What’s best? Mystery Shopping or Customer Reviews

We’re not pitting one against the other… After all, at Silent Customer we offer both! But the two are often compared, so here we layout the pros and cons in black and white.

Since the inception of Tripadvisor, many more review platforms have been birthed. It goes without saying that they contain invaluable insight for hospitality businesses, so does it make sense to embrace all this ‘free’ feedback and ditch mystery guest surveys?

At Silent Customer, we advise our clients to use both our Mystery Guest and our Customer Review Management platforms because, while they both deliver feedback, they don’t have the same output.

Customer reviews deliver a true and general overview of how the public sees your brand, as well as insight as to whether you need to take radical action.

Mystery guest visits generate detailed, targeted insight and learning.

But what if you had to choose just one?

Here are some considerations…

Customer reviews are essentially free and the software to manage them is relatively inexpensive.
Mystery guests need to be paid by you, the business, whereas customers who leave public reviews, pay you.

Customer reviews are generally short and subjective, often with very little narrative evidence to explain why something was good or bad. However, due to the sheer quantity of them, if you have a review management platform, you can easily benchmark poor and well performing sites as well as identify some actional insights through keyword analysis. You can also solicit direct customer feedback and calculate your NPS.

Objective feedback is far easier to extract from mystery guest feedback, as the assessor is expected to give examples of what happened at each stage of a detailed customer journey. The feedback tends to be less frequent but far more detailed, targeted and expansive. It will give you quantifiable feedback about areas of your business that ‘normal’ customers wouldn’t see, or care to tell you about.

Although collectively, customer reviews are a great way to measure overall satisfaction and can be used as a reliable KPI, they don’t support targeted learning very well as it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees. However, by way of supporting teams in learning how to manage customer complaints, a customer review management platform is a very useful tool indeed.

With mystery guest visits you can look at each step of your customer journey, at a glance, across one site or all, and over time. You can also ask the assessors to check more sensitive areas of your business that paying customers wouldn’t be aware of or looking for, such as allergy procedures and revenue incentives. In terms of helping your teams to understand customer expectations and affect behavioural change, they are invaluable.

Customer review management platforms aim to make one voice heard through all the chatter. By identifying keywords and using sentiment technology to filter through the noise, they do generate some useful insights which are sometimes mirrored in mystery guest feedback. Review management platforms also enable you to respond to all your reviews and customer feedback from one interface.

Mystery shopping platforms have been built specifically for business development and training. They are designed to extract precise data and identify new or missed revenue opportunities.

To know where you sit in the market and to keep ahead of the game, you must be using at least one of the feedback tools. However, at Silent Customer we realise that data, by, itself, does not initiate change but people do, so we work closely with

our clients to make sure they are interpreting feedback in a meaningful and actionable way.
Our values are centred around influencing change through positive suggestions rather than criticism – this is at the core of everything we do. So while data is our game, making people happy is our aim.

So which is better, review data or mystery guest feedback?

The answer is neither – or both!

We recognise that while customer reviews deliver sentiment data based on the sheer volume of anecdotal feedback, by default they miss a huge amount of the detailed observation that a mystery guest is asked to feedback on.
For example, a customer writing a review isn’t going to tell you whether upselling opportunities, specific brand standards or customer journey touchpoints were missed.

Nor will they paint a detailed picture of when a team member has really gone out of their way to over deliver, generating pride and thus motivating their colleagues to follow suit. They won’t point out ergonomic issues, loss of revenue or discover new procedures that would be better adopted. This and more is what mystery guest delivers.

The truth is, you need both since they deliver a different output. If it was cold and raining and someone offered you either an umbrella or a coat, ideally you would wear both. Right?!



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