Online Mystery Shopping: An Old-School Business Tactic Hits the Web

Out of Argentina, Be There is one of the companies bringing offline business monitoring tactics to the web via online mystery shopping.

Keeping customers coming back is essential to the success of any business, big or small. And in the online arena, the situation is no different – in fact, there are numerous automated tools and analytics available to help companies to achieve just that. And one old-school tool is making a comeback in the internet format as well: mystery shopping. Yes, it’s still a thing.

Out of Argentina, Be There is one of the companies bringing offline business monitoring tactics to the web. The company boasts a 12-year trajectory in the business of mystery shopping and works with clients in nine Latin American countries as well as the United States.

Be There’s online mystery shopping service includes both automated elements and feedback from real people. It audits a website’s overall performance and usability as well as how companies handle interactions with users and consumers – for example, gauging check-out processes and navigability while at the same time evaluating responses to consumer queries and complaints. The mystery shopping service allows companies to know what their customer experience is really like,” explained Mariano Aguirre Littvik, Director of Be There, in a recent interview with PulsoSocial.

Aguirre Littvik talked with us about the experience of bringing mystery shopping to the web, the implications of social media in customer service and the skepticism surrounding the mystery shoppers in Latin America.

Emily Stewart: You’ve traditionally done mystery shopping for physical stores. How does mystery shopping on the web work?

Mariano Aguirre Littvik: Website mystery shopping has been designed for those companies interested in getting their websites tested. Nowadays, it’s a fact that most companies in the service, hospitality and retail industries invest their resources in their web presence and services. Shopping online has become very popular, as well as the unique possibility of accessing to relevant information about the companies and customer satisfaction’s opinions.

Foto_MarianoAn online shopper evaluates online customer service and sales staff’s behavior and assistance. The shopper also looks for various products and services to determine different aspects related to sales, deadlines and correlation with the contents of advertising. Some processes are audited immediately (for example, an online chat with an assistant, an online transaction, or the purchase of a product or service). In other cases, the evaluation time is longer, usually when we are expected to get a response to a query or to a form completed and submitted online.  

Our shoppers provide valuable feedback to companies and we give them insight into customer satisfaction.

ES: In your experience, what are the biggest areas for improvement you find for your web clients vs. traditional “real world” companies?

MAL: Mystery shopping is becoming a very popular tool and is extremely useful to gauge customer satisfaction and experience. In this sense, online mystery shopping is an emerging field that has everything to grow. Organizations that deliver an enhanced customer experience are progressing. A superior experience generates return customers and true loyalty. This is why it is so important to be alert and improve the quality service that companies provide online.

If clients experience a problem with an online transaction, or they do not receive a timely response to their inquiries and complaints, know that they will not buy again from the same company and that they will communicate their bad experiences and thoughts through the social media.  Brand negativity will occur even if your business never logs in on a social network. The powerful amplifying effect of social media impacts directly on a company’s reputation and profitability.

ES: You work with clients in the U.S. and in Latin America. How do values differ across markets?

MAL: Most U.S. companies include mystery shopping services in their corporate plans and budgets. In Latin America, there is still a feeling of skepticism and distrust when deciding whether to incorporate the tool. However, it is a fact that those companies that apply the service include it immediately in their regular customer service measurements.

Consumers’ profiles are quite similar about what they expect from a customer service. In both cases, customer power has grown, and people trust recommendations from friends and family. They will even pay more or walk a longer distance for a better customer experience.  

Return customers and loyalty policies are almost the same in the U.S. and in Argentina. It is not about locations; it is about developing strategies and policies focused on customers, taking ownership, being empathic with customers, taking them seriously, and providing successful complaint resolutions