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Revamped Mystery Shopper Programme – Travel Retail


The challenge we faced was an outdated Mystery Shopper programme and system, no real customer feedback methods, and a lack of evaluation of investment in front line customer service training.

We started by identifying and talking to a wide range of internal and external stakeholders, to understand what kind of feedback they wanted, to see or provide, and for what purpose it was to be used. From that initial research, a key tech expert partner was sourced to build the system.

Large scale culture change across both retail and support functions was immediately identified,  to change the idea that customer feedback was a nuisance and only used as a punitive measure, to seeing feedback as honest, useful, and to be used as a business development asset.

Implementing an agile design process and detailed people training programme, the new Customer Experience (CX) Feedback programme was successfully delivered and launched on time and within the limited budget. It was received very positively and has become an enviable asset as this now global business has expanded and new acquisitions have adopted the system and process. The process sets this business apart as one which really values their customer as part of their team, actively requesting feedback and acting on it quickly.

Context & Challenge

Many businesses invest significant amounts training front line teams to improve customer service. This usually involves training in sales and service techniques directly pointing toward the front-line team. Often though, due to lack of support or engagement by managers, or no measures of success being put in place, the training impact is lost very quickly.

Our challenge was to design and build a system that ensured the ROI was realised by developing a CX measure aligned to training, and to ensure this solution delivered a longer-term method of reviewing, measuring and internally benchmarking customer satisfaction across the 100+ outlets that were part of this Travel Retail (TR) business.. The timescale was tight (6 months) and budget was limited, with no flexibility.

There was a legacy Mystery Shopping measure in place which had poor company advocacy mainly because the output was associated with punishment for under performance. This manual process also had no business wide trend visibility or any ability to manipulate the received data, hence it had no buy-in to use the limited from any business function outside of retail operations.

Our objective was to deliver not only a technical solution, but to effect the cultural change required across the company to share and use the output, within the desired timescale and within budget

Process & Insights

The design process used the following techniques:

Stakeholder engagement – reviewing the existing legacy system and process, investigating how teams other than retail operations would want to use customer feedback e.g. Buying, HR, Marketing etc.

Direct User engagement – a small retail project team (nominated by peers) identifying what the most frequent users of the process wanted – how they wanted the information presented, what it was for, how it would align with other business processes and what impact it would have on the customer.

Customer Research – Researching with key customer groups how they wanted to give feedback, about what, and what they wanted in return.

External Design and System partners – after agreeing partnership criteria with the stakeholders, interviewing potential system developers, and carefully choosing a business partner who really took the time to understand the needs and motivations of the company

Technical Solution

We launched an agile project process (SCRUM) along with our technical build partners, using frequent incremental steps to develop and build the solution in stages. This process helped to meet the very tight timescale and by appointing a small User Project Team, decisions could be made and put into action quickly.

Each iteration of the system was reviewed monthly and signed off by the Project Team, so from wireframe to user tested system took 3 months.

The system had 3 user input opportunities:

Mystery Shopper Feedback – Providing informed feedback both qual and quant, with investigations based around training that had previously been delivered to the shop floor teams.

Internal feedback – Senior management travelling around the business, recording their observations using both qualitative and quantitative means – capturing this in one place rather than the previous 1-1 feedback given in the moment and lost.

Actual Customers – Delivering feedback using primarily qualitative methods with limited quantitative feedback, reducing time and effort.

The system process allowed designated managers to receive the feedback immediately, with the system collating the feedback from each type of inputter, or identifying separately, cutting and segmenting feedback by store, region, total business, survey questions or category.

Within 4 months, an intuitive, accessible, customer perspective focused feedback system was ready to launch through the 100+ UK stores

Training & Coaching

While the technical solution was being developed, the project team were busy writing the scenarios and criteria which would be used as the basis for a scoring system.

This was shared with the Retail Management Team, ensuring everyone had a consistent understanding of the customer service expectations – with the scoring criteria rooted in the training that had already been delivered to the front line team, therefore measuring the success of the training.

A programme entitled ‘How to deliver effective feedback’ was trained through the Retail Management team, focusing on non-punitive, engaging and developmental ways of using customer feedback.

Additionally, the existing Mystery Shopper team (employed through an agency by the business) were being trained in the new approach, and most importantly, why the change had taken place, so they were ready for the Go Live.

Form a tech support perspective, a small internal Super User team went on a UK tour to train store users to engage with the new system. This group were also ‘on call’ for at least 6 months following the launch of the new Mystery Shopping system and process for all technical and process help.

When the mystery shopper programme system and process launched with the Retail Teams, overcoming the previous cultural resistance to feedback was by far the biggest challenge. To develop trust in the new way of using feedback, coaching support was put in place for front line managers to instil trust with their teams when delivering customer or Mystery Customer feedback, linking that to celebration or well supported skills development rather than the old way of linking to negativity or punishment  .


The project to deliver a completely new Mystery Shopper feedback system and process, delivering instant feedback, was launched 8 months after initial project discussions. Initially, use was restricted to Mystery Shoppers for the first 6 months, to allow for the team to adapt to the new process, and practice delivering feedback in a positive developmental way. The customer facing aspect of the system was launched after this successful initial period, and within 3 months, the customer feedback aspect was a higher volume than Mystery Shopper feedback – and continues to grow. This is testament to the trust in the process the team had built, assured that feedback is positive thing – and actively encouraging customers to complete feedback on their service.

The cost of the initial development was kept within budget; however, the system and process has been so successful that further investment has since been made and the system capability has developed allowing greater segmenting and investigating of data, making it even more cost effective to target relevant training rather than scattergun across the whole team..

The feedback outcomes are integrated into Retail Management Objectives, and are part of their bonus criteria, and targets for CX achievement are set for not only the internal teams, but are part of contractual agreements with agency partners who provide seasonal shop floor staff.

The results are also widely used across other areas of the business e.g. HR for overall performance data, Training team to inform training requirements, Marketing & Insight to confirm deep dive research, Buying teams for product feedback etc.

The Initial challenge of ensuring that investment in training was effective, and customer service was measured and used more widely throughout the business, was not only met, but implemented and embedded as ‘part of the way we do things’ within a year of the initial request.

This business took their customer service feedback extremely seriously, and invested in a large-scale culture change, completely changing their outlook about customer feedback:  what it is, how effectively it can be used. The bespoke Customer feedback programme is a long way for the legacy manual Mystery Shopper programme, and accessible, easy to share information, commercially customer focused, and is highly commended and appreciated by customers and business partners alike.

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Lindsey & Charlotte

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01604 212734


Revamped Mystery Shopper Programme – Travel Retail

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