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Mystery Shopping versus Customer Satisfaction Surveys: Which Do I Need?

CMOs, if you’re trying to decide between mystery shopping and customer satisfaction surveys, there are a few key differences to be aware of. While the two different programs can give you an idea of how your brand and your staff are performing, they each fulfill different functions and show you two different sides of the same coin.

With mystery shopping, you have professional shoppers who are there to assess your strengths and requirements, such as whether your staff is performing a certain function or a particular franchise is displaying your latest promotional items, such as this month’s sandwich special or buy-one-get-one offer.

The shopper is tasked with entering a business, placing an order, having a meeting, getting a service, etc. They’re also often asked about things like store and bathroom cleanliness, employee friendliness, and so on. They tell you whether your store is meeting your brand standards. You can’t expect your regular customers to know whether that’s happening, mystery shoppers are trained on that.

With customer satisfaction surveys, you don’t always get an accurate assessment of the data you actually need. Are the bathrooms clean? Did the cashier smile? This may be something you need to know, but you’re asking customers to recall something they may or may not have seen a couple days ago. At least with a mystery shopper, they know whether that’s part of their assessment and will take note of those details.

Also, the response rates from a customer satisfaction survey can sometimes be random and unreliable. Very often, the response rate on surveys is random and unpredictable, based on the business and even the mood of the customer.

And that’s another important issue: very often people are more likely to respond to a customer satisfaction survey when they’re unhappy with their experience. That means you could only get a 5% response rate from all of your customers, but what if most of them had something they weren’t happy about? Those responses outweigh the one or two responses from the other 95% who had a wonderful experience, and it looks like you have a staff of incompetents running a store bathed in chaos.

With mystery shopping, the response rate is going to be as close to 100% as they can get, because that’s what they’ve been hired for. If you want five shoppers to visit a particular store, you’ll get five shoppers to visit that store.

We don’t want to downplay customer satisfaction surveys though, because they’re equally important.

For one thing, customer satisfaction surveys give you a lot more data to work with. If you get 500 people through your store per day, and you get just a 1% return rate, that’s still 5 people per day responding, or 1500 responses in 30 days. You can build up quite a picture with 1500 data points.

For another, it gives you better insights into complaints and deficiencies. While you can’t completely rely on the accuracy of the customer satisfaction survey — remember, it’s probably more skewed toward the negative — you are seeing legitimate complaints. And if they’re happening at a particular time of day, such as the morning shift, you know there’s a problem with the morning shift that needs to be addressed.

On the third hand, mystery shoppers can only assess so much, and may not be able to spot a problem. One mystery shopper finding one problem may only be an aberration, and not indicative of an actual problem. It’s harder to find patterns with a few mystery shoppers.

Ultimately, if you want a complete picture of your brand performance, you need both mystery shopping and customer satisfaction surveys. Mystery shoppers can tell you whether your standards are being met, and your customers will tell you whether they’re happy about it.

Customer satisfaction surveys can alert you to a problem, but the mystery shopper can investigate and help you figure out why it’s happening.

Mystery shopping can tell you how your different locations are performing and whether they’re meeting your company’s expectations, but customer satisfaction surveys will tell you about their satisfaction and dissatisfaction with their experiences.

Measure CP can help you combine the insights and results from both programs to get a a holistic picture of how your business is reaching and assisting customers and satisfying their needs. If you would like to learn more, please visit the Measure CP website. You can read more about our services, or you can speak with one of our mystery shopping and customer satisfaction survey experts.