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Mystery shopping’s advantages and disadvantages for measuring customer satisfaction

2011 October 6
by InSight: A TeleSight Blog

Companies seeking to gain an accurate impression of their customers' opinions may use a variety of different methods to go about this task. One of the methods employed by some businesses is referred to as mystery shopping, where independent individuals pose as customers in a given store and provide companies with an unbiased opinion of their performance.

In retail, particularly, this tactic can be quite illuminating. For example, a mystery shopper can deliberately create a difficult situation for a cashier or salesperson, forcing the employee to maintain a professional attitude regardless of their personal discomfort. The shopper, having no loyalty to the business, can then tell company representatives what needs to be changed to better serve their customers.

In other fields of business, this tactic does not work. It provides an illustration of the customer experience but does not specifically measure customer satisfaction. Banks and credit unions are examples of institutions that will not benefit from mystery shopping.

The primary reason for their lack of effectiveness in financial institutions is that banks operate quite differently from retail outlets. A mystery shopper is less likely to provide an accurate portrayal of a bank's customers. Satisfaction surveys, as an alternative, are a direct method of gauging customer's feelings, and may provide better feedback as a result.

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