To prepare for the upcoming MRA/MSPA joint conference in New Orleans, we thought you may be interested in learning more about the mystery shopping industry. Here are ten facts that will help take the mystery out of mystery shopping:
There are 37 states with current laws that restrict reporting on an individual's actions, performance or activities, to licensed private investigators. This reporting, under the current definitions, includes mystery shopping, satisfaction surveys, and comment cards where individuals may be identified. Within the past three years, MSPA with assistance from MRA, has gained exemption for mystery shopping from these licensing requirements in California and Arizona. MSPA members have been challenged in nine states on the use of independent contractor tax status for mystery shoppers.
Mystery shopping is conducted by variety of companies including merchandisers, private investigators, training companies, advertising and promotion agencies, mystery shopping specialists, and marketing research firms. There are over 500 companies worldwide that specialize in providing mystery shopping services. MRA has 242 members that list mystery shopping as a specialty in the Blue Book.
In a 1999 study by the Jim Moran Institute at the University of Florida Tallahassee, the mystery shopping industry was estimated at $750 million annual revenues in the U.S.A. and growing.
Mystery shopping is a worldwide industry. Some of the countries where mystery shopping is conducted include Austria, Belgium, Czech-Republic, England, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Pakistan, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Australia, Singapore, and the U.S.A.
Mystery shopping, as a defined service, has been around since the early 1900's. Initially mystery shopping was a technique used by private investigators to prevent employee theft at banks and retail stores.
The term "Mystery Shopping" was coined by WilMark in the 1940's - the first company to offer the service for non-integrity purposes.
Mystery shopping goes by many names including: Secret Shopping, Mystery Customers, Spotters, Anonymous Audits, Virtual Customers, Employee Evaluations, Performance Audits, and Telephone Checks to name a few.
There are well over 250,000 consumers registered as mystery shoppers with MSPA members in the United States. Consumers enjoy mystery shopping so much they have independently created over 200 websites and listservs to share leads on assignments.
There are almost as many mystery shopping techniques as there are different kinds of clients - from hidden video, recorded telephone calls, and full-narrative integrity surveillance to simple 5 question checklists.
Speaking of clients, what do the following businesses have in common? Banks; restaurants; e-commerce websites; retail stores; hospitals; the post office; hotels; software telephone help centers; convenience stores; insurance agencies; manufacturers; local, state and national government agencies. You guessed it: They all use mystery shopping to improve their customer service and monitor their operations.
Mystery shopping is observational research used primarily in auditing operations. Opinions from shoppers are not as important in mystery shopping as are the facts of their experience.