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Why conduct mystery shops?

Now more than ever conducting mystery shops is an invaluable part of operating an aged care service. The main one is to evaluate your consumer experience and two is to ensure the experience the assessors receive is positive and consumer focused. 

If you are wondering why your services are not hitting their key performance indicators despite being in the perfect location, having well-trained staff and offering competitive products and services, it’s probably because you are missing an important step –  you haven’t conducted a customer experience evaluation.

By acquiring real-time knowledge through first-hand experience, you are able to gather relevant information that will lead to making smart business decisions – you won’t be afraid of taking chances because you have a precise basis for steering your business onto a better path. 

Mystery shopping is a vital component in truly understanding what’s happening in your home. This process gives you an outward facing consumer lens, and will help you to assess how your team accommodates visitors and, if the environment lives up to consumer expectations. 

FACT – Your front line team is your foundation to building rapport and informing and educating families on why they should choose your service over the home down the road. 

Despite the name, there is nothing really mysterious about the process; it is only because the employees may not know their performance is being evaluated through a professional, third party point of view (the mystery shopper). This is an effective way to read what a consumer is thinking the moment they enter your home and how satisfied they are when they leave. 

5 Reason to conduct mystery shops;

  1. Check in on the culture of the organisation
  2. Adherence to specific sales processes
  3. Identify gaps in knowledge and need for training 
  4. Manage your teams performance 

Below are few key steps to consider in the mystery shopper journey:

How a Mystery Shopper can help improve your competitive advantage

A mystery shopper inspects the following altogether – the home/s ambience (whether it’s comfortable and welcoming or not), employee’s ‘salesmanship’, knowledge and integrity. The mystery shopper aims to give the manager an insight into how everything works when he or she is not around; how the employees handle each possible circumstance when the senior management isn’t watching over them. Most importantly, it analyses your business’ ability to compete with others by knowing where you actually stand amidst the market competition.

Creating a lasting first impression

The first element a mystery shopper will observe is the very first impression from the moment they enter your home. Were they greeted with eye contact, a smile and sincerity. A warm, calm welcome and acknowledgement. 

In hotels, for example a concierge (a term that is gaining momentum in aged care) welcomes everybody and assists people find their destinations be it the restaurant or bar, the check-in desk, or simply the seating area in the entrance foyer. This service makes the consumer feel valued and important. 

Empathy and Understanding

When the consumer feels that you understand what he or she needs, and you determine what they are looking for, their experience becomes even more fulfilling, as they feel heard and understood. This element is crucial to meeting the needs of the consumers and leaving a lasting impression. The person responsible for conducting tours should be a member of your team that is knowledgeable about the aged care system and legislation, lives and breathes the culture of the organisation and understands about different care requirements. Most importantly the person should intuitively build rapport. 

Observations in a natural environment

Sometimes, no matter how well-trained your team is, the thought of being evaluated or being observed will make them nervous. It puts them under great pressure and they tend to be more conscious of their actions. Conducting mystery shopping will allow them to perform naturally, and this helps a lot in bringing out the real picture. When an employee accommodates a consumer spontaneously, it is easier to determine where the areas for improvement are. Aside from a face to face mystery shopper, they can also evaluate an employee’s ability to relay information over the phone in a warm, calm and clear manner – which may be the deciding factor in a consumer visiting your home or not. 

Handling objections and challenging situations

As an employer you never want to add undue pressure, but it is often insightful and important to see how well equipped your team is in handling challenging situations. Sometimes families are extremely stressed and anxious with a list of concerns. The goal for the mystery shopper in presenting pre-defined personality traits is not to catch your team out..but to understand where there may be gaps in how to manage and navigate through difficult situations. Having this information means extra training can be planned for or a process can be implemented to address the challenge. 


When responding to a consumer, the phrase ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m not sure’ does not instill assurance or trust. It will most likely discourage the family from choosing you. When an employee has an answer or refers to a colleague it offers peace of mind that the organisation is well informed and well run. *None of us are perfect, but it is always a positive disposition and willingness to serve that is most important.

Its a wrap

Conducting mystery shopping is simply a process of filling out an employee’s scorecard that is based on how they perform their role and responsibilities. The Anchor Excellence Mystery Shopper Program is built on a best practice framework by aged care experts but is designed in collaboration with you, your specific requirements and expectations. The Anchor Mystery Shopper team will gather the data that will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your front line team and enable you to provide the tools necessary to ensure an excellent consumer experience.

To help you further, here are some quick tips that you should be focusing on:

  • Welcome greeting and process
  • The cleanliness and reception desk/ counter organisation
  • The attentiveness of the frontline team
  • The employee’s initiative and skills to assess what the consumer needs and their ability to build rapport.
  • The employee’s ability to answer questions in an informed and clear manner. 
  • The employee’s ability to describe the features, advantages and benefits of the home. So not just here is the dining room.

Mystery shopping allows you to closely monitor your people’s performance and the quality of service they provide. It teaches your team why it’s important to be mindful of every consumer and their needs. In addition, having a mystery shopper will let you know if your home or homes are in good condition from a consumer’s perspective.

Mystery shopping is probably the most effective way to identify the areas where your organisation lacks skills, knowledge, and competency. If you want your business to succeed in an ever-changing industry, then you should consider conducting one.

Contact us today on (02) 8610 1950 or info@anchorexcellence to out more about the Anchor Excellence MSP. 

Article written by:

Claire Ward
Aged Services, Compliance Remediation
& Consumer Experience Specialist

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