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Mystery Shopper as a Particular Form of Observational Research

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Observation is a proposed tracking, recording, review and evaluation of attitudes, acts, or events of people. Observational studies provide substantial insights that other methods of data collection do not. Observational approaches shed light on the actions of consumers and workers and can help address questions such as How do customers walk through supermarkets? How do they ingest goods and dispose of them? And how do workers spend their days at work? In order to explain what people are doing rather than why they are doing it; observational approaches are typically used. They work well when people, such as shoppers from different ethnic backgrounds, find it hard to put what they do into words. Most observational studies use video recording devices, or professional researchers, who observe what individuals do unobtrusively. Mystery shopping is a particular form of observational study where a qualified researcher is asked to visit a store or restaurant and consume goods or services. The qualified researcher observes the behavior of the people and take key note of it. In this case study, Dawson chamber can send a qualified researcher into phone shop and pretend to be a customer and buy phone from the shop or can call some of the sales assistant to make enquiry to find out that what the customers are saying are true. The claims made by the customers that, the sales assistants do not give them any advice from the shop when they are prepared to buy a phone and also, they do not know much about the phones can easily be solved through mystery shopping.

Uncontrolled observation is when the observation takes place in the natural world, but when observation takes place according to definite pre-arranged arrangements, requiring experimental method, the same is then called controlled observation. No effort is made to use precision methods in non-controlled observation. The main purpose of this form of observation is to obtain a spontaneous image of life and individuals. It has a tendency to provide naturalness and completeness of behaviour, giving enough time to observe It. Mmechanical (or precision) tools is used as an aid to precision and standardization in controlled observation. Such observation appears to provide formalized data from which, with some degree of certainty, generalizations can be built. The largest non-controlled pitfall of observation is that of perception, subjective. There is also the danger of assuming like we know more than we really do about the phenomenon observed.

Participant observation, by being a member of their work group, organization or culture, the researcher enters into the social realm of those to be studied and tries to engage in their activities. A key strength of using participant observation is the high degree of immersion obtained by the researcher in the research environment, especially when compared to other data collection techniques. Because the researcher becomes a member of the group within which participant observation is conducted, she or he comes to understand the symbolic world of the informants and their perceptions about their social situation. This allows the participant observer to develop a deep and nuanced understanding of the meanings of informants’ interactions, and how they respond to their social situation and changes to it.

Non-participant observation, there is a high degree of predetermined order in formal observation. You will take a more detached stance if you use this form of data collection as part of your study strategy. Quantifying actions would be your concern. As such, formal observation can only form part of your approach to data collection because its purpose is to tell you how often things occur rather than why they occur. Once again, we see that in an overall research strategy, all research methods can have a position. Choosing methods that are appropriate for the research question and goals is critical.

Sebastian Koch should not inform his sales assistant about his mystery shopping that he is preparing to conduct in his shop to find out what he can do improve his business since there are many phone shops in the country. Also, when customers are not treated well, they can switch his competitors and once they received well treatment, it would be possible for his customers not to return to his shop for shopping again. Mystery shopping is conducted to have better understanding of customers experiences in the organization. when he informs his sales assistants about the exercise that he is going to embark in the organization, his sales assistants will put up a proper behavior in dealing with their customers and he cannot get the actual customer experience that he looking for and that would affect his shop in the long run.

Also, mystery shopping in conducted to find out the well-defined company standard and reality in everyday life. Since every organization is having a standard that it expects its employees to comply. Once the sales customers are well of the mystery shopping exercise, they will comply with the well-defined standard of the organization and he cannot ascertain the reality on the ground.

Since he is not the only phone selling organization and he need to protect his business, I think it would be better for him to conduct the mystery shopping exercise to find out whether the claims of the customers are true or not. Once he ascertains the fact on the ground, he can decide to fire some of his sales assistants that are not relating well with customers or he can organize training for them to improve their performance or put up a good behavior towards the customers.

A key element of structured observation is the creation of a coding scheme. For documenting what is observed, coding schemes include predetermined categories. These schemes come in many shapes and types. Some of them are quite simple; they merely allow the researcher to notice whether or not there has been a specific case. Other structures are more complex; various types, timescales, and the like are included. Remember that it is never an easy task to create an adequate coding scheme. The type of coding scheme you are going to use depends on the data you want to gather. Again, your research questions serve as the starting point for the creation of a coding scheme in this case. You identify the important concepts in your analysis on the basis of the research questions, often refined through a pilot study, and create a coding scheme that allows you to collect information on these concepts. The benefit of the coding scheme is:

  1. Having a coding scheme under mystery shopping will help the mystery shoppers to remain focus in their observation. Since they know the area that they are interested in taking data from. They will only limit themselves to that particular area only that will enable them to obtain responses to their research questions. In the case, they are interested in finding out purchasing of phone in done in the phone shop and the attitude of the sales assistants toward customers, they only have to limit themselves to the purchasing patterns of the customers and not concentrating in any other field such as payment patterns of the customers.
  2. Hhaving coding scheme, will help the mystery shoppers to be very objectives in their studies. With coding scheme, the mystery shoppers require only little interpretation of their studies, since the coding scheme under recording will clearly provide much information on the reactions of the sales assistant toward the customers and the results will be given to Sebastian Koch, would he can see it for himself. The observer should be supported by specific instructions and detailed category descriptions to objectively code events, acts and conduct.

Firstly, mystery shopping helps to monitor and measure service performance and see if standards are met. Every organization have a standard way of serving its customers. Sometimes some employee acts on their own interest instead of the interest of the organization. that is, they will introduce their personal attitudes into the work that affect the standard of service performance of the organization. the use of mystery shopping serves a means of collecting information on how the staff of an organization perform their daily activities and it is compared to the required standard of performance of the organization, if there is any deviation, corrective actions are taken to address such deviations to ensure better improvement in the standard service performance of the organization.

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Secondly, mystery shopping helps to get important feedbacks from customer perspectives and structured series of steps are taken to improve the feedbacks since customers are the king in the organization and the success of every organization depends on its customers. Feedbacks from customers helps n organization to put adequate measures to improve their performances. In the case study, it is seen that, customers are not getting the right advice from the sales assistant in regard to their purchases or service provided. Once mystery shopping is done to obtain feedback from customers. The organization that is Sebastian Koch can put measures to ensuring the improvement of customers feedbacks for successful growth of the business in future.

Thirdly, mystery shopping gives feedback about staff performance on the impact of the organization. the best way to measure staff performances is to get feedback from those that they are working with. The information provided by customer through the use of mystery shopping will help Sebastian Koch to know the actual performance of his staff, if they are performing below standard, he can encourage them to put better performance. Poor performances of staff can be improved through trainings, organizing seminars and conference to upgrade their knowledge and give them the required standard of service performance expected from them.

There are also some limitation of mystery shopping. Firstly, low data volume is one of the limitations of mystery shopping as compared to survey method of data collection. With survey you need to determine your sampling size before you proceed on with the data collection. Mystery shopping deals with small sample size to make generalization. Also, the cost involves for the mystery shoppers to travel from their place of office to the client office is sometimes very expensive and as a result of this, they limit their travel when they are observing the customers for much information to release to their clients. Basing on small sample size to make generalization lack vigor. Sometimes they cannot estimate the number of customers who will be visiting their clients shop to study and it affect the quality of their data collection.

Secondly, data validity is one of the limitations of mystery shopping. Surveys can be structured to provide results that are as objective as possible, but a shopper is not impartial, has interests, behaviors and shopping actions of his own. There are many seasoned shoppers who know what customer service should be and how to run a mystery store, but there are still many shoppers who do not. The mystery shopping industry is fragmented, with quality control not always adequate. This will distort outcomes, and as any mystery shopping story becomes uncertain, the validity can be challenged. Data validity is the least troublesome as mystery shopping constraints go, as most businesses have stringent quality assurance procedures in control to ensure that consumers only receive accurate data to work with.

Thirdly, singular experience is also another limitation of mystery shopping. A mystery shopper catches the whole snapshot. A moment is caught, and the encounters vary and do not necessarily reflect the daily customer visit, depending on the conditions, such as staff shortage on an extremely busy day. If in one store a mystery shopper had a bad experience, the experience is projected to the entire store and all the staff. Getting several information points that would prove so, collected from a wider sample collection, would make it worth investigating, but this becomes a risky assumption with the few data points per store.

Why is it dangerous to rely on a mystery shopper? Firstly, one of the dangers of solely relying on mystery shopping as a way of improving your performance is that, there is a falsehood of hypothesis. While mystery shoppers should be impartial, they are not real customers. The ultimate impression cannot, therefore be real. They carry to the table their own interests, behaviors, and sense of shopping, and are searching for problems. This means that mystery shoppers have a negative bias that is built-in.

Secondly, another danger of relying on mystery shopping is that, there is not really enough data to depend on it for generalization. Mystery shopping is a one-man one data point task, unlike in-store surveys and exit polls. Therefore, the level of information that comes from only one mystery shopping experience will often be very limited, rendering the information unreliable for operational enhancement.

Lastly, the authenticity of the data is also a challenge. Questioning the expertise, reporting and integrity of a mystery shopper is a standard activity for workers and managers to boost ratings. This takes time, departs from attempts to boost activities and chips away at the Mystery Shopping organization's reputation.

The more balance program to improve organizational performance is the use of balance scorecard approach. It is a measurement tool that uses goal set by managers in four areas to measure a company’s performance. The four area are financial perspective, customer perspective, internal processes and learning or growth asset. With financial perspective, the firm must consider how it appears to shareholders, that is the shareholders must see the organization as a profit-oriented organization. The company must make enough profit to enable them to meet their day-to-day operations and well as providing great return on their investment to shareholders. With customer perspective, the organization must create something of values to their customers. They must satisfy the needs of their customers and also place the customer first in all their doing. All the needs of the customers must be satisfied by the organization. in achieving this, the customer must view the organization as a customer focus orientation and place priorities on customer’s needs. With internal processes, the organization must put in place structures and systems that monitor the internal affairs of the organization. the structures and the systems must make the organization to excel in all its doing. With the learning organization organization, the firm must make sure that the knowledge of all its staff is upgraded through organizing seminar, conference or workshops for them. The leadership of the organization must encourage its staff to further their education to improve upon their existing knowledge.

In combining all these four area together in one pool will be an effective way to improve an organization performance without engaging the services of mystery shoppers.

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Mystery Shopper as a Particular Form of Observational Research. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 6, 2023, from
“Mystery Shopper as a Particular Form of Observational Research.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
Mystery Shopper as a Particular Form of Observational Research. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 6 Dec. 2023].
Mystery Shopper as a Particular Form of Observational Research [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 01 [cited 2023 Dec 6]. Available from:
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