A Secret Shopper is just what it sounds like. At times the thrilling stuff of movies, an analytical person goes undercover to assess a business based on their individual experience. Other times, like with the mobile app Servy, it’s a frequenter of the food scene who is incentivized to provide honest feedback.
The idea is--since the Mystery Shopper appears to be just another average Joe-- that they will receive impartial treatment, and a service and dining experience that is representative of the establishment. This differs from alternative digital methods of feedback because in this case, the reviewer is financially incentivized to pay close attention to aspects of the meal and provide a constructive, honest review, rather than being simply there to dine--in which their investment in a close analysis of the business operations is lesser. Secret Shopper services and apps have the potential to provide some of the most accurate and thoughtful data, but at what cost?
Folks looking for extra money and exposure to their local restaurant world would be hard-pressed to find a sweeter deal--get paid (in cash, or sometimes in a free meal) in exchange for providing a comprehensive review of their dining experience.
Restaurants need an unbiased, unfettered opinion, and someone who is there to soak in the quality of service is less likely to have their judgment clouded by a bad day. Additionally, a “professional shopper/diner” is more likely to be attuned to restaurant etiquette and, therefore, less likely to unfairly base their critique on a foundation of unrealistic or outlandish expectations.
Much like other consumer-based reporting, Secret Shopping exclusively yields information about client-facing service. It’s highly advisable to complement this kind of analysis with backend housekeeping such as regular internal audits to ensure that things are just as peachy behind-the-scenes. Another drawback to Secret Shopping is that this kind of data collection requires another pair of boots on the ground, and that pair of boots needs to be paid...unlike customer-to-business digital reporting, which is free (except for the software) and necessitates no extra manpower.
While Secret Shopping is extremely effective in many ways, platforms like PLEY bring this data to life. Being able to aggregate private shopping data, comment card data, mobile app feedback data, website data and internal audit data can only be done with a data aggregation tool like PLEY.
To summarize, if your business is going to be using a secret shopper program it's imperative to implement a backend dashboard like PLEY. The data on it's own is valuable, but the data in the PLEY dashboard, compared to other data streams becomes invaluable. Secret shop on!