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How to Present Yourself While Mystery Shopping

Saturday, July 24th

How to Present Yourself While Mystery Shopping

The art of being a secret shopper is, you guessed it, operating in secrecy. Also known as mystery shopping, the industry is designed around a company who needs feedback and looks toward a third-party, independent evaluator for a professional assessment of what works and what does not. Whether it's a product or service, mystery shopping is a valuable tool in helping companies to improve their customer satisfaction and product development.

When you are hired as a mystery shopper, you will either be conducting your evaluation in person, via the telephone or online. If you are hired to assess a physical storefront, you will likely be entering into a store, possibly making a purchase and evaluating customer service. If your assignment involves actually going out and shopping, you will need to dress casually and in a way that you would normally dress for a day of shopping. The basis of secret shopping is to be secretive and to not let others know that they are being evaluated. If you show up in a business suit and look prepared to take notes, there won't be much of a mystery in your mystery shopping excursion. In a nutshell, you should dress according to the assignment. If you are shopping in a retail store, jeans and your favorite shirt will be ideal for casual wear. If you are dining out at a fine restaurant, spice things up with a formal touch.

If you are hired to conduct a mystery shopping evaluation via the internet or over the telephone, your attire will not be important. Instead, your professionalism will come into play greatly as you will be required to ask questions pertaining to your evaluation and in a way that makes you sound like a regular customer. Most companies value customer service and, as such, are looking for ways to improve their policies. If you are placing an order, you will need to determine how fast and convenient the checkout process is, whether or not any aspect was difficult or confusing and how quickly you received your order.

As a secret shopper, whether in person, over the phone or via the internet, you will need to master the combination of professionalism and subtlety. You need to have an eye for detail, which means you will need to be able to notice even the smallest detail that another may miss. Not only that, but you may need to find a way to convey that detail to the company through the form of a written evaluation.

Mystery shopping is designed to promote improvement, recognize achievement and learn from experience. As you become more knowledgeable in the industry and complete more evaluations, you will better realize what a company is looking for and how you can best achieve it. Perhaps you will be evaluating a hotel by staying overnight or a department store by making a small purchase. Whatever your assignment, being a professional mystery shopper can be both fun and financially rewarding. And best of all, you will never find yourself in a work slump when the assignments vary so greatly from one day to the next.

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Mystery Shopping Company FAQ

Mystery shopping, sometimes referred to as "secret shopping" , is the way that many businesses get information about how their stores, offices or locations are doing with respect to customer service. Are the employees friendly? Are the proper signs displayed for a holiday promotion? Companies contract with mystery shopping providers that send in "secret shoppers" , who pretend to be there as a regular customer but are actually taking notes on their experience. Does that sound like fun? It is!
There's really no limit to the types of "mystery shops" you might have the chance to complete. You could visit a restaurant and place a specific order, go to a movie theater and see how clean the restrooms are, or even ship a package at the post office. Some mystery shops require you to buy a product and return it later, to evaluate how well the employee handles the transaction on both ends.
You'll get a lengthy series of instructions for each mystery shop assigned to you. In order to get paid, you'll need to follow those details to the letter. Common requirements are noting the time it takes to be approached by a salesperson, how long you wait in line to ring up your purchase, or the number of customers present at a particular time of day. You might also be asked to take photos or video (as surreptitiously as possible!).
It shouldn't! Reputable mystery shopping services allow you to register as an independent contractor at no cost to you. If you see a website that asks you to pay to become a secret shopper, you'll know it's not on the up-and-up. In fact, they're probably just going to give you a list of the real mystery shopping companies that you could have signed up for without their help!
That varies widely. Some shops only pay you a small amount of money, because you get to keep the product (or eat the meal, or see the movie, etc.). If a shop is high-priority - because it's time-sensitive, or maybe another shopper cancelled at the last minute - you could get a bonus payment. It's unlikely you'll make a living as a mystery shopper, but it could put some spending money in your pockets, give you a free date night, or provide you with some fun merchandise at no cost.
Yes, most of the time. Mystery shopping is always done on a 1099 (independent contractor) basis, and most providers understand that their secret shoppers will be working with more than one service at a time. But, during the sign-up process, be sure to read all of the requirements of the company where you're applying, just to make sure there aren't any non-compete clauses that would prohibit you from working for a rival service.
You want to avoid that happening at all costs! Think of mystery shopping as an acting role: you're not really "you" , but rather someone that could be an everyday customer at the store. If you're outed as a mystery shopper before you've finished gathering the required information, it could invalidate the entire job - and you won't get paid.
While there are absolutely some scammy services and sites out there, who just want to get your money in exchange for a list of mystery shopping opportunities, the industry itself is absolutely legitimate - and used by most of the big-name corporations you know to gather insights on their many locations nationwide. There's even a certification process you can participate in, which may boost your chances of being accepted by a mystery shopping provider and then landing more shops. Check to see if a mystery shopping company is a member of the MSPA (Mystery Shopping Professionals Association) before you register: it's a good sign that you've chosen a trustworthy, established service to start your adventure as a secret shopper!
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