Interview the Shopper Program

What is "Interview the Shopper"?

Interview the shopper is just as you'd think - after a shop has been completed, a teleconference or in person meeting is set up between the shopper (or shoppers) and the client's management team, marketing team, or operations team depending on the nature of the shop and goals for the interview the shopper program. The client side has the opportunity to ask additional, often times more subjective questions, related to the shopper's experience during that particular shop. 


How Do We Interview the Shopper?

This can take many forms depending on the situation, the nature of the shopping program, and the budget allowances. It can be done via written communication, a teleconference, or in person meeting. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours and depends on the client's needs and goals for the exercise.

While it can be done for evaluations conducted on the client's business, it can also be extremely beneficial when competitive evaluations are done - shoppers can evaluate the client's business and then competitors and report on the differences, similarities, and preferences between the two. 


Isn't it better to interview actual customers?

Better isn't the right word to use. They are both valuable and, if done properly, can give a 360 degree view of the customer experience. There are some mystery shopping services where actual customers are used to conduct the shops and are then interviewed post shop. While useful, it is important to remember that, as customers, they are coming to the experience with established perceptions of the business; often times these perceptions are positive in nature (dissatisifed customers will likely not want to conduct mystery shopping) and can sway both the results of the mystery shopping evaluation and the post shop interview. That being said, there is still valuable information to be found in this type of exercise.

On the other hand, conducting post shop interviews with mystery shoppers can prove to yield more in depth information - they typically do not know they might be interviewed prior to accepting the shop. This is done so they are not headed into the shop knowing that they may be sharing more than the results and does not alter their experience in any way. Additionally, mystery shoppers go into evaluations looking at the objective, operational aspects of the customer experience; after knowing what the client's expectations are, and how they compare to the actual experience, they can provide some great insight. 


Do you have any case studies of interviewing the shopper?

Of course! There are a few examples, though the one that comes to mind is one utilized by an assisted living facility. The goal of their project was to learn more about admissions processes in their industry, and how their procedures aligned to those of the competitors, and which were preferred by potential clients. To gain a strong understanding, shoppers were instructed to visit 5 assisted living facilities - one of the client's as well as four competitors. It was set up as a blind study so the shopper was not aware of who the client was. The shopper conducted five evaluations and completed standard mystery shopping reports. At the conclusion, the shopper provided a detailed narrative summarizing the overall experience, as well as a comparison of strengths and weaknesses of each facility compared to the others. Finally, the shopper provided subjective detail about her preferences should she be in the market for this type of service for a family member with supporting reasoning for her decision.

All reports and final summary were provided to the client for review. The client then invited the shopper to the corporate office, where she spent 2 hours with the leadership team. Questions were asked to clarify information in the reports and gain a better understanding of the shopper's experience and perceptions.

The client found this to be valuable, as they learned several key pieces of information:

  • Their process for working with potential residents was not as efficient as it could be; competitors did this better and they were able to improve their internal processes
  • From the shopper's perceptions of weaknesses of competitors, the client was able to better align their marketing message with pain points of potential residents
  • Similarly, the client was able to strengthen their marketing messaging now knowing what made them stand out compared to the competition



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