Tips for building mystery shoppers' value in the digital age

As many industries put greater emphasis on big data to understand their customers' behavior, you could ask the question: Why are secret shoppers relevant in today's digital world?

While not as exciting - or life-threatening - as being an undercover Mi6 agent, mystery shoppers play a central role in uncovering gaps in customers' experiences and service. Yet, as many industries put greater emphasis on big data to understand their customers' behavior, you could ask the question: Why are secret shoppers relevant in today's digital world?

Tips for clarifying the situation on the ground
For many businesses, it's far more impactful to gauge how well employees respond to training or perform in customer-facing situations in real-time than by combing transactional data derived through their point of sale system. PizzaMarketplace.com, an online source for industry insights, explained mystery shoppers provide business owners in the restaurant and hospitality industry with granular information that's almost impossible to get from big data analysis.

Here are a few strategies secret shoppers should consider when taking on an assignment:

  • Read requirements ahead of time to recognize what the restaurant is looking for
    In most instances, restaurants put their employees through an initiation process that trains them on standard practices. Many companies build their brand on the promise of delivering optimal speed of service, as well as an engaging experience. These will be clearly outlined in a list of items that secret shoppers will be responsible for recognizing during their trip. These lists can become extensive, so it's important to study them carefully beforehand.
  • Keep diligent notes onsite
    While some people have a perfect memory for details, most need to keep track of their experiences in stores through a variety of methods. For many people the answer lies in their mobile device. You shouldn't run out and buy an iPhone, for instance, if you're considering becoming a mystery shopper, but there are apps that can make the job a lot easier if you already own a smartphone. According to iMore, a branch of the tech website Mobile Nations, suggested Evernote for those with an iOS device. This app allows users to keep free-form notes quickly and easily, and it helps organize your ideas by tagging information that might be stored in different notebooks on your smartphone or tablet.
  • Write your report as soon as possible
    With the help of your note-taking device, you should get your thoughts down on paper or computer screen as quickly as possible. Even the best notes are a supplement to your short- and long-term memory, meaning they can help keep track of information that stands out at the time but won't tell the whole story. It's easier to coherently detail your experience when you've just completed your mystery shopper assignment because it's fresh in your memory. The longer the information sits around in your brain, the less clear it becomes.