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Small Business Center

Best Practices for Using a Secret Shopper Program at Your Centers

March 14, 2022

By Angel Cicerone, Tenant Mentorship

Secret shopping is, perhaps, one of the most underutilized tools landlords have at their disposal. “Shops” provide an objective, third-party evaluation of a retail store or restaurant and can help property owners identify issues affecting tenant performance. At one point in time, implementing a centerwide secret shop was expensive and time consuming. Thanks to automated online services, that’s no longer the case. Here are three simple best practices for creating an effective secret shop program in any size center.

Be Consistent

To get a true reading of any single business or multiple businesses, schedule an ongoing secret shop program, monthly to start and then moving to quarterly if the situation warrants. You’ll also want to be sure to shop businesses at different times of day and days of the week. A store might schedule its A team on peak days but put their inexperienced staff on at slow times, which may adversely affect customer experience. It’s also a good idea to begin shopping new tenants shortly after opening to pinpoint any potential issues early on. 


Let your tenants know you're implementing a secret shop program but don’t share specifics of the actual shop dates or times. Just knowing a shop is imminent may encourage some owners to up their game immediately! Once you have the completed reports, review the results privately with each individual tenant. Discuss opportunities to use the information to make improvements. And don’t forget to acknowledge and compliment their successes. It’s important tenants don’t view the shops as your way to catch them doing something wrong! A shopping program isn’t a trap but a way to gather information that will help businesses level up!

Reward improvement

As you complete the regularly scheduled shops, reward those tenants who make the greatest improvements. Do it publicly, without sharing details, with other tenants so the winner can take pride in their efforts. This type of recognition also instills a healthy sense of competition within your center, encouraging all to strive a little harder.

Whether you decide to shop specific tenants or launch a centerwide program, a secret shop program is an excellent and inexpensive benefit for both tenant and landlord.

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