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The Different Types of Mystery Shops

The different types of mystery shops - Blog Post

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Mystery shopping isn’t just about shopping in retail stores. It’s a versatile tool used by businesses across various industries to assess and improve the customer experience. By sending undercover evaluators to interact with staff, make purchases, or use services, companies can gain valuable insights into their operations. This blog post explores the different types of mystery shops available, such as restaurant shops, hotel shops, and service-based shops, highlighting the pros and cons of each.

Retail Mystery Shops

Retail mystery shops are perhaps the most well-known form of mystery shopping. Evaluators visit stores posing as regular customers to assess various aspects of the shopping experience, including customer service, store cleanliness, product availability, and overall atmosphere.


  • Immediate Feedback: Retail mystery shops provide real-time feedback on customer service and store conditions.
  • Comprehensive Evaluation: These shops can cover a wide range of criteria, from employee behaviour to product placement.
  • Actionable Insights: The results can lead to immediate improvements in staff training and store layout.


  • Cost: Conducting frequent retail mystery shops can be expensive, particularly for large chains.
  • Limited Scope: While useful, retail mystery shops might not capture all aspects of the customer experience, such as online interactions or after-sales service.

Restaurant Mystery Shops

Restaurant mystery shops involve evaluators dining at a restaurant and assessing the quality of food, service, cleanliness, and overall dining experience. This type of mystery shopping is crucial for maintaining high standards in the competitive food industry.


  • Detailed Feedback: These evaluations can provide detailed insights into the quality of food and service.
  • Customer Perspective: Restaurants get a genuine customer’s perspective, which can be more revealing than internal audits.
  • Employee Performance: Helps in assessing and improving employee performance and customer interaction skills.


  • Subjectivity: Personal taste and expectations can influence evaluators’ feedback.
  • Logistics: Coordinating dining experiences can be challenging, especially during peak hours or special events.

Hotel Mystery Shops

Hotel mystery shopping involves evaluators staying at a hotel and reviewing various aspects such as check-in/check-out processes, room cleanliness, amenities, staff professionalism, and overall guest experience. This type of mystery shopping is vital for the hospitality industry.


  • Comprehensive Assessment: Evaluators can assess multiple touchpoints, from reservation to check-out.
  • Guest Experience: Provides a clear picture of what actual guests experience, helping hotels improve their service standards.
  • Employee Training: Identifies areas where staff training is needed, enhancing overall guest satisfaction.


  • Costly: Mystery shopping in hotels can be expensive due to the costs of accommodation and additional services.
  • Timing: The evaluator’s experience might not always represent the typical guest experience, particularly if their visit coincides with special events or off-peak periods.

Service-Based Mystery Shops

Service-based mystery shops evaluate the performance of service providers such as banks, spas, car dealerships, and healthcare facilities. Evaluators interact with service providers to assess factors like professionalism, service quality, customer interaction, and overall satisfaction.


  • Diverse Applications: Can be applied to a wide range of services, providing versatile insights.
  • Detailed Feedback: Offers detailed feedback on specific interactions, helping service providers improve their offerings.
  • Customer-Centric: Focuses on the customer’s perspective, which is crucial for service-oriented businesses.


  • Variable Standards: Different evaluators might have varying standards and expectations, leading to inconsistent feedback.
  • Complex Evaluations: Some services, like healthcare, are complex and might require specialised knowledge to evaluate effectively.

Online Mystery Shops

With the rise of e-commerce, online mystery shopping has become increasingly important. Evaluators assess online retailers by purchasing products, navigating websites, and interacting with customer service via email or chat.


  • Convenience: Online shops are easy to coordinate and can be conducted remotely.
  • Digital Insights: Provides insights into the digital customer experience, including website usability and online support.
  • Broad Reach: Can cover a global customer base, offering diverse perspectives.


  • Limited Scope: Might not capture the full range of customer interactions, such as delivery experience and post-purchase support.
  • Technical Issues: Evaluators might encounter technical issues that are unrelated to the actual customer experience, skewing results.

Telephone Mystery Shops

Telephone mystery shopping involves evaluators calling a business to assess the quality of customer service provided over the phone. This type of mystery shopping is essential for call centres, customer support lines, and businesses that rely heavily on telephone interactions.


  • Direct Feedback: Provides direct feedback on customer service skills and phone etiquette.
  • Training Tool: Useful for training staff and improving phone-based customer service.
  • Cost-Effective: Generally less expensive than in-person mystery shops.


  • Limited Interaction: Evaluates only phone interactions, missing other aspects of the customer experience.
  • Variable Quality: Different evaluators might have varying levels of expertise in assessing phone interactions.


Mystery shopping is a powerful tool for businesses across various industries. By understanding the different types of mystery shops—retail, restaurant, hotel, service-based, online, and telephone—companies can tailor their approach to gain valuable insights and improve the customer experience.

Ready to take your business to the next level? At Customer Perceptions, we offer a comprehensive range of mystery shopping services tailored to your needs. Our expert evaluators provide detailed feedback and actionable insights to help you enhance your customer experience. Contact us today to learn how we can help you achieve excellence in every interaction.

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The different types of mystery shops - Blog Post

The Different Types of Mystery Shops

Mystery shopping isn’t just about shopping in retail stores. It’s a versatile tool used by businesses across various industries to assess and improve the customer

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The Different Types of Mystery Shops