From Wikipedia Mystery shopping or Mystery Consumer is a tool used by market research companies to measure quality of retail service or gather specific information about products and services. Mystery shoppers posing as normal customers perform specific tasks—such as purchasing a product, asking questions, registering complaints or behaving in a certain way – and then provide detailed reports or feedback about their experiences.
Mystery shopping began in the 1940s as a way to measure employee integrity. Tools used for mystery shopping assessments range from simplequestionnaires to complete audio and video recordings. Many mystery shopping companies are completely administered through the Internet, allowing potential mystery shoppers to use the Internet to register for participation, find mystery shopping jobs and receive payment.
The most common venues where mystery shopping is used are retail stores, movie theaters, restaurants, fast food chains, banks, gas stations, car dealerships, apartments and health clubs, as well as health care facilities. In the UK, mystery shopping is increasingly used to provide feedback on customer services provided by local authorities and other non-profit organizations, such as housing associations and churches.
- American Medical Association Mystery Shopping Recommendation In June 2008, the The American Medical Association’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs released a recommendation on the use of “secret shopper patients” in the Medical / Healthcare. The Recommendation: “Physicians have an ethical responsibility to engage in activities that contribute to continual improvements in patient care. One method for promoting such quality improvement is through the use of secret shopper “patients” who have been appropriately trained to provide feedback about physician performance in the clinical setting.”  The most widely used set of professional guidelines and ethics standards for the industry is ISO 20252 ratified in 2006.
- The mystery shopping industry had an estimated value of nearly $600 million in the United States in 2004,
- 8.1 million mystery shops conducted
The Optical Challenge
- If you are in the back it is difficult to monitor what is happening in the front
- Busy offices may have less time or knowledge to update staff in delivering superior eyecare
Many years ago, I ran a Mystery Shopper co-op program with a small 8 store optical chain in Texas. We also let the opticians know about it-so they were prepared and ready for the 2 months we were running the program. We set up criteria that the mystery shoppers had to look for, rate and evaluate each optical store. The Criteria:
- Had to be welcomed and greeted within 30 seconds.
- Had to be escorted to the Dispensary and asked when was their last eye exam
- Book Eye Exam
- Had to be shown our product first and say something nice.
- Had to speak about UV/AR and scratch coats
- Had to evaluate the ‘state of the office’ cleanliness, easy to find product.
If all the criteria was fulfilled, the Mystery Shopper awarded the optician/staff a Gift Certificate on the spot.
Results- Sales soared through the roof! Eye Exams were booked and the Optical Stores started selling higher end products and thus became more profitable.
That’s not how Mystery Shoppers usually work- but it was a program we designed for this struggling chain, to get customer service up to par and train staff not to prejudge the patient. It worked! Best part, staff was happy and motivated!
Should you hire a Mystery Shopper? I would say, if you did, it would be a real eye opener. In these times and ever increasing competition, isn’t it important that you provide the very best customer service. Sometimes, you are not your own best judge of your office. If you don’t believe that this is something that a healthcare provider does- check out all the articles on the internet! What they do recommend is to hire a Mystery Shopping Service that is experienced in Healthcare such as Examine Your Practice. (This is a great site, you can see some examples of Professional Mystery Shopper Evaluations. )
Why would you hire:
- Unbiased opinions
- To find out how your business is operating
- How the business is treating the customers
- What changes can be made before it impacts your business.
- Help you improve the customer experience.
- Help to encourage best practices and good service in all customer interactions.
- What training you may need to provide
- Increase Sales- You spend considerable effort and money on marketing, but if there is a flaw somewhere in the selling process, customers may be choosing to make purchases elsewhere. Performance audits help businesses to uncover these problems in the selling process so that marketing and sales processes work seamlessly to create more sales and profits.
- Gather evidence of trouble with employees- Illegal Acts, Theft, Fraud and dishonesty can cost you $1,000’s of dollars.
- Improve Company Image and Branding
- Help with decision making. Get the facts before making hiring, promotion, and business plan decisions. By revealing what works and what does not from a customer’s perspective, mystery shopper services help business owners make these decisions with all the facts in place.
- Get customer insight. Most business owners would love to be able to have direct, unbiased, full information from each customer – what is working, what needs work in a company, what would make shoppers buy? Secret shopper services offer business owners the chance to ask these sorts of questions – and get answers.
What You Want To Know
Telephone Mystery Shopper
- Are telephone calls handled in a manner that would turn calls into appointments
- How many rings to answer the phone?
- Did staff identify the office and their name?
- If put on hold, did they ask permission?
- Did they use proper English and were understood?
- Was the correct information given? Did they answer questions.
- How was pricing dealt with>
- Was an appointment set?
Walk In Mystery Shopper
- What overall impressions your patients might have of your office
- Is the patient timely and warmly greeted and made to feel welcome?
- How long did they have to wait? If they waited were they allowed to browse the dispensing room?
- What lifestyle questions were they asked?
- Was knowledge about products and services imparted? Were consumer brochures used?
- Where all options presented?
- Product presentation was clean and easily found?
- How were prices presented
- How were objections met?
How To Start
Hiring the right Healthcare Mystery Shopper is key- here are some suggestions
- Examine Your Practice
- Devon Hill Associates
- Mystery Shoppers.org The MSPA is the largest professional trade association dedicated to improving service quality using anonymous resources. With over 150 member companies worldwide, our diverse membership includes marketing research and merchandising companies, private investigation firms, training organizations and companies that specialize in providing mystery shopping services. Our member companies work with their clients to establish mechanisms to measure and improve levels of service.
- Vantage Clinical Solutions- Article on Mystery Shopping
- Press Releases on Healthcare Mystery Shopping