Market research firms wanting to measure the quality of services or to gather specific information about products and services employ secret shoppers. Wondering how secret shoppers work? The secret shoppers pose as normal customers in the target establishment and perform normal tasks such as purchasing products, asking questions, or registering complaints, while observing the staff and business process. They then provide detailed reports or feedback about their experiences to their employers.
Mystery shopping started in the 1940s as a means to test employee integrity. The scope of mystery shopping has since then expanded manifold to include level of service and stock in a shop, customer profiles, testing shops systems, staff preparedness and attitude, market intelligence, and the like. Mystery shoppers today work in almost all industries, ranging from retail stores, hotels, movie theaters, restaurants, fast food chains, banks, gas stations, car dealerships, health clubs, hospitals, malls, theme parks, and even housing associations and even churches. The Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) estimates 8.1 million instances of mystery shopping in 2004, with an annual value of nearly $600 million for the mystery shopping industry.
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