Mystery shopping helps businesses comply with complex regulations

Businesses don't have to use mystery shopping solely for the purpose of tweaking their service strategies.

Businesses don't have to use mystery shopping solely for the purpose of tweaking their service strategies.

While an improvement in the overall customer experience is often the primary focus of a mystery shopping campaign, businesses can use the same services and strategies as a way to reveal a variety of other insightful data.

In addition to standard customer service research, many mystery shopping companies hire secret shoppers to conduct compliance audits. Audit investigations are especially common in heavily regulated industries, such as casinos, liquors stores and health clinics. However, businesses in retail and other general industries often have to comply with complicated federal regulations, as well. Mystery shopping audit programs can deal with regulations at the local, state and federal level. Franchises can also perform audits to ensure individual stores are compliant with overall brand policies

Even U.S. government agencies hire secret shoppers as a way to investigate whether businesses are complying with federal regulations. For example, the Federal Trade Commission said it conducts undercover federal investigations every year at funeral homes as a way to make sure establishments throughout the nation are properly incorporating consumer protection measures into their operations.

In many cases, these compliance programs are highly successful. In 2012, the FTC found a total of 24 violations at various funeral homes throughout all 50 states. The ability to identify the businesses that failed to comply with federal consumer protection laws allowed the FTC to initiate important education programs that help funeral homes learn how to properly conduct business with their customers. A report from the FTC said all but one of the non-compliant businesses found in the 2012 mystery shopping campaign are now enrolled in the federal Funeral Rules Offenders Program, which is a three-year training option that businesses can choose as an alternative to costly lawsuits.

Compliance and customer service are closely connected
While audits and compliance investigations appear separate from the standard customer experience mystery shopping program, the two are still closely linked. For instance, many consumer-related regulations come out of an explicit need for businesses to better serve their customers. Many companies find it hard to fully understand complex regulations and legal jargon. However, hiring a mystery shopping company to investigate whether a company's operations are indeed following rules is a great way to not only get up to speed with legal regulations, but to also create a much happier customer base that can lead to more long-term revenue.