Great Hotel Mystery Shopping Myths

Great Hotel Mystery Shopping Myths

Written by Antony Shaw


Hotel mystery shopping and related activities are sometimes portrayed in the media as objects of humour. The reality is more serious so, here, some myths surrounding this subject are discussed.

Hotel mystery shopping is a sort of freebie

No, it most certainly is not. When performed by established companies with expertise in the field, it is an extremely useful technique for objectively assessing the performance of a hotel, its staff and its processes. The observations may be instrumental in helping to identify where things need to be changed and improved.

The views obtained are purely subjective

Once again, not if the study is conducted by appropriately trained individuals working within a professional framework. There are methodologies surrounding the collection of measures and more importantly, established benchmarks that can be used to reflect performance assessed across a range of different establishments.

These threats are designed to keep staff on their toes

Such a view shows a fundamental misconception about the role of hotel mystery shopping. There is absolutely no intention of trying to somehow “catch staff out” and the results are not intended for use in any form of staff recriminations. If the hotel’s quality measures are in place and working as they should be, people should be operating to an agreed set of performance indicators.They should have no particular fear of any sort of mystery shopper type survey. The information obtained may well be kept entirely neutral in terms of the actions of a given individual in the establishment.

If the employees in a hotel do perceive such studies to be a form of threat, then that alone may be a powerful indicator of a major cultural problem within the leadership levels of the establishment, or that there are fundamental problems in processes and performance.

They are determined to be difficult and create issues

Nothing could be further from the truth. Although individual programmes may be designed to specific client requests, in general the intention is to stimulate the typical customer experience as far as is possible. Customers might well be demanding and have high expectations but that does not mean that they are by definition ‘difficult’ or unreasonable. As most hotels may never describe their typical customer as being difficult, mystery shoppers may be extremely unlikely to try and emulate one of the very few customers that might be so.

They look for problems

This is typically yet another myth. Much of the feedback from such surveys can be extremely complimentary. In some cases, such surveys may indicate that there is little if any scope for improvement in the processes and people concerned.

Hotel mystery shopping activities do not set out with a predisposition to find problems that need to be addressed. The employees are not remunerated based on the problems they highlight and it would be unethical for them to simply invent problems to report – so you can rest easy on that score.

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