Mystery Checks to measure service quality in tourism industry


During childhood probably everybody has dreamed about it and also for a lot of adults it is an exciting idea: To assume another identity. What at first sounds like a thrilling adventure à la James Bond, can also occur in much more ordinary situations in everyday life. Namely, in the everyday life of a Mystery Checker.Mystery Checks are used as quality screening instruments in different branches, like in the service industry and therefore also in tourism industry. This method – also known as Mystery Shopping or Mystery Tests – is especially used for the measurement of service quality. A further form is the Destination Check, which is a highly effective tool in the Destination Market Research.

Mystery Checks belong to the participant hidden observer techniques. An anonymous testing customer checks out the service quality in a common sales conversation having his eyes and ears on the competence and behavior of his counterpart. This requires a specific briefing of the tester in order to evaluate with equal standards. This checking tool can be used in different distribution and communication channels, e.g. face to face, by phone and e-mail etc.

In practice a mystery sales conversation runs like this: The test begins already before the interview as the tester has to prepare which criteria shall be proofed and to what extent they influence the evaluation. For this the tester searches for a suitable identity matching to the test situation. Some good knowledge about the concerned subject will help to find the right role. The tester acts first as a director and actor in one. The mystery identity should be chosen as close to reality as possible. Otherwise the conversational partner gets suspicious and that leads to a distorted result. During the check the tester has to pay attention to the important aspects of the conversation like welcome, content, negotiation and so on.

Afterwards the tester reviews his results. Particularly in the service industry not only the content is relevant, the so-called soft skills like friendliness, active conversation and politeness are another main focus of such tests. For finalizing the check there are two options: On the one hand the tester remains anonymous and evaluates the results later. On the other hand he discloses his identity directly after the test communication. In this case there can be an instant discussion and explanation about the checked results.

Most of the quality management instruments include Mystery Checks as one component out of a range of tools to measure quality. They develop their strength in addition to other methods of quality assessment. The advantages of Mystery Tests are revealed mostly in the evaluation of objective and predetermined quality standards taken out in a real life situation.

The fact that for every Mystery Checker by his work a childhood dream comes true might be a little exaggerated. But it really is a fascinating business, which always offers new exciting facets despite uniform inspection criteria.

For further qualitative research methods, see


Das Team von COMPASS widmet sich in diesem Blog inhaltlich den übergeordneten Themen Marketingbüro, Europa, Tourism & Peace, Nachhaltigkeit und Marktforschung.

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