Use a Secret Shopper to Learn About Your Business

Remember secret shoppers? It used to be a lot more commonplace than it seems to be now, but this was, and still is, a great way to gain insight into how your business is performing overall. It can still be useful to your business today, for finding out what you are doing well, and where you are falling short.

secret shopper

How to be a secret shopper.

A secret shopper, or mystery shopper, basically impersonates a customer who is shopping at your business and doing some reconnaissance, unbeknownst to the employees. It’s not likely that you’ll be able to play this role yourself, as the owner, because obviously you would be recognized.

That’s why you’ll probably have to commission someone whom the staff cannot identify, possibly hiring a person who is unaffiliated with your company, who can then report back to you.

talkroute business idea

What can be gained from secret shopping?

  • Overall Experience The first thing the secret shopper will immediately ascertain is the overall experience of being your customer. Was it a positive, or enjoyable experience? Were they well-treated by the staff?
  • Level of Efficiency Find out how quickly a customer can get in and out of your store or website, as well as how easily they are able to find and select what they’re looking for.
  • Critique of Employees Your secret shopper will be able to see, first-hand, the performance level of your team. Getting an unbiased picture of how your team handles customers is extremely helpful to finding out where improvement is needed.
  • Those are the main categories of information that you can gather from this process, and there are many additional details that you can learn from it. It’s important that the person you select to be your secret shopper is actively observing a variety of aspects throughout the experience, so that you may gain as much insight as possible.


    How is it any different than a direct customer survey?

    So why wouldn’t you just ask your customers directly what they liked and disliked about their experience with your business? That’s also a good strategy to help you improve, but the thing about asking your real customers is that the quality of information may not be quite as good.

    Your customers can be bashful about telling you the whole story, so to speak, if they respond to you at all. They usually don’t want to be bothered with giving a detailed account of their buying experience, but just want to give you a quick thumbs-up, or thumbs-down, and be done with it.

    A secret shopper that you hired for this specific purpose, on the other hand, is being paid to pay close attention and relay every detail of what they felt, heard, and saw while shopping at your business. They’re also being paid not to pull any punches, so you’re sure to get the truth.

    Many businesses choose not to use this method because it’s either a hassle to them, or they simply don’t believe it’s an effective use of the business’ time and resources, especially nowadays, when they can just utilize online analytics and occasional customer feedback. Give secret shopping a try sometime, and you’ll probably get more benefit out of it than you anticipated.


    Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.

    Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.

    StephanieUse a Secret Shopper to Learn About Your Business