Mystery shopping in simple words is an observational tool to measure various dimensions of SERVQUAL. The observed details are converted into written records and the same is submitted to the top management for decision making. Mystery Shopping (MS) method is employed in marketing research to support the measurement of consumer provision levels and may contain both quantitative and qualitative components. Mystery shopping is an effective instrument to gather quantitative as well as qualitative data and also gives importance to subjective and objective data. It becomes very difficult for a manager of any organization to keep an eye all the time on how the customers are being treated by their employees. Mystery shopping has showed tremendous growth in various fields such as high-end cafeterias, guesthouses, resorts, credit institutions, financial provision providers, flats, suitability stores, chain and specialty shops, home constructors, self-storage facilities, healthcare establishments and grocery stores.The managers cannot personally measure the quality of service being rendered to the customers and hence they use this spy tool to know what is happening in their absence Mystery shopping is a market research tool and those who perform this market research are called mystery shoppers who deal with silent observation, record the observations and convert observed affairs into a written record with meaningful and graphical representation for examining the service quality from customer’s perspective. Good Mystery Shopping programmes helps to determine what has been done in the past, what has to be done for the present and what has to be done in the nearby future by considering customer insight. This systematic planning helps the firms to understand customer expectations, and motivates the marketers to provide better services because the ultimate goal of any firm is to make profit and maximize wealth. This can be achieved by satisfying the customers and by keeping them happy and loyal. Thus mystery shopping bridges the gap between employee engagement and customer satisfaction by maintaining a healthy relationship. This concept has been shown in the below diagrammatic representation.
The Wikipedia defines mystery shopping as an instrument which is used visibly by the firm’s Research and Development (R & D) department to find out the drawbacks. Anonymous shopping has now become famous and it is now being popularly used by a variety of firms from different industries. Mystery audit is a spy tool which intends to measure the satisfaction of customers and the level of loyalty. It adds value to customer satisfaction, being a transparent tool and communicates to the whole of the organization and creates positive stimuli for improvements. Some researchers claims that it is important to know in depth about mystery shopping because mystery shopping agents and mystery shoppers have emerged into the market, taking up varieties of mystery shopping task. To say it more specific, furtive shopping is a very extensive free lancing job for in-house moms, retired senior citizens, differently able and the young student community who are in need of task based payment along with relaxation. The flexibility which mystery shopping offers apart from the basic income earning is the key mantra behind many job seekers taking up mystery shopping. It is right that some individuals are able to make occupations out of anonymous shopping, because they are pure marketing researchers who specialize in the field of mystery shopping and own a marketing research firm and the majority of other employees are part time mystery shoppers who take up mystery shopping assignments only to earn pocket money. Simply put, mystery shopping provides an extra income, and it is more eye-catching rather than other existing freelancing jobs. One can be a mystery shopper for a set of various marketing research firms and can take up various types of assignments from various marketing research agents. Just like the other professions, mystery shopping also has a few set of strict rules and policies which have to be followed by the ghost shopper.
The most important part of mystery shopping is to act naturally and not to be revealed as a mystery shopper to the outside public. Mystery shopping is enjoyed by those who take up this task because it lets individuals to make a small savings by taking up some interesting work which they will enjoy doing it. No organizational climate, no work files, not answerable to the departmental heads and hence hush-hush shopping is a pure flexible and a happy task.
Anand Shankar Raja M (2016) (1)says that mystery shopping is a simple concept which deals with just silent observation but the stress and pain which mystery shoppers face during each assignment is enormous. This job needs a lot of motivation and a balanced mind to cope up with the barriers and to be a successful mystery shopper. Thus, the importance of motivation, emotional intelligence and job satisfaction of mystery shoppers are to be determined to provide necessary steps which may help them to leave successful foot prints and shine in their profession.
Anand Shankar Raja M (2016) (2) studied the emotional Intelligence of mystery shoppers under the heading "EI" an essential cause for mystery shoppers and says that Health is an important component to be successful in life. For a profession like mystery shopping, Emotional Intelligence is an important component which has to be considered. Mystery shoppers handle rough customers throughout their assignments and thus, they have to have the ability to understand and experience others mentality and act according to the situation. Emotional Intelligence even helps the mystery shoppers to develop their professional trait and helps to develop them self personally too. Thus it is important to determine the emotional state of the mystery shoppers and recommend them valuable suggestions which can be implemented by them for their growth and betterment. The data were collected from Lead Cap ventures, which are a leading global research and consulting firm. The type of sampling plan used is simple random sampling. Independently the researcher has collected the responses from the mystery shoppers by approaching the head HR of the firm. The sample size is 80 for this research study. The validity, reliability and analysis of the data in this study were analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS 21.0). The paper ensures the importance of “Emotional Intelligence” of mystery shoppers which would help them to be successful in their profession. Emotional intelligence, if managed well would help the mystery shoppers to grow in leaps and bounds. Therefore mystery shoppers presuming the importance of Emotional Intelligence must take care of their Emotional State to be a successful mystery shopper. The researchers have taken efforts to study about the mystery shoppers Emotional Intelligence which is not an explored area and, this study would help the world wide mystery shoppers to balance their state of mind. The authors have concluded that, Appraisal of own emotions is considered to the most important and the same importance is felt even in case of appraisal of others emotions. Thus mystery shoppers must balance their emotional state and try to understand others state of mind to balance them self during worst times.
Anand Shankar Raja M (2015) (3) giving importance to mystery shopping in the retail scenario stated that Mystery shopping is a tool used by companies to measure the quality of service, food, and over all experience of the everyday customer. Mystery shopping takes a holistic approach to achieve customer value, delight, and loyalty with effective and multi skilled field representatives. Mystery shoppers who are a part of creative marketing team work closely with retailers to communicate the results and advice front line on how to refine customer interactions for a better strategic improvements of the customer’s experience. There are plenty of blunt reminders for both staffs and retailers which must be considered to form a better retail strategy or employees may start a chain of events that may become unmanageable. Though there are other traditional approaches; mystery shopping is considered to be a step above because market research has been subjected to constructive critics over the years due to non adoption of technology in research. Thus it is always better to choose the best tool which will favour the retailers to frame a better strong strategy to shine among the crucial competition. Though the root behind mystery shopping is marketing research, the growth of this unique tool has left positive impact in all industry favoring in different aspects. This theoretical frame work throws light on how mystery shopping is considered to be a better tool when compared with traditional marketing research.
Anand Shankar Raja M (2014) (4), says that Nowadays Knowledge Management (KM) is the key reason for the organizational success and endurance. In the competitive business environment, managing knowledge involves strategic management processes and active market research. With a systematic strategic management approach, organizations are able to generate competitive advantages and achieve organizational objectives. Organizations are comprehensively gathering information using many methods and tools and one such activity is mystery shopping a sister concept of market research which also contributes towards holistic strategy formulation. Though both these unique concepts differ in dimensions, the process is the same and the ultimate aim is contribution towards growth. The paper intends to throw light on the linking thread between knowledge management and mystery shopping and to determine the common factors and process sequence which contributes towards effective strategy formulation. General conclusions are derived especially to create awareness of this unique marketing research tool which provides a sense of direction and outlines measurable goals of the organization.