring the service performance and the client’s responses. Not only this, but it also makes the sales representative conscious about the likes and dislikes of the customers by identifying their needs through proper training, grooming, and hygiene of the employees.
Overall, this method improves sales opportunities and growth of the company by measuring the customer experiences and tracking the workflow of the staff and business.