If there’s one thing that unites us all as a people it’s a collective love of free food.
And of course everybody’s a critic. That’s why the life of an undercover mystery diner sounds so appealing. Mobee is offering it to all of us with a new app that rewards users who will visit retailers and restaurants incognito and provide feedback.
Mobee is looking to turn the secret shopper industry on its head with a social media twist.
Traditionally, secret shoppers are used by companies to keep tabs on the customer experience. Usually an outside consultant maintains a small army of shoppers and diners, some trained critics, some ordinary members of the public, and regularly dispatches them to client locations where they pose as customers. When it’s a restaurant, they’re there to report on everything from hostess greetings to over-salted soup to bathroom cleanliness. The visit may be tightly scripted, and there is usually a long and detailed questionnaire that the shopper completes after the experience. Discreet note-taking may be allowed, but the diner can’t bring the script or other paperwork to the table, and the turn-around time for the post-dining debriefing can be hours or days.
Mobee’s founder Prahar Shah looked at a multi-billion dollar industry that still runs on paper and pencil, and he saw an opportunity.
Research showed that each outlet of a dining chain like Panera or Starbucks can spend $200 a month for surveys from four or five mystery diner visits. Factor in the millions of customers who are already offering free feedback through recommendation sites like Yelp and Urban Spoon. Shah founded Mobee on the idea that a phone-based model enlisting an army of unpaid critics can gather more data for less money, and do so with greater accuracy and faster delivery than the standard industry practice.
Mobee slices up a full-length secret shopper assignment into bite-sized visits it calls missions. Each consists of 5 to 10 questions focusing on a specific aspect of the customer experience, and might request a photo. Since ordinary customers incessantly tap and snap with their phones, it can all performed in the open and transmitted in real time (the target restaurant market is casual and quick-serve— the behavior is basically standard rudeness). Users aren’t reimbursed for purchases but are paid in digital credits of generally $5 or $10 that can go into Amazon, iTunes, or PayPal accounts.
Mobee is live in Boston, where more than 30,000 missions have already been performed, and a national (and later international) roll-out is in the works.
The Mobee app is available for the iPhone, with an Android version coming soon.