7 Tips for Spotting A Secret Shopper

7 Tips for Spotting a Secret Shopper

It's the middle of a workweek, the phones are ringing off the hook, and you have a line of customers out the door. Your stress levels are at an all-time high, and you are focused on completing as many transactions as you can to eliminate the line of restless customers as quickly as possible. You subconsciously sacrifice the quality of service for quantity; after all, how detrimental can ten minutes of poor customer service be?

Unfortunately, it can be quite damaging.

Enter: the secret shopper. A secret shopper is a person employed by an agency, retailer or industry critic whose primary goal is to evaluate the level of customer service offered within your establishment. This information is then published in the form of a review for public consumption and other influential members of your target market. As a bad review can significantly impact the reputation of your business, it is imperative that your staff provides exceptional customer service at all times.

How can you tell if you're dealing with a secret shopper?

Have you ever questioned whether the person on the other end of a tedious phone call or the customer with an inordinate amount of oddly specific questions was an undercover secret shopper? Here are seven ways to tell if you aren't actually selling — you're being shopped.

  1. They're taking photos
    No, we're not talking about two teenagers taking a "selfie." We're talking about the customer who is taking pictures of a display or products inside your store. Secret shoppers are tasked with submitting photos to their employers. That being said, it's safe to assume that a person taking multiple pictures inside of your shop is there to document their findings.
  2. Keeping a list
    Take note of your customers who are taking notes. Unless you own a grocery store, a person who continuously studies a list while shopping becomes a prime suspect. Every secret shopper is given a list of questions, such as employees' names, customer service ratings, product availability, and pricing with boxes to check off as they go.
  3. Asks too many questions
    Secret shoppers will undoubtedly ask many questions. An overly inquisitive customer might ask about business practices, specific questions regarding your products and services, and business history among other various aspects. You should be sure your staff is ready and prepared to answer any question that may arise.
  4. Reluctant or slow to answer questions
    If your staff suspects they are dealing with a secret shopper, fire back some questions to see how quickly they respond. If you own a novelty store and your shopper is inquiring about a wholesale distributor, answer the question to the best of your ability and include something like, "Perhaps I can better assist you with your purchase — what do you intend to use this product for?" When a customer is very quiet and seems to take too long to respond to a simple question, you might be dealing with a secret shopper.
  5. Asks about your competitors
    When a customer asks comparison questions between you and your competitors, take note of the fact that they may be there to evaluate your business on behalf of a direct competitor. Ensure your staff is aware of this tactic and prohibit them from giving out any information that may be beneficial to your competitors.
  6. They check out the bathroom
    As every mystery shopper retains their own set of inspection conditions, one requirement has proven to be uniform among the masses: A bathroom quality check. If you offer public restrooms as an amenity to your customers, be sure to keep them clean and fully stocked at all times.
  7. They track the time
    Secret shoppers need to keep an accurate time log of their hours worked in conjunction with other critical variables, such as how long it takes for an employee to acknowledge them, the time spent in line, etc... so if you notice a particular customer who continually checks their watch, you could assume they are tracking the time.

Bottom Line: There is no way to know for sure whether or not you are dealing with a secret shopper. However, by keeping the above points in mind, you can rest assured knowing you've put your best foot forward and hope that any review written will be a positive one!

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