Mystery shoppers - do they have a place in care settings?

Mystery Shoppers could be you key to reviewing and gaining insights into how your aged or disability care service is delivering the results you want.

Mystery Shoppers are widely used in the commercial world but we have yet to see more widespread us of these ‘shoppers’ in aged, home or disability care.

The ‘What’ of Mystery Shoppers in aged and home care

You’ve maybe never heard of Mystery Shoppers so lets introduce the idea to you and explain a bit about them.

Mystery Shoppers are used as a marketing tool or resource to measure quality, standards and compliance and to guide service development.  The idea emerged from the field of cultural anthropology, where it uses a technique that observes participants interactions with subjects. It of course has evolved from these roots and has become a fully developed marketing tool for business.

Before you decide to use Mystery Shoppers you first need to be clear about what areas of your business you want examined and set some survey parameters for their use as well as be clear about what you want assessed. It is also recommended to advice staff that such ‘covert’ surveillance is used being used by you.

In using Mystery Shoppers you can ‘test’ a typical or atypical customer interaction with your staff. Generally a Mystery Shopper would be used at points of transactions /interactions with your business.

The ‘When’ of Mystery Shoppers in aged or home care

Armed with this knowledge how might you use such a service in aged or disability care?

Firstly and most importantly how do you perform when clients come to you looking for assistance. Here are just some of the ways you could use Mystery Shoppers

  • Do your staff use a consistent approach to explaining and promoting your services?
  • Do they follow-up within a given period of time with prospective clients?
  • Do they provide written material to support their overview of your service?

You could use the service to examine how you staff respond to complaints or queries regarding care.

  • Do they adopt a non judgemental and open attitude to complaints/queries?
  • Do they full explain the investigation and complaint management procedure?

It would seem that some are even using Mystery Shoppers to assess the approach of their competitors.

Mystery shopping can ‘look’ into your business in a number of ways – it can’t however work in every realm of your business so you need to choice wisely before you enter into using such a service. Results can also be used as a benchmark.

The ‘Why’ of Mystery Shoppers in aged and home care

Which, a UK-based consumer advocacy body, while not using Mystery Shoppers asked clients to keep diaries of their care support and then analysed these. They found

Mystery shoppers in aged and home care

These rich unvarnished insights can help us improve service and ensure they are meeting the needs of our clients. Done with care, respect and a focus on what matters  to your business they deliver much more than any satisfaction survey could in rich qualitative detail.

Consider whether you should use these services next time you are questioning the way in which you are doing things and whether you are truly living your values.

Where to from here

“The customer’s perception is your reality”
Kate Zabriskie

This is a new opportunity for care services and I would love to read some of your thoughts on this issue, please feel free to leave a comment.

About the author – Helen Attrill, MBA

Hi, Just a bit about myself – I have over 26 years as a leader in the aged care and not for profit sector and have led the successful implementation of significant sector, profession and organisational change.

If you’re struggling with some aspect of change management or frustrated with your progress then maybe I can help please feel free to contact me by emailing me at

To find out more about my work visit Meet Helen page.

Some further Reading

Mystery shoppers: snooping on the NHS

Providers should look for clues in the Roadmap to prepare individual path: CEO

Aged care uncovered