A long-held misconception exists that mystery shoppers supply businesses with information similar to that drawn from ordinary customer feedback. In fact, mystery shoppers provide a much different service, especially to those businesses aiming to be among the "best-in-class" within their industry. When used in combination with customer feedback, mystery shoppers are very powerful in helping businesses achieve their customer service objectives "“ which ultimately are responsible for driving revenue by keeping customers satisfied and wanting to return.
Customer feedback, typically obtained through customer feedback mechanisms, such as interactive voice response surveys (IVR), allows companies to define their own unique brand of customer services that answers the demands of their markets. Mystery shoppers, on the other hand, help to ensure the proper implementation of these customer service strategies through ongoing self-evaluation and troubleshooting. By taking an unbiased, qualitative measurement of a store's operational habits, mystery shoppers can pinpoint which revenue-generating behaviors need to be reinforced with employees, allowing the company to respond accordingly "“ whether it is additional training, policy modification or even employee admonition.
For example, while a regular shopper can tell you whether or not their experience was pleasant, they are not likely to report how quickly the sales associate greeted, whether the sales associate suggested additional merchandise, and if the correct merchandise was displayed. Mystery shoppers are equipped with a pre-determined set of criteria from which to evaluate a store's ability to execute its own unique customer service model. It is through mystery shopping that a company can find out exactly where it falls short and where it excels.
Customer feedback is a valuable source of information as well because it considers the perspective of the actual consumer - someone who patrons a store on their own accord. These people are not consciously concerned with customer service and business models; they are looking for the store to fulfill their needs via products and service. It is through customer feedback that a business can determine if it is successfully filling its customer needs.
However, customer feedback should never be used as a substitute for mystery shoppers. Rather, customer feedback should be used in combination with mystery shoppers to gain two separate but equally important perspectives. Together, these tools support each other in supplying businesses with a complete picture: what their customers expect and the extent to which their employees are meeting standards of service to satisfy those expectations. If used in isolation, a business only learns half the story, which can ultimately lead it down a road of uninformed, if not bad, decision making.