Mystery Shops:  How often? How many?

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May 29, 2015 by Elaine Buxton

Do these two questions about your mystery shopping program have you puzzled? Problem solved!  Timing and frequency of shops go hand in hand.  Based on our decades of experience, here are five things to consider:

1.        Hierarchy:   When thinking about the number of shops to conduct for your stores, think about your company’s hierarchy.   If it’s not feasible for mystery shoppers to visit all of your stores, select a representative sample. The locations that you choose for shops need to account for differences in leadership for regions, divisions or other unique differences within the hierarchy. For example, include shops for a division that has mostly smaller stores, but also include them for a division that has larger, higher volume stores.  Rural vs. urban, and geographic diversity also are represented in good sampling.

2.       Shop Data:  At the start, consider how you will use the mystery shop data.   Will upper management only see the data, or more typically, will the individual store manager and associates see results?  How quickly you can act on the data determines the right number of shops per store. If you choose weekly shops for each location, will store managers have sufficient time to review the mystery shop results, and encourage any needed changes before the next weekly shop occurs?  If a second shopper visits the store before there is time to discuss the previous shop, the manager may not have communicated with the associate about important improvement tips.  Associates may unknowingly miss the same behaviors, and this can be demoralizing.  Allow enough time in between shops for coaching and retraining.   To help with this, we can provide a buffer of days in between shops for the same store if desired.

3.       Speed of Changes within your Stores:  Do conditions, promotions or staffing change rapidly within your stores? If yes, keep this in mind when determining how often and how many shops for each of your stores.   With fast changes, it’s important to space out the shops more.  The shopper guidelines and survey questions may need to be adjusted before sending in the next shopper.  On the other hand, if your business is seasonal such as an amusement park, arranging for more shops within a shorter time period is desirable.

4.       Promotions:    Some clients desire shops to coincide with promotions, which is a great way to determine if associates communicate the specials and if they do so with enthusiasm and clarity. If this is the case, choose the exact dates for the shops to coincide with promotion beginning and end date. This is important information to communicate with us, as we want to deliver valuable data to you.  

5.       Rewards:  If your company delivers employee incentives  such as extra pay at the end of quarter for perfect mystery shops, shop timing is critical.  A late shop could mean delayed payment for an associate who earned an incentive. We can consult with you to determine the last possible shop date, to allow enough time for the shop to be reviewed and finalized before payroll is issued.  Timing before the start of the shops is important, too. If shoppers deliver prizes such as gift cards, we build in time at the front to receive payment for the gift cards, receive the card inventory and ship the cards our shoppers before the date that shops begin.


While these considerations do not offer hard and fast answers, thinking about them will put you on your way to the best schedule and quantity of shops for your unique needs. 

Tagged: mystery shopping,

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