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Mystery Shopper Checklist: A Guide To Secret Shopping

This checklist provides a linear line of questioning designed to evaluate the shopping experience and improve your business operations. Here, you'll learn about the who, what, and whys of everything mystery shopping entails. Get the information from the mystery shopper questionnaire discreetly via your mobile device with Lumiform's free online template.

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What is Mystery Shopping?

The so-called mystery shopping or secret shopping is an effective method to evaluate the performance of employees comprehensively. It is used to check compliance with prescribed behavior and work processes in the workplace and to analyze the quality of products and services. In this way, corrective measures that are necessary for the company can be initiated to improve the customer experience in the long term.

This article discusses the following:

1. How does mystery shopping work?

2. What does a mystery shopper do?

2. What are Mystery Shopper Checklists?

2. What should be included in a mystery shopper checklist?

3. Advantages of a digital mystery shopping questionnaire

4. Becoming a mystery shopper

5. Why use Lumiform for mystery shopping checklists?

shop window displaying purses and shoes

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How does mystery shopping work?

As a rule, mystery shoppers are hired to assess their own business from the perspective of the customers and to evaluate the range of services offered accordingly. In the following, you will find four facts about Mystery Shopping for companies:

  • Auditing internal processes
    Work processes and employee behavior should be trained and clearly communicated. Mystery Shopping should accurately evaluate compliance with these from an objective observer role. Mystery Shopping should not be confused with customer surveys, but should primarily check the smooth running of internal regulations.
  • Mystery Research Guidelines The specifications for mystery shopping are regulated by the market research associations. For example, no individual employee is ever mentioned by name and is never checked. An essential characteristic for professional providers of mystery shoppers is, therefore, the observance of the so-called ADM/BVM guidelines.
  • Informing the business
    Another important guideline is to inform the company/business concerned, indicating the approximate time span for the deployment.
  • Training for a uniform procedure
    The procedure of the mystery shopping assignments should always be regulated in a standardized way in order to gain comparable insights and impressions from every company and employee. For this purpose, mystery shoppers are comprehensively trained and should be informed in advance about company-specific features that need to be taken into account.

What does a mystery shopper do?

What is a mystery shopper? A mystery shopper should be trained in mystery shopper guidelines as well as know the exact ideas and specifications of the specific company being tested. In the following, you will find three tips that will help to optimally prepare mystery shopper activities and responsibilities:

  1. Avoid too many details
    It is quite relevant that the mystery shopper has to remember many impressions at once, so the aspects to be tested should not go too much into detail but remain general. This should also be clarified in advance.
  2. Data must be entered immediately
    Observations should be documented immediately after use to record the results as accurately as possible. The data acquisition is done with the help of standardized mystery shopping sheets.
  3. Control and evaluation
    The collected data should definitely be checked regularly for correctness, since the mystery shopping method can always lead to data manipulation. A tester should therefore be prepared to check the data. After the documentation, the data should be forwarded as soon as possible to the responsible person in the company concerned for analysis and evaluation.

What are Mystery Shopper Checklists?

Companies can test their products and services with the help of mystery shoppers or conduct their own market research. Checklists can be used to give mystery shoppers an easy way to assess the product or service.

The checklists can contain questions of all types. Depending on the industry, typical test elements for mystery shopper checklists include:

  • External and internal impression
  • Employee friendliness and initiative
  • Cleanliness and order
  • Product presentation and inventory
  • Competence and closing orientation
  • Overall impression

Checklists for mystery shopping are used in various industries that have one thing in common: Contact with the customer. These include, for example, pharmacies, car dealerships, banks, call centers, retail and specialty stores, fitness studios, restaurants, and hotels.

Companies hope that evaluations based on a mystery shopper checklist will improve customer service and customer satisfaction in particular, as well as enabling them to better comply with specifications and regulations.

What Should Be Included in a Mystery Shopper Form?

Firstly, be aware that the questions should depend on the branch and the product. Generally, you should always ask about the overall experience. You should also ask if the mystery shopper has any improvements or suggestions. In the following, we summarized some of the topics you should cover depending on what you want to evaluate:

Questions That Can be Found on a Secret Shopper Product Checklist

Why does one product get bought over another that’s competing in the same market?

This may be a fairly straightforward question to the average person, but it can downright stump the savviest of businessmen and inventors alike. When all you do every day, day in and day out, is look at, test, and redesign a toothbrush, you might lose sight of the shore and what consumers are really looking for when they go to the store.

How can they outcompete their competitors? What does a shopper look for when they decide to buy one electric razor over another?

That’s what many businessmen and women are asking themselves.

It’s not enough for the product to be the cheapest or of the highest quality. The purpose of employing a shopper to, well, shop, is for the business to acquire priceless feedback about how their brand relates to the masses. It will also give their product an even greater competitive edge in a market that’s already saturated with countless brands of toilet brushes, granola bars, and desktops.

A mystery shopper in the product industry’s main role will be to evaluate the quality of the designated item. They will rate the user experience and make suggestions for improvement.

Below, are some questions you might encounter on a secret shopper evaluation form in the product industry:

  • How is the quality of the product (sturdiness, materials, durability, etc.)?
  • Are there any defects (broken, cracked, or missing parts, etc.)?
  • Is the packaging visually appealing, whole, and undamaged?
  • How is the user experience? Is it easy to use and intuitive or awkward and unhandy?

Why do Business Owners Employ People to Eat Their Food in a Gastronomic facility?

A gastronomic facility covers any business that falls under food service. That can be anything from five-star restaurants to the deli across the street.

It’s not uncommon for business owners in the foodservice industry to own more than one restaurant. That means they have to divide their time between two, three, four, or more restaurants. Keeping track of that many moving parts and ensuring quality standards are being met and upheld by the staff in every restaurant isn’t always feasible, especially when your employees are on their best behavior when they see you come through the door.

Let’s be honest, workers slack off. They get complacent, even lazy in their roles. It’s not every single employee, of course, but everyone knows that one person who is happy enough to sit back, relax, and collect their paycheck. Maybe that’s good for them, but it’s bad for business, and that’s why restaurant owners are getting creative.

The benefit of paying someone to eat at a restaurant is the staff doesn’t know who it will be or when they will come. This gives business owners an honest representation of staff friendliness, waiter response time, and how good the cook actually is in the kitchen.

As a company employing someone to come in and grade the quality of the food and the friendly service of the staff, these are some topics that are important to have evaluated in gastronomic establishments:

  • Food quality
  • Taste
  • Ambiente
  • Staff and their kindness
  • If the food was served in a timely manner
  • Cleanliness

Here are some examples of the questions you might be asked when you do a mystery shopper guest check:

  • Were the tables and chairs organized and free from damage?
  • Was the general ambience relaxing and comfortable?
  • How does the food taste?
  • Did the server have knowledge of the menu?
  • Were your beverages delivered within four minutes?
  • Did the staff wear clean aprons and unwrinkled uniforms?
  • Did the manager come to visit your table?

For a more extensive list of questions, check out Lumiform’s Restaurant Mystery Shopper Checklist Template for free.

What Questions Will be on a Mystery Shopper Form for Retail?

The main purpose of this checklist is to ensure all shopper’s—not just the ones being employed to shop at the store—have the experience of a lifetime. Okay, it doesn’t have to be the best experience they’ve ever had, but it should be good enough to keep them coming back time and time again.

In today’s world, a shopper can just as easily log on to their computer and have their weekly shopping to-do list done in a matter of minutes, virtually, from the safety and comfort of their home. Why would they waste the gas money to go all the way to the store?

The answer is people still go to buy their goods from a brick and mortar store for the experience.

With home office gaining popularity since the covid pandemic, people want an excuse to leave their homes and get some fresh air as well as some much-needed social interaction.

During the visit, the secret shopper will peruse the shelves and go about their shopping much the same way as they normally would. The only difference is now they are paying special attention to the quality of their experience at the store.

The following are topics important in retail, so it’ll be helpful to supply a shopper with questions pertaining to these categories:

  • Selection (e.g. of clothing, food, technology)
  • Whether they found what they were looking for
  • Product quality
  • Staff kindness
  • Prices
  • Cleanliness

Below, are examples of questions that fit under each category mentioned above:

  • Is the restroom clean, fully stocked, and well maintained (Toilet paper, paper towels, soap, etc.)?
  • Have you been approached by an employee within 30 seconds of entering the store?
  • Was every item you wanted to purchase available?
  • Were the prices reasonable?
  • Were all items that were checked for freshness still shelf-stable?
  • Were there fewer than three customers in line?

At the end of the shopping trip, the buyer will complete a mystery shopper analysis report. The company will then use this report to evaluate their performance and carry out any changes based on the scores assigned to each section.

What Can You Expect to Find on a Service Industry Form?

Employing someone to give feedback about a product or service can be more beneficial than asking customers to fill out a questionnaire about their experience for one of two reasons. The first is people usually only fill out a questionnaire if something was defective about the product they bought or if they had a bad experience. It’s helpful to get both positive and negative feedback in order to get a comprehensive idea about the quality of service or product being provided. The second is you can catch minor issues in service and quality before they turn into major problems that could potentially impact sales.

The following outlines topics that should be included in a mystery shopper training manual:

  • Service offered
  • Friendliness and competence of staff
  • Waiting time
  • Quickness in execution
  • Quality of service

Below is a list of sample questions that might appear on a service industry form:

  1. Were the staff able to answer all of your questions?
  2. Did you have to wait more than five minutes for someone to come and help you?
  3. Were all the services promised offered?
  4. Was the staff able to adequately address any problems that arose?
  5. Did the quality of service meet your expectations?

These questions can vary depending on the type of service being offered. If a business wants to do well in the service sector, it must have quick, friendly service that values the customer’s time and money. If problems arise, they must be handled appropriately and professionally.

What Questions Can be Found on a Hotel Industry Secret Shopper Checklist?

There are so many hotels out there—sometimes even across the street from each other—it can be hard to understand why you’re losing out to your competitors.

Whether it’s for a business expenditure or a vacation when people visit a hotel they expect a certain level of service and quality of accommodations. Otherwise, they would just go to a motel.

This checklist is designed to help iron out some of those details and provide a comprehensive analysis to ensure travelers choose your hotel time and time again.

In this section, you’ll find questions and example answers pertaining to each category described below:

  • Service and leisure facilities
  • Gastronomic facilities
  • Ambiance and cleanliness of the room
  • Friendliness, competence, and initiative of the staff
  • Check-out & check-in process

Here are some examples of questions that will be asked during a mystery shopper hotel visit:

  1. Were you offered assistance with your luggage?
  2. Did the room feel clean when entering?
  3. Was the bathroom free from hair, toothpaste residue, mirror spots, etc.?
  4. Did the staff provide good service throughout your dining experience?
  5. Were you approached by a staff member to order whilst sitting in the lobby lounge?
  6. Was the condition of the hotel up to the expected standard?

Here are some examples of a mystery shopper test answers:

  1. At first, I was not offered assistance with my luggage. They had a series of dolly carts lined up in the corner where I was directed by the desk assistant upon my check-in. I was in the middle of placing the luggage on the carts when an employee came out from a room behind the desk and offered assistance.
  2. Overall, the room felt clean upon entering. Upon closer inspection, however, there was a fine layer of dust covering the tv stand and side tables. The carpet near the doors was clean, but when I walked to the other side of the bed, there was some debris on the floor like the cleaning staff didn’t vacuum the entire room.
  3. Yes, the bathroom was up to par. I was impressed by the level of cleanliness and attention to detail.
  4. I was greeted by friendly staff as soon as I walked up to put my name in for a table.
  5. No, I was not approached by a staff member while sitting in the lobby lounge area.
  6. Overall, the condition of the hotel was decent, but not what I expected of a hotel with a five-star rating. For the amount it costs per night, I expect the rooms to be spotless, without dust, and with the bathroom fully stocked. I also would expect to be greeted every time I entered the lobby either from the elevators or the front doors.

From the given example answers, the final analysis would conclude that the hotel can make some improvements in cleanliness and customer service. The main complaint is the inconsistency between the nightly rate and the quality of the service being received.

Advantages of a Digital Mystery Shopping Questionnaire

Digitizing paper also offers great advantages for a mystery check questionnaire, including:

  1. Saving time - Send the completed questionnaire directly to the mystery shopper with just one click.
  2. It's clearer - You don't have to wonder if a box has been checked or not, and you no longer have trouble reading handwriting.
  3. It's all in one place - All documents are stored online on your mobile device or computer.

How Can I Become a Mystery Shopper?

Do you want to make money shopping? Then you came to the right place to get started. This section will give a brief overview of the job description, eligibility requirements, and most importantly, how much you'll be able to make.

How Much Does it Pay?

It’s a great side hustle, but can it become more than that? In short, the answer is no. These gigs only pay about $10 per shopping extravaganza. And that’s not to say per hour, either. Mystery shopping can be a quick in and out, or it can take up to several hours.

Now, if you get paid to go out to a restaurant, eat some good food and drink in exchange for some feedback, that’s all in all, not a bad deal. You also usually get to keep any purchases you make while you're out on the town.

Who is Eligible?

If you’re a college student, work a job with irregular hours, or simply have a lot of extra time on your hand and you genuinely enjoy shopping, this will be right up your alley. You can apply to become a secret shopper on online job boards. Be aware that many secret shopping companies have local restrictions. People outside these zip codes need not apply.

Beware the Scams

There’s a lot of scams out there claiming to want to hire secret shoppers when, in reality, they just want your credit card information. If a company asks you for any personal information upfront, like a social security number, it’s likely a scam. So be careful.

What You'll Need

Otherwise, to do this job successfully, you’ll need to have means of reliable transportation as many of these gigs have strict deadlines. You’ll also need to have the financial stability to cover any upfront costs until the company can reimburse you. But if you can manage that, you usually get to keep any items you buy while undercover.

Before You Leave

It’s important to keep in mind that very few people get to do mystery shopping as a full-time occupation. It’s most commonly offered on a freelance basis and is restricted to within the zip code on your driver’s license, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

The more gigs you line up, the more credibility you’ll incur and the more desirable the secret shopper you’ll become.

The interior of a restaurant to be reviewed by a mystery shopper

Why use Lumiform for Mystery Shopping Checklists?

Lumiform is a great way for companies or mystery shopper agencies to conduct shopping surveys more conveniently. With the mobile app and desktop software, gone are the days of conducting assessments with pen and paper.

Mystery shoppers can use their smartphone or tablet to call up their checklist while still on site and record the most important impressions without being noticed. In this way, important details for the evaluation of the mystery shopping experience are no longer lost.

A summary report with all answers is automatically generated at the end of each survey. In addition, the analysis functions can be used to perform initial evaluations without having to first transfer the collected data from the checklist to another tool.

Digitized checklists from Lumiform offer mystery shoppers and their clients the following advantages:

  • The flexible form builder helps you turn any custom paper list into a digital checklist in minutes, and make real-time adjustments at any time.
  • Reports are automatically generated after each completed mystery shopping trip, which is why you save on all the manual follow-up.
  • The simpler analysis of all data and faster identification of areas that need your attention saves you time.
  • Lumiform guides the mystery shopper through the questionnaire, so there is no need for special training for each assignment.
  • The easy-to-use app offers no room for error and less difficulty in filling out checklists and documenting information.

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