Braintrust Query: Are Mystery Shops ‘Constructively Negative’?
by Kerry Colligan, Integrated Marketing Manager, Second to None
study published in the November Journal
of Marketing attempts to answer
two important questions applicable to mystery shopping programs:
shoppers who expect to evaluate service delivery inclined toward “constructively
negative” evaluations regardless of the actual experience?
can be done to reduce the negative bias of survey respondents?
brief: 1) No. 2) Give them something to think about.
to the study, when cognitive loading precedes the customer experience
it reduces negative bias. We know that when customers expect to complete
a survey after visiting a store, they have a natural tendency to focus
on negative aspects of the experience in part because those aspects are
more easily identified. It’s easier to conclude “My coffee is cold” than
it is to conclude “The associate far exceeded the service standard.”
when shoppers are asked to pay attention to specific details about an
experience beforehand, they are less likely to identify negative aspects
of the experience when they occur. Their focus is more positive.
more, the study found that “shoppers do not ‘fabricate’ negative evaluations
just to comply with their task. … [T]hey report such evaluations only
if they are able to gather supporting evidence during the shopping experience.”
the impact of cognitive loading on:
training and preparation: Well-trained
mystery shoppers should arrive on-site with a high degree of cognitive
load that results in a more balanced evaluation. Conversely, poorly trained
or unprepared mystery shoppers are more likely to over-report the negative
in an effort to fulfill their obligation to report. Thus, ‘constructively
negative’ evaluations should be more prevalent among poorly trained shoppers.
experience program goals: Shoppers are more likely to identify negative
aspects of the experience if their brains aren’t busy processing shop scenarios
and service procedures. If your goal is improved training and employee appreciation
(i.e., incrementally positive outcomes), you’ll want shoppers loaded to identify
the subtle differences between four-star and five-star service.
Questions: What can be done to reduce the bias of mystery shoppers (perceived
or actual)? How do the conclusions in the Journal of Marketing study compare to your own mystery shopper research experiences? What
do you think of the value of mystery shoppers overall?
- Customer Experience
Execs: Are Your Mystery Shops ‘Constructively Negative’? – Second
- The Robustness of the
Effects of Consumers’ Participation in Market Research: The Case of Service
Quality Evaluations – Journal of Marketing (sub. required)