Using secret shopping to assess student assistant training

Sarah J. Hammill (Information & Research Services, Hubert Library, Florida International University, North Miami, Florida, USA)
Eduardo Fojo (Cataloging Department, Hubert Library, Florida International University, North Miami, Florida, USA)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Publication date: 15 August 2013



This paper aims to describe the results of three rounds of secret shopping conducted at the Hubert Library of Florida International University, and how the results affected and were affected by changes made to circulation desk student training programs.


Volunteers from the campus community asked circulation desk work‐study students preformulated questions, in person or by phone, and recorded both the answers and service quality perceptions for analysis.


Analysis of the results revealed that the program did what it was designed to do: highlight customer service strengths and weaknesses. A majority of shoppers reported favourable experiences, but identified problematic areas and situations to be addressed in student worker training.

Research limitations/implications

Some of the most valuable data came from secret shoppers' comments, which made clear the need to revisit some of the questions. In some instances shoppers' desires to highlight the positive and deemphasize the negative indicated apparent bias.


This study shows how a secret shopping program can guide and fine‐tune a library student training program as opposed to a librarian or library staff training program.



Hammill, S.J. and Fojo, E. (2013), "Using secret shopping to assess student assistant training", Reference Services Review, Vol. 41 No. 3, pp. 514-531.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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