Mystery Shopper technique involves covert participant observation (the auditor interacts with the surveyed persons following the observation script). Its purpose is usually to verify the compliance with customer service standards, analysis of the methods of recommendation or investigation of brand image. This technique assumes that trained auditors (Mystery Shoppers) play the roles of ordinary customers visiting e.g. a shop, a restaurant, or a hotel and who are interested in buying a product or using certain services.
The auditor follows the previously designed observation script and checks the entire customer service process accordingly, i.e. verifies its compliance with the accepted standards. The visit remains anonymous from the start to the end; Mystery Shopper does not reveal the real purpose of the visit. The principle of the observation lies in the fact that the staff of the examined institutions are unaware of the observation and behave exactly like during everyday contacts with clients. Therefore it is possible to analyse particular behaviours and impressions without distortions and effects that may accompany other research methods. The survey may be conducted during the visit at the facility, in telephone conversation (e.g. to verify the performance of call centre consultants) or in online contacts (e.g. website chats).
The following survey techniques may also be employed as part of the Mystery Shopper observations:
- non-participant observation – the auditor does not interact with the observed person,
- controlled purchase – the auditor purchases the service / product.