A mystery shopper is a person commissioned by either an outside agency or a company's upper management to gauge the overall effectiveness and pleasure of using a given store, gas station, movie theater, bank, dealership, health care facility, housing, restaurant or other venue. A shopper is given specific instructions on how to carry out an activity and does so, reporting back with the use of questionnaires, guided free recall, or recording. The shopper completes reports, gathers information, and otherwise tests the establishment while blending in as a regular customer.
Mystery shoppers are asked to report back about the physical area of their location. There is inquiry about cleanliness of dining areas, floors, tables, and other furniture and rooms. Specific information about the condition of the machinery visible, amount of wait time, visibility and legibility of signs, price tags, menus, and exits may also be asked. Mystery shoppers' effectiveness is hinged on them being treated as regular customers, so the areas they report about could be anywhere customers could access. Shoppers may be asked to perform specific tasks, such as counting the number of tables in a restaurant or going into every stall in a restroom.
When asking about products, there will usually be specific questions asked of the mystery shopper about the appearance, quantity, quality, or preparation of an item. Tasks may include checking for a particular item or size in stock or ordering a particular item off the menu. Mystery shoppers may need to purchase a specific product as part of their mystery shopping experience and return it as another. There may be questions about the amount of product on shelves or otherwise accessible to the shopper. There may be questions about how long it took to receive your order, whether it was correct and satisfactory, and whether it was enjoyable. Not all mystery experiences require a purchase. Some shops may be researching a product, its location, availability, and employee knowledge of it.
Employees may need to be asked specific questions. The shopper will need to take note of such things as how many employees, where they were, how long it took for one to greet her, and so on. Employees may need to be recorded by name or description and spoken about particularly. Objective judgments about friendliness, attractiveness, politeness, helpfulness, and courteousness will need to be noted and reported. There will be a rating system in place, such as from 1 to 10 or a gradient affirmative response. Shoppers may also be asked opinions about whether they enjoyed their shopping experience, if they would come back, and whether they might suggest the place to others for patronage.
The general impression of the establishment will be need to be recorded and reported. A mystery shopper may be asked to look up the place of business online or in the local phone book before visiting or they may go in knowing nothing about it. A phone call, examination of the outside, or walk around for ambiance of a business establishment may be included in a mystery shopping experience.
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