If you’re planning a Mystery Shopping Program or have one underway, you’ll find this checklist will keep you focused and on the right track.

We’ve compiled the following steps after doing tens of thousands of mystery shops for a variety of industries and company sizes.


21 Step Mystery Shopping Best Practices


STEP 1: Determine WHY you want/need a customer service program. Develop an action plan that clearly details your reason for wanting the program and any goals you hope to achieve.

STEP 2: Decide who in your company will commit the time and resources necessary to ensure the success of your program.

STEP 3: Research the various customer service improvement tools available to see which one(s) may be of benefit to you: mystery shopping, online surveys, phone shops, website analysis, internal operations audits, competitor shops, compliance shops, etc.

STEP 4: Determine your budget and frequency of evaluations.

STEP 5: Decide what you will do with the results (coaching, training, corrective action, performance evaluation component). Consider a Rewards & Recognition program.

Decide what the reward will be, how it will be awarded, who will qualify, and what is necessary to get the award (hitting a certain score, most improvement, 100%, etc.)

STEP 6: Pick a provider based on their customer service and flexibility (allow approximately 30 days to get your program up and running).

STEP 7: Spend time with your provider discussing your company, your policies and procedures, why you need a customer service program, and what you hope to get out of the program.

STEP 8: Work closely with your provider to develop a program customized to your specific needs.

STEP 9: Do a couple of test evaluations prior to beginning the full program. This will allow you to revise the scenarios, instructions, or questions if they are not working completely.

STEP 10 (Optional): Conduct your first round of shops “blind”, without anyone knowing they are being evaluated. This allows you to establish a true baseline of where you are starting.

STEP 11: Roll out the program in a fun, positive fashion.

STEP 12: Communicate with everyone involved to ensure they are aware of the program, its purpose, how it will work, what will be done with the results (disciplinary action, rewards, percentage of performance evaluations), and your goals with the program.

STEP 13: Provide contact information to everyone involved so they know who in your company they can go to with questions, comments, or concerns about the program.

STEP 14: Post a copy of the checklist so everyone knows what they are being evaluated on.

STEP 15: Have your management team set up with access to the online data so they can watch trends, make changes, and see the results of their coaching and training initiatives.

STEP 16: Review the results with the parties involved as quickly as possible, while their recollection is still clear. When conveying results to employees, make sure they understand why they lost points, what they need to do to avoid losing the points in the future, why it is important they do something, how it impacts the company and their fellow employees if they do not, and the consequences for failure to improve their performance; reference training materials if necessary.

STEP 17: Do not just focus on the negative results. Celebrate the achievements of anyone who does well, and recognize and appreciate what was done correctly even when the results are poor.

STEP 18: Listen to the employee’s questions and concerns about the evaluation. When necessary, contact your provider to obtain additional information and clarification from the evaluator.

STEP 19: Post the results. You can keep names and specifics anonymous, but it is a good idea for everyone to know they were evaluated, what the score was, and what they need to do to improve on the results. Take the report(s) to your next team meeting and encourage an open dialogue about the results.

STEP 20: Work in conjunction with your training department. Ensure anyone responsible for training has access to the information and tie the results in with your training program.

STEP 21: If you are not getting the information you hoped or are finding issues with your reports, contact your consultant immediately. They will work with you to modify the program and help keep things on the right path.


MYSTERY SHOPPING programs are incredibly effective tools for improving and maintaining high and consistent service levels. They do, however, take some effort to run properly.

It’s what we’ve been doing for almost 20 years now.

Consider the advantages of hiring a third party to run your mystery shops and you can focus on what you do best—running your business.