Mystery Shopping: Definition, Types, Workflow. Finding the right Secret Shoppers

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Robert Koch

I write about AI, SEO, Tech, and Innovation. Led by curiosity, I stay ahead of AI advancements. I aim for clarity and understand the necessity of change, taking guidance from Shaw: 'Progress is impossible without change,' and living by Welch's words: 'Change before you have to'.

Mystery Shopping

Mystery shopping is an increasingly popular form of consumer research that allows businesses to test market a product or service.

In this blog, learn how you can use mystery shopping for your business and get insights by understanding the different types of secret shopping and what they do better than traditional forms of customer research.

Table of Contents

What is Mystery Shopping?

Mystery shopping is a method of testing the quality of services. It can be used to test the quality of products, customer service, or employee performance. The company or management selects test customers to evaluate their own service quality. The mystery shopper must not be recognized as a shopper and must act like a regular customer in order to get an accurate reading of the situation. The secret shopping is done to check if the company’s quality standards are met and whether employees are following procedure.

The primary goal of secret shopping is customer satisfaction, which leads to growth and retention of business. Satisfied customers will tell their friends about their experience, while unhappy customers are more likely to leave negative reviews online or even switch companies altogether. Mystery shopping helps businesses track these trends and take corrective action where necessary.

Secret shoppers are usually employed by other companies, but can also be employed by businesses themselves as part of their own marketing strategy. When it comes to hiring secret shoppers, most companies look for individuals who have excellent communication skills, attention to detail, and writing skills. In addition, being able to think on your feet is essential since you may be asked questions that you’re not prepared for.


At clickworker, we find the perfect Secret Shoppers for your specific needs. From our pool of 6 million Clickworkers from all over the world, we select the best candidates that match your criteria for your mystery shopping project.

Store Checks

Different types of Mystery Shopping

Mystery Shopping can be conducted in-person, over the telephone, or online. In each of these cases, mystery shoppers are looking to gather information about customer service and the customer experience.

  • In-Person secret shopping is common in industries such as retail and restaurant. Mystery shoppers visit a business and interact with employees as if they were customers. This type is often used to measure how well employees provide service and how well the business is performing from a customer’s perspective.
  • Telephone mystery shopping is for call center environments and industries where the telephone is an integral part of the customer experience. For example, a telecommunications company might use telephone mystery shopping to measure how efficiently its call center agents handle calls from customers.
  • Hybrid mystery shopping involves mystery shoppers following an entire customer journey. This type of mystery shopping is popular because it delivers a World-Class Customer Experience. For example, a hotel might use hybrid mystery shopping to measure all aspects of the customer experience, from check-in to checkout.

They can be found in different industries. Many companies use hybrid mystery shopping because it allows them to assess all aspects of their customer experience quickly and easily. Mystery shoppers can use a variety of methods to gather information, such as face-to-face interviews and surveys. This gives companies a comprehensive view of how well they are delivering on their customer experience promises.

Mystery Shoppers
It is important that the cover of the Secret Shoppers is maintained.

Benefits of Mystery Shopping

There are several benefits of mystery shopping, including:

  • It can be used for market research and customer satisfaction surveys.
  • Companies can get an understanding of their staff performance with mystery shopping.
  • Mystery shopping offers insight into how employees are responding to brand promise and SOPs, which allows for better coaching.
  • It is a method of gathering customer feedback in order to identify problems and provide solutions.
  • Mystery shoppers allow a company to get an impartial perspective of their customers, who are their primary critics.
  • Employees may not be objective in reporting issues as they know that utilizing this service will result in more work for them at the end of the day. A mystery shopper can provide you with constructive feedback concerning the internal procedures of your business.
  • You can use a mystery shopper to evaluate new products or gauge how well your current ones are selling.

Use Cases – Who is already using Mystery Shoppers and for what?

Mystery shopping is used by businesses in all industry sectors for various purposes. Some of the most common uses include:

  • Retailers use mystery shoppers to test their customer service and checkout processes.
  • Online businesses use mystery shoppers to test the usability of their websites and check for errors.
  • Social media companies use mystery shoppers to track how well their customer service representatives are responding to complaints and queries on social media platforms.
  • Care homes use mystery shoppers to assess the quality of care and service they are providing.

Purpose of Mystery Shopping

The aim of mystery shopping is a self-examination of the company. It is used to learn whether the staff comply with the guidelines and regulations. Therefore, the results of test purchases are not shared with the outside world.

These are the criteria that test customers normally examine:

  • Quality of service
  • Appearance
  • Sales quality
  • Quality of advice
  • Honesty
  • Accuracy

Customer Experience Research – Customer Satisfaction

The quality assessment of services focuses on customer satisfaction. In the end, customer satisfaction is decisive for the long-term success of a company. Why? Because competition in all industries has intensified, it is becoming increasingly difficult to acquire new customers and the importance of retaining existing customers has increased.

Customer Satisfaction
Customer satisfaction can be depicted as a pyramid.

First, there are the basic requirements. If these requirements are fulfilled, the customer will not notice them simply because he expects them. However, if these requirements are not fulfilled they reflect negatively. These include, for example, a clean salesroom or customer-friendly opening hours.

The performance requirements fulfill what the service promises. A car repair shop must know which tire is suitable for an alpine trip. And a shoe salesperson should be able to advise the customer about the right running shoes.

Enthusiasm requirements entice a “wow!” from the customer. They make customers into regular customers who appreciate this company. If, for example, an insurance broker makes a tangible commitment to his clients in the event of an insurance claim, they will reward it with loyalty. A used car dealer who also honestly states the weaknesses of the vehicle will also be rewarded with more trust than a windy smooth talker and, as a result, with regular customers.

Mystery shoppers help companies check whether all three levels of customer satisfaction are being met.

What is a Secret Shopper and what do they do?

Mystery shoppers, sometimes called secret shoppers, are often employed by a third-party company to visit stores and restaurants, banks and apartment complexes with the specific purpose of assessing customer service. They provide a record of their experience which can be used to improve the business.

The person hired is not allowed to give their opinion, but must assess the situation and report any potential issues or concerns they discover. Mystery shoppers complete surveys to collect data which may include observations as a casual observer, plus specific questions asked by the mystery shopper (or even being “difficult”).

Mystery shoppers are required to note how cleanliness of the store or facility is and if dress codes are adhered to. The company may pay for some purchases, such as those required by work-related activities; they can also get free food or an oil change as part of their deal when they mystery shop certain businesses.

The Secret Shopper: Expert or Amateur?

When it comes to mystery shopping, there are two types of shoppers: the amateur and the expert.

The amateur shopper is someone who is not familiar with the regulations and requirements of a store. They may be able to assess various factors in a store, but they are not as accurate as an expert mystery shopper.

Expert mystery shopping is used in retail and pharmaceutical stores. Expert shoppers are usually paid to carry out a mission, or they might just be asked to do it as a favor for the company. Their job is to assess all aspects of the business – from customer service to product accuracy.

What makes a secret shopper a good mystery shopper?

There are a few key things that make a secret shopper a good mystery shopper.

  • The first is having good written communication skills; this way, you can accurately document your findings in the shop report.
  • The second is having a good memory – details are important for a shop report, as they allow the company to see what you saw in your interactions with employees. Remembering certain aspects of the visit will help you write an accurate and informative report.
  • The third key skill for mystery shoppers is being discreet – don’t bust your own cover! Be aware of how you’re dressed and behaving while performing the “shopping” process; mystery shopping can be easily spotted if done incorrectly.
  • Lastly, have good interpersonal skills in order to interact with employees and customers during the shopping process. This will give you an idea of what kind of customer service the company provides. Being polite and professional will also leave a good impression on those who you interacted with during your visit.
Secret Shopper
Choosing the right candidates as secret shoppers is important.

How does Mystery Shopping work?

  1. Determine what your objective is. This could be anything from ensuring the quality of service to identifying weaknesses in cleanliness. Once you know what your objectives are, you need to define customer satisfaction criteria. This will help guide the mystery shopper and make sure they deliver the desired results.
  2. A company or agency develops an evaluation sheet (paper, app or website) based on the criteria catalogue. This document will outline how each element of customer satisfaction should be evaluated by the mystery shopper.
  3. Companies often commission an agency to carry out the test for them. The agency will then recruit a team of mystery shoppers who meet all of the necessary requirements.

The process of mystery shopping involves the customer testing a company’s service in such a way that it goes undetected. They must act as regular customers and follow all of the normal procedures so that no one suspects they are being monitored.

After carrying out their undercover mission, shoppers return to base and fill out their evaluation sheets accordingly. These sheets are then analysed by either someone within the company or an external consultant, revealing gaps and strengths for improvement.

Mystery Shopping Tips – Common Mistakes

Mistake #1: Choosing the “wrong secret shopper”

Friends and acquaintances are used to be secret shopper.

Better: In general, it is not advisable to use friends and acquaintances or even regular customers of the company as mystery shoppers. They are usually loyal and deliver falsified results.

Mistake #2: Using unspecific questions like “ Was the staff friendly?”

Unclearly formulated questionnaires make it difficult to obtain evaluable results. This is very subjective and only partially measurable. There are better ways to judge “friendliness”.


  • Did the staff smile at you?
  • Were you asked how you are?
  • Did the staff focus their attention only on you during your conversation?
  • Were you offered a beverage?

Mistake #3: Overwhelming your secret shoppers with the task

In many cases amateurs are overwhelmed with the assessment of certain facts. How, for example, can a non-expert determine whether the correct fault diagnosis has been made at a car repair shop?

Better: Secret shopper who can deliver the desired output based on previously developed criteria with the customer.

Final Word: Mystery Shopping – A Challenge

Mystery shopping enables your company to review the quality of the services you offer and to reveal their weaknesses and strengths. If you are aware of both, you can apply appropriate measures to eliminate errors and promote positive aspects. This improves customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.

If you’re looking for a reliable and experienced team to handle your next mystery shopping project, look no further than clickworker! We offer a wide range of services that are sure to meet your needs, and our Service Team of experienced professionals is always available to help you out should you have any questions.

FAQs on Mystery Shopping

Is mystery shopping ethical?

Mystery shopping is a practice where businesses hire individuals to act as secret shoppers in order to gather information about the quality of customer service. Although mystery shopping can provide valuable insights, it can also be seen as unethical because it relies on deception.

What is the mystery shopper method?

The mystery shopper method is a research technique used to evaluate the quality of service or compliance with standards. It involves having an individual pose as a customer or client and interact with a business in order to assess the quality of service.

What are the disadvantages of a mystery shopper?

The disadvantages of mystery shopping are that it can be costly and time-consuming, and there is always the potential for human error and bias. Additionally, mystery shoppers may not be representative of your average customer, which could lead to inaccurate results.