What is mystery shopping ?

mystery shopping related terms mystery consumer secret shopper is a tool used externally by market research companies watchdog organizations or internally by companies themselves to measure quality of service or compliance with regulation or to gather specific information about products and services the mystery consumers specific identity and purpose are generally not known by the establishment being evaluated mystery shoppers perform specific tasks such as purchasing a product asking questions registering complaints or behaving in a certain way and then provide detailed reports or feedback about their experiences mystery shopping was standard practice by the early 1940s as a way to measure employee integrity tools used for mystery shopping assessments range from simple questionnaires to complete audio and video recordings mystery shopping can be used in any industry with the most common venues being retail stores hotels movie theaters restaurants fast food chains banks gas stations car dealerships apartments health clubs and health care facilities since 2010 mystery shopping has become abundant in the medical tourism industry with health care providers and medical facilities using the tool to assess and improve the customer service experience in the UK mystery shopping is increasingly used to provide feedback on customer services provided by local authorities and other nonprofit organizations such as housing associations and churches the mystery shopping industry had an estimated value of nearly 600 million dollars in the United States in 2004 according to a 2005 report commissioned by the mystery shopping providers Association & Spell companies that participated in the report experienced an average growth of 11.1% from 2003 to 2004 compared to an average growth of 12.2% the report estimates more than eight point 1 million mystery shops were conducted in 2004 the report represents the first industry association attempt to quantify the size of the mystery shopping industry the independent mystery shoppers coalition reports there are 1.5 million mystery shoppers in the United States alone similar surveys are available for European regions where mystery shopping is becoming more embedded into company procedures as a measure of its importance customer patient satisfaction is being incorporated more frequently into executive pay a study by a US firm found more than 55 percent of hospital chief executive officers surveyed in 2005 had some compensation at risk based on patient satisfaction up from only 8 percent to 20 percent a dozen years ago in the United Kingdom a mystery shoppers practitioners group has been established under the auspices of the market research society a 2011 survey by the American Express company found a clear correlation between a company's attention to customer service and customers willingness to pay more for good service cbc television's news magazine programme marketplace ran a segment on this topic during a January 2001 episode mystery shopping organizations advised that their research should only be used for employee incentive programs and that punishment or firing is an inappropriate use of mystery shopper data however stories of employees being fired as a direct result of negative mystery feedback are not uncommon the trade organization for mystery shopping providers M Spa has defined a code of Professional Standards and ethics agreement for mystery shopping providers and for mystery shoppers other organizations that have defined standards for mystery shopping re somar mrs and mr a the most widely used set of professional guidelines and ethics standards for the market research industry is iso in the state of nevada mystery shoppers must be licensed by the peel board and work under a company that has a private investigators license in order to perform mystery shopping jobs unlicensed mystery shoppers may face fines in June 2008 the American Medical Association's counsel unethical and judicial affairs released a recommendation on the use of secret shopper patients the recommendation physicians have an ethical responsibility to engage in activities that contribute to continual improvements in patient care one method for promoting such quality improvement is through the use of secret shopper patients who have been appropriately trained to provide feedback about physician performance in the clinical setting however in 2009 the council decided to withdraw the report in light of further testimony heard at the 2008 interim meeting the UK government's crown commercial surface operates a mystery shopper scheme whose remit is to provide a route for suppliers to raise concerns about public procurement practice in England you