Not all mystery shopping programs are created equal. Some yield customer experience insights that are reliable, useful, and ultimately very profitable. Other programs fail to deliver on all three counts.
If you want a good return on your mystery shopping investment, you need to think like a scientist.
That’s because mystery shopping is, in effect, a scientific study. It’s designed to test a retailer’s hypothesis about the in-store experience by collecting unbiased, unambiguous data. To ensure validity of results, the entire process is subject to strict controls and guidelines such as:
- Mystery shoppers must be qualified, objective, well-trained professionals.
- Mystery shopping criteria must reflect the retailer’s purpose for the study.
- Mystery shopper survey questions must be designed to elicit clear, precise, measurable responses.
Curious about #3? In our experience, many retailers struggle with (or fail to fully consider) survey question design. Today, we’ll share 35 sample mystery shopper survey questions that leave no room for interpretation or error.
The Science of Mystery Shopping:
Putting Retail Stores Under the Microscope
Mystery shoppers’ survey responses should be easily quantifiable. No general impressions, feelings, or assumptions—just yes/no, one-word, or multiple-choice answers. Open-ended questions can be used, but only to allow mystery shoppers to share observations in support of yes/no responses.
Mystery shopping survey questions normally fall into the following three categories.
Cleanliness and Appearance
None of these details will escape your customers’ notice, and any one of them could affect a customer’s decision to purchase and/or return to the store.
Although store managers can check these items during routine inspections, mystery shoppers deployed to multiple locations over time can help ensure all of your stores are consistently and uniformly meeting the highest maintenance standards.
- Was the parking lot clean and free of trash and debris? (Check for general cleanliness. Do not mark for small amounts of litter/paper/debris.)
- Was the store entrance clean and well maintained? (The entrance is the area between the double doors and the areas just inside and outside the front doors.)
- Did any signage throughout the store appear to be worn or damaged?
- Was the store clean, neat, and well maintained (no dirty floors, unattended spills, etc.)?
- Was the restroom clean, well-stocked, and maintained (toilet tissue/paper towels available, toilets/faucets operational, etc.)?
- Were aisles free of clutter and obstructions? (Two or more carts should be able to pass comfortably in every aisle.)
You expect your employees to fulfill your brand promise 100%. But are they meeting that standard everywhere, at all times?
Mystery shopping can answer that question unequivocally. Unlike average customers or company employees, mystery shoppers can dissect every in-store interaction to reveal costly customer engagement missteps.
- Were you acknowledged by an associate within 30 seconds of entering the store?
- 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/team member offer you an additional item?
- Did the associate/team member give you his/her undivided attention?
- Please detail your interaction with the sales floor associate. You must include what clothing item you inquired about as well as the associate’s response. (A minimum of 3-4 sentences is required.)
- Did all associates you came in contact with have an upbeat and friendly tone?
- Were any associates/team members rude or discourteous?
- If answer to previous question is YES, please state his/her name and department and describe the rude/discourteous behavior.
- Did any associates/team members provide above-and-beyond service? If YES, please state his/her name and department and describe the above-and-beyond behavior.
- Did all OTHER (not previously evaluated) associates/team members you encountered or passed throughout the store smile and greet you? (During your shopping trip, you may find associates throughout the store performing various tasks. Did they smile and greet you?)
- If answer to previous question is NO, please describe where in the store you encountered the associate(s)/team member(s) and the associate name(s) or description. Please describe the situation in which you encountered the associate(s). (For example, “I saw an associate named Bill in the dairy aisle who did not smile or say hello.”)
- 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 the moment you reached the counter?
- Did the cashier ask if you found everything?
- Did the cashier mention the loyalty/rewards program by name during your transaction?
If you are not a member, did the cashier ask if you would 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?
- Was carry-out service offered if you had more than 2 bags?
The Path to Purchase
Are your products or procedures, or the pace of your operations, negatively impacting sales? Responses to questions like these will shed some light.
- Was every item you wanted to purchase available? If NO, please list unavailable item(s).
- Did all perishable merchandise (salads, sandwiches, etc.) appear fresh (not brown/old)?
- Observe 5 dairy/perishable items (sandwiches, salads, fruit cups, yogurt, milk, etc.). Were all items that were checked for freshness found to be within code (not expired)? If YES, please specify the product for any items out of code.
- What was the number of registers 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 no, did you observe a call for additional help (to manage the line or open another register)?
- How long did your transaction take from the time you reached the counter until you received your receipt? (mm:ss)
The End Result: A Conclusion You Can Trust
The more rigorous your mystery shopping process, the more confidence you’ll have in the research. Your mystery shopper survey questions deserve as much scrutiny as the people who will answer them and the criteria upon which the questions are based.
To evaluate the strength of your survey questions, you must ask yourself three questions:
- “Do these questions reflect the entire customer experience?”
- “Can these questions uncover even the smallest problems and opportunities?”
- “Can survey responses be easily bucketed and analyzed over time to reveal subtler issues or growing trends?”