The Mystery Shopper method official began to actively use in ancient Rome to maintain law and order: catching bribe-takers and illicit merchants.
The term ‘mystery shopping’ was coined in the 40’s when it began being used to define the services used by everyday customers that were investigated by these shoppers. Since it has evolved into an industry that evaluates many different areas of customer satisfaction within several different industries.
The emergence of a large number of complex electronic products – TVs, music centers, compact receivers, electronic musical instruments, etc. – caused problems in the ability of retail sales consultants to adequately present products and advise customers who were even less familiar with the new class of equipment.
Therefore, manufacturers (Sony, Philips, Panasonic, Bosch) used the help of Mystery Shopping to assess the level of knowledge of sellers and to determine in which regions, retail chains, stores, for which sellers and for which products it is necessary to conduct additional training.
The age of electronics took many people by surprise, and without Mystery Shopping, it was impossible to provide technical literacy of the army of sellers in retail chains. At that time, the main users of Mystery Shopping were manufacturers, and it was at that time in the U.S. there were the first specialized agencies Mystery Shopping.
The development of Mystery Shopping in its modern form coincided in time with the development of the Internet, first of all in the United States.
Large network companies, such as Wal-Mart, Citibank, MacDonald’s, finally got the opportunity to get a reasonable price and every day via the Internet to get prompt information about the level of customer service in each of their thousands of stores, branches, restaurants or gas stations. This information was collected for them by a real army of mystery shoppers for specialized Mystery Shopping agencies.
As a verification service, Mystery Shopping was formally acknowledged at the beginning of the 20th century in the USA. Then the first companies appeared with their employees secretly purchasing products and analyzing service quality.
During the crisis of the 1970s in the United States, when many business people were on the brink of ruin, the need for mystery shoppers increased. Potential customers were highly sought after.
In the early 90’s began to appear agencies that provide mystery shopping vary fast, also mainly in the U.S., where such agencies today are about 500. In Europe, the industry of Mystery Shopping makes only the first steps, and the largest agencies today are often no more than 5 years old.
In today’s world, the Mystery Shopper service is becoming increasingly popular, not yet in all countries though. For example, according to some studies, in the U.S.A. about a million citizens are registered in the database of ‘Mystery shopper”.
Mystery Shopping services are usually provided by specialized agencies, which number is not more than one thousand all over the world today. But in the Asian-Pacific region Mystery Shopping has not become widespread yet, probably because of strong traditions of qualitative service and high labor discipline in Confucian culture. This is proved by the Japanese proverb “The customer is God”.
In Western countries, Mystery Shopping has become a part of everyday life for many people. For example, a request to check-up a gas station, which a person passes every morning, driving a child to school, or the stores near the cafe where he has his lunch every day.
A couple can take a state cruise with hotel accommodation – the cost of the journey will be refunded by the agency in exchange for an assessment of the quality of each hotel’s services. There are also professional full-time Mystery Shoppers, whose annual income can reach $40-60 thousand.
In Europe, the Mystery shopper industry only takes the first steps. The largest agencies are often no more than 5 years old today. Central and Eastern Europe is characterized by the situation when just one or two agencies have embraced the national market, having a small scope of activity. As for Western Europe, there are mainly the branches of agencies of American origin.
Today, a highly competitive environment requires different tools from a business to gain new customers, so the need for mystery shoppers is increasing.
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