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Industry Review: Mystery Shopping a Car Detailing Program

When I say “mystery shopper,” chances are you thought of someone doing a mystery shop on a big-box retailer or restaurant. But the truth is, any business that thrives on good customer service (i.e. all of them) can benefit from the findings that mystery shopping can reveal.

Workin' At The Car Wash, Yeah
Image by drp via Flickr

I recently read a great article by Kate Carr, the Editor-in-Chief of, in which she speaks to auto detail shop owners who may be considering hiring a mystery shopping service. She brings up a great point when she asks, other than being at the shop 24/7, how can you be sure that your employees are performing at the same level they do when you’re around? After all, everyone is on their best behavior when the Boss is around, and it’s hard to find problem areas.

A mystery shopping company, she suggests, might be the answer.

The purpose of a mystery shopping service is to give businesses a more realistic view of the typical customer experience. This, in turn, helps business increase sales by improving customer service awareness. Secret shoppers will randomly and discreetly act as a customer and report on what happened.

The employees will not know who is grading them or when they are helping a secret shopper. However, they do know that there is a potential that they could be “shopped,” so they are advised to treat every customer like a mystery shopper. This mindset helps keep customer service standards more consistent over time. Furthermore, some companies offer reward programs for successful mystery shops as an incentive to perform well.

According to some of the business owners Carr interviewed, mystery shopping can become part of their overall strategy. They’re able to determine areas where employees might need more training, and also to highlight exceptional employees who go above and beyond with customers.

One CEO of a midwest car operation received a blow when his first mystery shop came back with a dismal grade: 46%. It was then he realized that any owner not using a mystery shopping program is not receiving the same level of customer service when he or she isn’t around. He started addressing the issues presented in the reports and continued to have shoppers regularly visit his car washes. He’s since watched their percentages climb over the year.

If your business was mystery shopped right now, what grade would your employees receive? Is there a chance you’re inflating that number a little? What if you found out that less than half of your customers are happy? What could you do with that information? Hiring a mystery shopping can give you the answers to things you’ve been previously just guessing about. Thus, it allows you to fine-tune your strategy to improve overall customer experience.

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