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How to Hire a Mystery Shopper for Your Small Business

Did you know that hiring a mystery shopper is a great way to evaluate and improve the customer experience (CX) of your small business? It’s not just for massive, nationwide enterprises. 

In this blog, we’ll explore the benefits of CX evaluations for small- and medium-sized businesses from any industry. By examining your sales process, you’ll get a truly objective look at your business’s performance and see how to improve. With an experienced evaluator, you can even gain insight into what practices work well for your competitors—and implement them yourself. We’ll also provide insight into how often to hire a mystery shopper. Plus, get an idea of what to look for during the hiring process. 

With that said, let’s get shopping! 

What Is Mystery Shopping All About?

Mystery shopping has been around since the 1940s, so if you’re involved in the world of business, the idea shouldn’t be mysterious at all. The idea is to hire a person—or a whole team of people—to pose as potential customers and shop at your stores. Then, they’ll evaluate their shopping experience to provide an objective perspective. You can use that data to identify winning moments in your CX, as well as areas that need improvement.

But mystery shopping isn’t just for big box stores trying to ensure consistency across thousands of properties. A CX evaluation can provide any business with valuable data on how their potential customers move through the shopping experience. That’s why it’s good for companies of all sizes to incorporate regular CX evaluations into their continual development plan. 

Benefits of Hiring a Mystery Shopper

There are plenty of benefits to doing a CX evaluation on your business. While the details can vary based on unique business attributes, industries, and locations, anyone can profit from these game-changing advantages of hiring a mystery shopper. 

Get an Objective Perspective

You can try to do a CX evaluation on your business yourself… but can you trust yourself to be truly unbiased? Many small and growing businesses do their best to be strategic with their capital, so being your own mystery shopper might be a tempting shortcut. But it’s not always worth the gambit. Plus, if your employees already know who you are, your data will be compromised as soon as you walk in the door. 

By hiring an outsider to do a CX evaluation, you can better ensure that you’ll get an honestly objective perspective. Your employees won’t know who the mystery shopper is, so they’ll be more likely to act as they would with any other customer. Additionally, your mystery shopper won’t have previous experience with your company—so they won’t be tempted to sugar-coat their evaluation. 

All of these factors show how vital it is to hire a mystery shopper. If you want to get a serious look at how your business operates from the perspective of potential customers, there’s no better way to do it. 

Identify Key Areas to Improve Your CX

When a mystery shopper performs their CX evaluation and gives their report, you’ll get a lot of data about how your business typically operates. This helps you identify winning moments in their interactions with your staff—as well as areas that could use improvement. After you analyze your evaluation, it’s important to celebrate the wins and work to make changes if you want your CX to improve. It’ll boost your bottom line, generate repeat customers and good word-of-mouth, and altogether increase customer satisfaction. 

Additionally, use CX evaluation insights to guide more training and development for your team. Is your current instruction being retained and implemented? Do staff members know your offerings backward and forward? Do they understand customers’ needs and tailor their pitch as needed? These are important questions that can be answered with a good mystery shop. 

Find Competitive Insights

One way a mystery shopper evaluates your CX is by comparing your business to your direct competitors. While the competition can seem harsh, it’s actually a great way for you to gain direct insight into what your competitors are doing. How are they approaching customers’ needs? What do they do well? And, more importantly, how can you match or even top that? Learning what works for them can allow you to make improvements to your own business and close the gap. 

Use Data to Guide Continual Improvements

After you’re done with your first CX evaluation, you can mark the experience down as a benchmark for your company’s performance. Next, you’ll make improvements and implement changes. But how do you know if your changes are making an impact—besides looking at your revenue? Use your latest CX evaluation as a benchmark to identify progress. Then, hire another mystery shopper after you’ve had time to make updates. 

By analyzing your data over time, you can guide continual improvements, as well as celebrate the achievements you’ve already made. Your bottom line will be sure to see the impact. 

What to Look For in a Mystery Shopper

While many people might be attracted to the glitz and glamor of what they think mystery shopping is like, not everyone is a good hire for a CX evaluation. You should keep a few key items in mind on your mystery shopper wish list: 

  • Relevant Experience. A first-time mystery shopper might not have the insight you’re looking for. You want someone who will have something to compare their experience with. It’s especially helpful if they’re also experienced in your specific industry so they know what to expect. 
  • Good Attention to Detail. You’re not looking for impressionism here—you want solid details and hard facts for your CX evaluation. Look for a person who will review every last facet of their shop, not give a vaguely positive sentiment. Data is most definitive when you have as much information to work with as you can get. 
  • Strong Communication Skills. Again, for a CX evaluation to be worthwhile for your business, your mystery shopper should be able to provide you with specific feedback. Communication truly is king here. Your hire should be able to accurately convey a summary of their experience, as well as give worthwhile feedback. 
  • Professionalism. A good mystery shopper should be someone you can trust with your business—someone with integrity, who’s reliable and punctual, and who can conduct themselves discreetly. If your employees can pick out your CX evaluator from a crowd, you’ve already lost valuable data. 
  • High Ethical Standards. This is, after all, an inside job. Your CX evaluator should understand and adhere to confidentiality and ethics guidelines during their evaluation. They shouldn’t be here just to get a free shopping experience and then write off their expenses without providing you with valuable intelligence. 

Although this might seem like a lot to expect, it’s important to hire the right person—or team—for the job. Otherwise, you’re wasting time and money on a CX evaluation that won’t yield reliable results. 

How Often Should I Hire a Mystery Shopper?

Now, say you’ve got a mystery shopper on hand, you’ve received your first evaluation, and you’ve implemented changes based on the data to improve your sales process. When should you schedule your next CX evaluation? 

First, give yourself, your business, and your employees some time to let the implemented changes sink in. If your staff is still struggling to adjust to new protocols, it’s not a good time to run another evaluation. Make sure they’ve fully bought into the new policies and are using them to the business’s advantage. 

Next, check your industry standards. The frequency of CX evaluations might be different from one trade to another. Find a comparable business and see what they have to say. Alternatively, talk to CX evaluation experts to find out what their advice might be for your business. 

Additionally, consider seasonal variations for your company. Does your customer experience change throughout the year? For example, if you run a company that sells windshields for RVs, you might see a spike in sales once summer camping season starts up again. If you want to see if your business is running with just as much quality in the busiest times as in the slowest times, try CX evaluations during those seasons to compare. 

Finally, take your budget into consideration. If you’re paying for CX evaluations every few weeks, you might not get as much of a return on investment (ROI) as if you did one every couple of months. However, paying for a mystery shopper might not be as expensive as you think. Regardless, it’s better to do some evaluations than none at all.  

CX Evaluations are Great for Businesses of All Sizes

It’s no mystery. Performing a CX evaluation can provide incredible insight into how your company’s sales process is performing with your customers. Your mystery shopper can identify areas where your business shines, as well as spot potential issues before they become worse. Gain insight into what competitors are doing well, and create a benchmark so you can gauge your own performance over time. 

Overall, incorporating CX evaluations into your business can help you improve customer satisfaction—and boost sales.