Generate The Results You Need

Believe it or not, the mystery shopping industry broke $600 million in revenue a few years back. There are now over 400 companies in the US alone that deliver mystery shops. With so many programs available, it’s likely that you have tried installing one at your restaurants. You might have even seen the beginnings of improvement from your team. Then again, maybe you didn’t – or at least not yet.

The problem is that most of these programs just aren’t designed properly, so they don’t always generate the results you need. These programs should be revenue- and profit-generating powerhouses, but many times they miss the mark because they weren’t designed correctly from the start. Whatever the case might be, if you are investing in mystery shopping or other customer experience measurement, chances are your design could be improved.

4 Ways to Design Your Mystery Shop Program

4 Ways to Design Mystery Shopping Programs for Success

#1. Make It Matter

A great mentor once told me that for any data collection tool to work, you have to make it matter. To do that with mystery shopping, there are a few components that must be in place.

First, the design of your survey needs to be concise. If you’re measuring 50 to 100 data points, can you guarantee that every one of them is going to matter to your customers? You wouldn’t cover 50 different items in a staff meeting. You would focus on what matters most to your short term and long term goals.

For example, imagine what would happen if you knew exactly what your top 5 revenue-driving behaviors were. Imagine what would happen if you then tracked the trends of those behaviors and learned how to replicate them. And then, imagine if you could replicate your top successes for every single customer. That’s what happens when you focus on what matters. If you stick to 25-30 key items that will make the most impact, your team can focus on the key drivers for your restaurants and improve on those.

After you know you’re measuring the right things, the next key piece is reinforcing good behavior. This can be achieved by placing incentives behind the program. This is another way to make it matter. When results are rewarded, your team understands that this is important, and they will focus on it. It can even create a healthy competition to be the best between districts, areas, even down to your individual restaurants.

So remember, to make any data collection tool work as it should, you as the leader have to make it matter.

#2. Measure & Praise Improvement:

The truth is that it doesn’t matter if your mystery shop score is a 70%, 20%, or even 100%. The important thing is to measure improvement from your baseline, not in a vacuum or even a single point in time. If you measure progress over time, you can take a look at the improvement each district or location has made or not made. That is where the real results lie.

Along with measuring improvements, make sure you communicate to the entire organization about who the top performers are. One simple (but effective) way to do this is to give ‘atta boys’ through a customer experience newsletter. Your mystery shopping provider can create and deliver this for you as part of any program. It allows for leadership to show appreciation for the top performers, and it shows that your team is invested in the program. Call out the top performers and those that have made the greatest improvements.

#3. Get Real, Use Video

Remember the old adage GIGO – garbage in, garbage out. The quality of your output is the direct result of the quality of your input – so make sure that the data you are gathering is good. One of the best ways to do this is to mix some video into your program. Today, video shops are widely available, and they provide more accurate data than traditional mystery shops. Knowing that the data is rock solid is critical to making effective adjustments. So anytime there are questions, be ready to deploy the use of video. Your program manager should be able to advise you on the design, as well as how and when to use this tool. The videos you collect don’t have to be limited to mystery shopping data points, either – they can be powerful training tools all on their own.

#4. Tier Your Locations

All locations are not equal. Prescribing the same customer experience improvement program for all location types would be the equivalent of a doctor prescribing pain medication for a cold and for a terminal illness. You know your organization better than anyone, so you can probably list your top performers, middle performers, and lower performers. Start by grouping these locations into buckets of A, B, and C. Once your groups have been determined, you can fine-tune your program to be more targeted. For example, an A performer might get a scaled-down program to save some budget for a C location to get more shops, use video to further diagnose what is really happening, or set up more in-person training or other tools. That laser focus can help them move from Cs to Bs, which in turn provides you with tremendous ROI.


#1. Make It Matter
#2. Track Improvement
#3. Get Real, Use Video
#4. All locations are NOT the same

Mystery shopping programs should be viewed as an investment with a measurable return. Utilizing the 4 ideas from above can dramatically improve your results. Your provider should be able to make these adjustments and get you on the path to creating a program that generates a measurable ROI. After all, that’s why you’re making the investment in the first place.

Following these steps will improve the design of your program and lead you on the path of continuous improvement, which should be the goal of every program installed. Always take a look and ask, ‘What can we do different or better to improve our performance and results?’

In today’s extremely fast-moving world this is critical not only for success but for survival.

At Reality Based Group, we believe that mystery shopping can be the difference between business success or failure.

Find out more about how mystery shopping can change your business! 

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