Mystery guest

A mystery shopper for hotels is an individual employed by hotel rating organizations to secretly evaluate the quality of a hotel.

Any successful hotelier understands that maintaining standards to exceed guest expectations for every visit is essential to stand out and that there are plenty of competitors willing to take their place, should standards slip. Hotel managers are keen on sustaining and improving the quality of service they offer. In a fiercely competitive market it is important for them to ensure that:

  1. The customers get the experience that they will never forget and leave positive feedback at the hotel and/or on social media, or on online review sites such as Tripadvisor and Yelp.
  2. Effective communication is conducted between all departments.
  3. Hotel offers high-quality services that meet the standards and policies of international hotels
    Mystery guests are real people and therefore offer a true reflection of the guest experience. They will lie in the bath-tub, use their laptop in a bedroom, dine in the restaurant and sleep in the bed. The carefully prepared and thorough reports they provide will give an insight into the experience from a guests’ perspective.
    Regular mystery inspections are the most effective method of monitoring the quality of guest service.


Hotel inspector vs mystery guest

Hotel inspector of a well-known association or travel guide is something of a revered figure in hospitality world. A visit from inspector is enough to cause the best room to be reserved, the best porcelain to be laid out and all staff instructed to do their best. But is this assessment a true reflection of the guest experience?
It’s no secret that hotels are often prepped for inspector’s arrival. Consequently, he often sees an artificial showcase of a hotels service rather than the true reflection of the customer experience.
Unlike an external audit from a hotel inspector, the mystery guest sees things through the eyes of a «real» client, measures the «actual» experience. They work anonymously and discreetly. No-one will ever suspect them of evaluating the services and facilities as they seamlessly blend into general guest profile. It is this experience that hoteliers need to understand thoroughly as these guests are the ones whose opinion could soon be appearing on an online social review site, which could make or break a hotel`s reputation.

Mystery guest checklist

Very often it’s about the small details that can transform a memorable experience to a bad memory. The difference lies in identifying what can be improved.A hotel mystery shopping checklist may vary depending on the aspects or issues that each hotel wants to inspect and improve.Here is an example of the most commonly tested areas in the hospitality industry:

  1. Reservation: mystery guests usually touch and experience every distribution channel that drives business to the hotel. They book a room on a website and call hotel directly to change or cancel the reservation, evaluate telephone etiquette, sales and upselling skills. These calls may be conducted at different hours of the day, at peak periods as well as slow ones.
  2. Arrival and check-in. Was the guest greeted with a warm smile and eye contact upon arrival at the building? Was registration conducted in proper time (5 to 8 minutes)? Was the guest provided by all the information about hotel facilities?
  3. General area: the temperature, noise level, furniture condition, first aid signs, stairs and handrails.
  4. Guest room: cleanliness of upholstery, windows, bathroom, under bed place etc. Working condition of TV and remote control, light switches, air conditioning, mini bar, tea and coffee making facilities, telephone, shower and drainage system.
  5. Food order and other services (spa booking, taxi, restaurant reservation).
  6. Check out process.

Hotel mystery shoppers are not restricted to the above checklist only; they can also elicit fake issues to test crisis management and problem-solving skills of employees. However, it is not wise to make too many requests of the evaluator or give too detailed requests as they will become obvious to your staff and the interactions will be stilted or contrived.
Depending on the size of the property and its facilities, a typical mystery visit takes between three to four days onsite.

Mystery shopping report

Data collected during inspection can be reported in the form of rating scales, checklists, and open-ended responses.The mystery shopping report includes the following information:

  1. Compliance with service standards.
  2. Comments and notes: description of each point of customer service, detailed timing of the visit, information about the staff.
  3. Audio recordings: reservation at a restaurant, booking a treatment at a spa centre, booking a hotel room.
  4. Photos: cleanliness and arrangement of room, food and drinks served, housekeeping service.
  5. Summary: results of the mystery guest inspection, including recommendations, areas of improvement, charts and diagrams.

Benefits of mystery guest visits

Mystery shopping services help hotels grow, by focusing the resources on the areas that will increase its profit.
Hoteliers receive professional assessment – detailed and objective overview based on international business practice. Mystery guest identifies skills and weaknesses; provides suggestions for their improvement. Moreover, considering that any customer could be a mystery guest, your staff is indirectly motivated to provide high service quality, soon making this practice instinctive. As general manager of the hotel, after that inspection, you will know the gaps in customer service and you’ll be able to provide your staff with the required training, which in return, will increase your room occupancy rate.
Another important benefit is new revenue opportunities identification. Sometimes room service is losing out to local delivery services for feeding guests and hotels are suffering as a result. A guest experience audit identifies trends like this and helps to identify new revenue opportunities through upselling, as well as ways to make those opportunities reach out and appeal to guests.