The History of Mystery Shopping

Mystery shopping, a technique now used to evaluate the quality of service provided by a business, started off as a way to get a handle on employee honesty. In the 1940s, mystery shoppers were used to help prevent employee theft at banks and stores.

Over time, mystery shopping evolved and started to be used to evaluate whether businesses were providing good customer service. This industry continued to grow and is now an accepted practice in many industries. According to a report prepared for the Mystery Shopping Providers Association, mystery shopping in the United States added almost $600 million to the economy. Over 8.1 million mystery shopping trips are conducted per year. Mystery shopping is now used around the world as a way to improve customer service techniques and is worth US $1.5 billion.

With the development of the Internet, it’s easier for people who are interested in becoming mystery shoppers to find out about employment opportunities and for reports to be submitted to clients electronically. They can register with mystery shopping companies, sign up for assignments and get paid by using their computer. Businesses can get this valuable information from the field quickly and start to make changes in their training and policies sooner.

For companies who employ mystery shoppers, the Internet means that they can access a larger pool of potential applicants for available assignments. By launching a website, these companies can also advertise their services to potential clients, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can make it easy for Internet users to find out more about what they have to offer. Online forms can be used to request information or a quote.

Mystery shoppers are given specific instructions to before they visit a business. They may be asked to do one of the following tasks as part of their “shop”:

  • buying a product
  • asking questions about the products that a business carries
  • making a complaint

In some cases, the mystery shopper is asked to fill in a survey about their experience after they have finished the visit. In other situations, the client company needs more detailed information, and the mystery shopper will be asked to make an audio recording or capture the details of their shop on video.

As customer service issues will continue to be a primary concern for business owners, the future of mystery shopping looks very promising indeed.


Learn More: Quick Facts About Mystery Shopping