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Thai Mystery Shopper -- Performance Audit

"Mystery shopper" is a standard phrase used in quality control to refer to a person who poses as an ordinary customer to a business, in order to evaluate performance of the employees or the business, or product quality, and to see ways to improve it.

Of course, nobody in the business knows that the mystery shopper is evaluating their services or products, except someone like a director overseas who wants to get the ground truth as reported by an unbiased, independent third party.

"Mystery shopper" is the widely recognized phrase, but it's often not descriptive of the role. "Anonymous audits", "performance audits", "experience evaluation", or "measured experience" are more descriptive but less common terminology.

While so-called "mystery shopper" services started about 50 years ago, currently the Mystery Shopper Providers Association (MSPA) trade group seems to have taken over a lead role in standardization, though its purpose as stated on its website is "The MSPA is the largest professional trade association dedicated to improving service quality using anonymous resources. With over 260 member companies worldwide, our diverse membership includes marketing research and merchandising companies, private investigation firms, training organizations and companies that specialize in providing mystery shopping services. Our member companies work with their clients to establish mechanisms to measure and improve levels of service." www.mysteryshop.org

Westerners doing business in Thailand should understand these factors:

  • Standards of quality are simply much lower in Thailand. A westerner can often see issues right away. Certain high class Thais with western travel experience and high standards can also see issues. (This is why high class Thais often prefer to buy imported western products and services, and why western imports advertise their origin. Work standards.)

  • Thais value peace and harmony much more than westerners, will say things that the western managers want to hear in order to please them, and especially will not say anything to upset the western managers who will often get angry. Thais strongly control their tempers, unlike westerners, and a westerner's temper is often traumatic to a Thai and to be avoided at almost any cost.

  • Reports which are passed up the layers of company bureaucracy are often cleansed to make managers at all levels look like they are doing their jobs well, and upper levels often are out of touch with the ground truth, especially those managers based outside of Thailand. It's good to bypass all of the insiders and spot check to compare.

  • Problem recognition and problem solving skills by Thais are low relative to westerners on average. This is partly because of the rote education system and partly due to the more authoritarian, conformist culture. If something is wrong with a product design or service, they often won't see it and improve it but will just obediantly follow orders.

  • Thailand is a class oriented and paternalistic society, whereby lower level people often won't question someone older than them, or of higher education or social rank. The detail people at the lowest levels usually will just follow orders and not question the people above, nor improve upon the detail work. The people interfacing with the public and getting feedback should be suggesting ways to improve a product or service, but they usually don't.

  • Bypassing a careless manager to a higher rank to fix a problem is rare in Thailand.

To implement a performance audit, we first discuss the audit elements with the customer and develop a plan and any script. Implementation of the operation includes a detailed written report and log, and can include audio recordings, photos, and videos.




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