Customer Feedback vs. Mystery Shopping
A couple of months ago, we put out a blog post entitled Mystery Shopping Has Its Pitfalls, where we contrasted the mystery shopping approach with the customer feedback approach. We came out very aggressively in favor of customer feedback programs, concluding that real customers–and not paid evaluators– should be the ones who let retailers know how they are performing in terms of customer service and value.
Recently, our post touched off a flurry of discussion in the Customer Experience Professionals LinkedIn group, with several group members weighing in on the pro’s and con’s of the two approaches to gathering user experience data.
We’ve decided to post excerpts from the lively discussion. As the excerpts below reveal, most commenters identified customer feedback as the more relevant source of data, while nothing that there is broad room for complementarity between the two methods.
“Have done both, but prefer real customer feedback. That being said, mystery shops are good for measuring adherence to process and service measurements, IMHO, but, at least in my experience, politically, it’s harder to ignore real customer feedback.”
Scott Rogers – Director, Strategic Planning at David’s Bridal
“Real customer feedback via mail or online survey beats telephone and face-to-face. In my opinion, the best way to get unbiased reliable research results is old fashioned direct mail.”
Anita Dundys – Principal at Mount Royal Marketing Services
“Customer feedback/surveys create a picture but are distorted by being self selecting samples and the fact that customers don’t always tell the truth whether it’s online or postal. Mystery shopping is good for testing adherence to brand values but not a natural way of testing a true customer experience unless it is a genuine purchase being monitored and independent of management vested interest.”
Mark Turner – Director of Index of Customer Experience at Rebelati
“Customer feedback is not in my experience comparable with MS visits. MS visits are usually about assessing standard that an organisation believes to be important to its brand, customer feedback is about finding out what the customer says is important to the brand.”
Neil Skehel – Managing Director at Awards International
“I am also an advocate of mystery shopping and customer satisfaction research, having managed both in a service delivery context. MS picked up the same pressure points as CS, but offered added benefits across the customer journey. It showed why the process, though adhered to, did not always make for a great experience – in our case mostly at points of handover between delivery teams.”
Siobhan Smith – Insights Manager/Senior Project Manager at Business Link
“I’m not saying I am opposed to MS. I have used them in the past and they have worked in my favor many times. I just feel they should be used as a complementary tool, and not taken as gospel.”
Hal Waterman – Client Relations Manager at Hold That Stuff
“MS is being used and has been built up to be an answer to customer feedback. It is not. MS is for auditing your process (in brief) – from a store being clean to accessing whether you are greeted with a ‘genuine smile’! Analysed, communicated, rewarded and then improved.
My problem with MS is that it does not provide a true customer reflection and so should not be used as such. Making informed business decisions based on customer feedback requires the most relevant and accurate information and the closest to a true reflection available being ‘at the moment of the experience and by real customers who want to’.”
Simon Brock – Business Development Manager at OnePoint Surveys Inc.