What is the purpose of mystery analyses?

How good is the advice given in your stores in comparison to your competitors? Do the hotline employees adhere to the guidelines given in your training? Are customers’ e-mail enquiries, which are often treated as a lower priority, answered quickly, straightforwardly and competently by your service centre?

Mystery analyses supply objective facts about your own company and, where required, also about the competition. This makes it an incorruptible tool in measuring whether, for example, service levels and other instructions are being adhered to and whether your company is better or worse placed than the competition.

Mystery analyses do not replace customer satisfaction analyses solutions, but are a tool that ideally supplements the subjective customer view with standardised measured services.

What possibilities for mystery analyses does intervista offer?    

Mystery analyses can be formatted in very different ways depending on the matter in hand. intervista works with you to develop a concept in order to answer the important and the right questions. Where appropriate, we can also integrate a mystery analysis into a comprehensive market research concept for the purposes of quality improvement, for example by combining it with customer satisfaction analyses solutions, or by integrating the mystery analysis into a comprehensive customer experience design study.

But let’s stick with mystery analyses for now, since there are a few preliminary questions that need answering here too:

Which channel is to be tested?
First we need to clarify which contact channel is to be the focus of the actual analysis – should it be the shop, or the telephone or e-mail support? It is also possible to test personal consultants or written responses by letter or fax.    

Which dimensions are to be analysed?
A mystery analysis can be very comprehensive in terms of themes, but also very focused where only specific aspects are to be tested.
Decisions have to be made regarding what is to be evaluated, be it service levels (e.g. waiting times on the hotline), the atmosphere in the shop, aspects of process quality (e.g. in the event of damages), or the technical consultancy skills of staff or their soft skills (e.g. friendliness or fairness).    

How should the tasks or cases be formatted?
The subject orientation also determines what tasks or test cases are developed. In the simpler variation or in industries in which contractual obligations of the client do not play a role, these can be test cases requiring no client history.
In many cases, though, test cases will involve existing and/or regular customers since, after all, these customers often represent the company’s “capital”. Here a credible customer history is generally necessary in order not to arouse any suspicions as a tester.

Who are the testers?
Since creating comprehensive customer histories from scratch or faking them can involve a lot of time and effort, in many cases it makes more sense to work with real customers than with testers. These testing real customers, also known as scouts, must, of course, undergo intensive preparation for their task. Eventually they should be in a position to judge objectively like a “testing tool”.    

What level of benchmarking does this concern?
Last but not least, the question arises of whether a client simply wants an evaluation of the company itself or whether the relevant competitors should also be evaluated.
Mystery analyses are ideally suited to such benchmarkings – you are not reliant on finding customers from the competition who, merely by chance, have had a specific incident with the company, since these incidents are triggered through test cases.
Here, though, it is necessary to abide by the professional standards of the market research industry, which for mystery analyses state, amongst other things, that employees of competitor companies may not be paid to take part in a test; on this matter see guidelines of Esomar for mystery analyses.