Brands mystery shop to ensure the best possible customer experience. Their ultimate aim is to drive profits. But many mystery shopping programs fail to deliver on both counts.
Consider how mystery shopping is supposed to work. Undercover agents fan out to test corporate assumptions, employee training, and current CX initiatives. Over time, reliable, high-value insights lead to concrete steps to improve store conditions and service. Disruptive innovations follow. Customers visit more and spend more, and the brand’s reputation and revenues grow.
Reliable, high-value insights: this is where most programs break down. Without enough of the right kind of data, retailers draw the wrong conclusions, overlook big problems, and make costly mistakes. Instead of creating a virtuous cycle of improvement, they spin their wheels and get nowhere.
To get the results you want out of your mystery shopping program,
You need to know which questions to ask, and the best way to ask them.
You need the right people shopping your stores.
In our experience, many retailers struggle with survey design. In this post, we’ll share 35 sample mystery shopping survey questions that can help you identify touchpoints that need attention and determine the best course of action. Then, we’ll explain the most brand-appropriate, cost-effective way to tackle #2.
Designing an Actionable Mystery Shopping Survey: 3 Areas to Focus on In-Store
Your mystery shopping survey questions should reflect the entire customer journey, uncover even the smallest problems and opportunities, and yield data that can be bucketed and analyzed over time to reveal subtler issues and growing trends.
Survey responses should be easily quantifiable, leaving little room for assumption. Yes/no or multiple choice questions are best. Open-ended questions can be used, but only to allow mystery shoppers to share observations in support of structured responses.
Cleanliness and Appearance
None of these details will escape your customers’ notice. Any one of them could affect a customer’s decision to purchase and/or return to the store.
Store managers can check these items during routine inspections, but mystery shoppers deployed to multiple locations over time can help ensure all of your stores are consistently meeting brand standards.
Was the parking lot generally clean?
When you walked up to and through the store entrance, was it clean and well maintained?
Did you notice any worn or damaged signs in the store?
Did you notice any areas that needed attention?
Was the restroom clean, well stocked, and working properly?
Were the aisles clutter-free, with room for two or more carts to pass through?
If employees aren’t meeting your brand standards in all locations and at all times, you haven’t achieved brand consistency—a key driver of customer loyalty. Recurring or widespread issues may suggest the need for training refreshers or updates.
When you entered the store, did an associate acknowledge you within 30 seconds?
Approximately how many other customers were in the store while you were shopping?
When you were greeted, what was said?
Did the associate/team member smile?
Did the associate/team member ask what you were shopping for today?
Did the associate/team member offer you help?
Did the associate help you find the product by escorting you, or by giving you directions to find it on your own?
Did the associate/team member recommend other products you might like?
Did the associate/team member give you his/her undivided attention?
Did the associate provide helpful information about the product?
Was every associate you encountered upbeat and friendly?
Were any associates/team members inconsiderate or rude?
Did any associates/team members go above and beyond to serve you? If YES, what was his/her name and department, and how did he/she go above and beyond?
Did all other associates/team members you encountered or passed smile and greet you?
Did the associate/team member provide a pleasant closing comment (“Have a good day,” “Thanks for shopping with us,” “Thank you,” etc.)?
Did the cashier greet/acknowledge you when you reached the counter?
Did the cashier ask if you found everything you needed?
Did the cashier mention the loyalty/rewards program by name during your transaction?
If you’re not a member, did the cashier ask if you’d like to join?
Did the cashier mention the invitation for the customer/guest satisfaction survey at the bottom of the receipt?
Did the cashier thank you at the end of your transaction?
If you had more than 2 bags, did someone offer to help carry them out?
The Path to Purchase
Are your products or procedures, or the pace of your operations, discouraging sales? Responses to questions like these will shed some light.
Was every item you wanted to purchase available? If not, please list the unavailable item(s).
Were you able to find the style and size you were looking for?
Did all perishable foods (salads, sandwiches, etc.) appear fresh?
How many registers were staffed when you got in line?
Was there at least one (1) express lane open?
Were there less than three (3) customers in line? If not, did anyone call for additional help (to manage the line or open another register)?
Once you reached the counter, how long did it take to complete the transaction (get your receipt)?
The Most Important Question of All: Who Will Mystery Shop Your Stores?
Great customer experiences aren’t born in the C-suite. They’re built on feedback from customers—people who are genuinely invested in the brand. The most unforgettable in-store experiences stay in lockstep with customer priorities and expectations, and they reaffirm and fulfill the brand promise.
Traditional mystery shopping relies on input from dispassionate observers. But this approach has big downsides. Not only is the traditional mystery shopping model cost-prohibitive and tough to scale, but professional mystery shoppers can be easy to spot. And they don’t have a stake in improving the brand.
No one is more qualified to mystery shop your stores than your own customers.
They’re a perfect match for your ideal customer.
They can observe and report on everything in the context of their own history with the brand.
They can tell you what they see and how it impacts them (objective and subjective combined).
They love driving improvements that can benefit them directly, both through in-kind incentives and a better in-store experience in the future.
Imagine getting a comprehensive, holistic view of the customer experience in one fell swoop. Scaling easily without draining your revenue. And strengthening loyalty by empowering your own customers. It’s a practical solution to a longstanding problem, and more and more brands are catching on.
Mystery shopping that’s more affordable and more actionable than ever before? Click here to learn about the industry-leading platform that’s changing the game for retailers.