The Effectiveness of Performance Evaluation by Mystery Shoppers

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In this topic we will seek for a relation between using mystery shoppers technique and effectiveness in the banking sector. Mystery Shoppers are used worldwide by services to evaluate the performance of their front-line employees. An online survey of mystery shoppers compares the reality of the situation with the best practice identified (Dr. Jacqueline Douglas, 2015). It is seen as an efficient and effective instrument to gain in-depth knowledge of the customer’s perception of service delivery (Finn, 2001). When a firm is delivering the expectations of management and customers through standards of service then there is a necesity to measure performance against these standards so that an organization can ensure that it is delivering what it promises and maintaining its competitive position.

This is especially obvious when managing the execution of offers staff whose activity it is to place items and administrations to clients (Ramesh, 2010). Mystery shopping is a strategy that can do this as it plans to gather realities instead of judgments. These certainties can identify with nearly any part of the administration exchange covering themes, for example, number of rings before the phone was replied, time allotment in a line, number of checkouts open and the type of welcome utilized. They can incorporate progressively complex experiences, for example, an advance application or a solicitation to open a ledger where the systems received can be surveyed regarding administration quality and budgetary consistence (Wilson, 1998b). It is the nature of the gathered information that separates this procedure from different methods for assessment.

The extant literature on mystery shopping has identified a number of other advantages associated with the technique. Mystery shopping results can be used as a diagnostic tool to identify failings or weaknesses in procedures and processes, to encourage, develop and motivate staff and to assess an organisation’s competitiveness by benchmarking them against others in the same sector (Wilson, 1998b). Erstad (1998, p.34) linked mystery shopping techniques to “building a team spirit, evaluating/identifying training needs, providing feedback, and linking performance to incentives and rewards.” It can bring immediate service improvements with continuous improvement possibilities (Cabinet Office, 2004). It can also be used to measure the effectiveness of training programmes (Morrison et al., 1997) and checking whether all customers are treated equally (Morrall, 1994, Tepper, 1994). Thus, what Berry et al, (1988) describe as the service-quality loop of service standards, employee performance, training and rewards can all be linked by using mystery shopper evaluations in a positive way.

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However, there are some disadvantages to using mystery shoppers, such as employees may view the evaluation process as threatening in that they may perceive it as the management “spying” upon them, with a view to instigating disciplinary action for any mistakes they make, rather than as a trigger to improve staff training (Erstad, 1998). It reviews processes not their outcomes (Wilson, 1998a) and this can be problematic for many services, for example, the service was excellent but the meal was inedible.

However, some organisations have now started to examine outcomes, particularly where there is a tangible element involved. For example fast food chains are now evaluating the meal – the outcome of the service. If used as an ongoing or regular method of evaluation it will result in a constant need for mystery shoppers. This will inevitably utilise staff time, impact on training and also on finances particularly where an external agency is used. Furthermore, staff can become complacent about the level of service they provide after the novelty of being mystery shopped wears off (Wilson, 1998a). Memory demands placed on assessors could affect the accuracy of the information obtained (Morrison et al, 1997). As is the case with all sampling techniques it offers a snapshot of the service process, which may not be representative (Cabinet Office, 2004). It has been suggested that mystery shopping violates the principle of informed consent, as staff are not aware at any stage that they are being observed and their behaviours monitored. According to good research practice subjects should be protected through the practice of informed consent (Silverman, 2000).

Subjects have the right to know they are being observed. Another potential problem is staff attempting to play “spot the mystery shopper”. However, this can be alleviated to a certain extent by making the assignment brief as credible as possible and by not using the same shoppers every time. These issues can affect the reliability of mystery shopping as a technique to measure customer service. It is the reliability and validity issues that are examined in the next section.

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