Public Transport: The Role of Mystery Shopping in Investment Decisions

Alan Wilson
University of Strathclyde
and
Justin Gutmann
London Transport

Introduction

In the UK, mystery shopping research is used extensively by organisations in financial services, retailing, motor dealerships, hotels and catering, passenger transportation, public utilities and government departments. The provision of mystery shopping services is a major industry with between 20 and 30 million being spent on the technique in the UK during 1996 (Wilson 1998).

The research technique, a form of participant observation, uses researchers to act as customers or potential customers to monitor service delivery performance relative to specific service standards. This paper considers another potential role for mystery shopping by examining London Underground's use of the technique as an input to investment decisions relating to the improvement of the travel environment.

Mystery shopping: a review