Secret Shopping Companies; Not So Secret Anymore

The Secret Is Out!

If you work in the retail industry you know that at any point in time you might be dealing with a mystery shopper and not just a regular consumer. These “secret shoppers” are everywhere now, in retail stores, restaurants, on the phone, even shopping on your website. Secret shopping companies do much more than just send customers into your retail location now. They offer a variety of services for businesses in any industry that has points of contact with customers or clients.

The practice of secret shopping is so widespread that some companies are having new employees sign letters of acknowledgment stating that they may be subject to evaluation that comes as a result of secret shopper reports. Other companies choose not to inform their employees when they hire a secret shopping company, choosing instead to rely on the fact that they don’t know anyone is watching and therefore act naturally.

In spite of the choice by some business owners to not inform their employees when secret shoppers will be coming in most folks who work in the retail industry expect to be under surveillance at some point. It’s the same in the restaurant industry. If you’re a host, hostess, waiter or waitress you would be foolish to think that your boss won’t send an anonymous patron in to evaluate your performance from time to time.

Secret shopping is not a secret anymore. There are ads on the internet seeking consumers with an interest in becoming secret shoppers and everyone sees them, including those who work in the industries where they are being utilized. This general knowledge of the existence of the industry makes secret shoppers a secret only to the retail or restaurant employees that they are evaluating.

The term itself may quickly be obsolete as the position has been expanded to other industries that are not oriented towards customer face to face contact. Internet businesses are using them to test the usability and effectiveness of their websites. Call centers are using them to test telemarketers and customer service representatives. These are “secret” to the employees but not quite the same as a non-descript couple doing some shopping for the family.