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The Purpose of Mystery Shopping

Thursday, July 29th

The Purpose of Mystery Shopping

Mystery shopping is designed to provide companies with valuable information that they may use to improve their business, service or product. A secret shopper is hired to visit a business location and will be assigned a specific task, which may include questions to ask, complaints to voice, purchases to make and certain business aspects to note.

A mystery shopper must have a keen eye for detail and should notice even the smallest aspect of a business. Mystery shopping can either include making purchases or simply evaluating customer service. For instance, if a customer line is long and the wait time is dreadful, a mystery shopper will need to evaluate the situation and give his/her opinion on how to improve it. Are more employees needed? Is there a store layout that could improve functionality and help to initiate shorter wait times? These are all important questions that a professional mystery shopper should be able to answer.

Because the purpose of mystery shopping is to provide an unbiased opinion on how a company can improve its presence, the mystery shopper will pose as a customer and secretly evaluate all aspects of a location. In acting as a customer, the employees will not realize they are being evaluated and, unlike a planned visit from the head office, the atmosphere will be more relaxed and will provide a natural look at how a business truly operates.

Many companies employ the use of comment cards, which are provided for customers to offer their opinions and insight into a store and how it could be improved. When a professional mystery shopper is hired, he/she will provide the same information from a consumer standpoint, but with a professional flair. Because this approach is invaluable, mystery shopping is commonly used in every industry. Although retail, restaurant, banking and convenience store locations have been at the top of the list as businesses most likely to employ mystery shoppers, it would be difficult to find an industry that does not use secret shopping services.

If you want to know where mystery shopping services could prove to be beneficial, simply look around you. Anywhere there are customers to shop, products to be sold or services to be purchased, a mystery shopper could be invaluable. If a company believes that there is always room for improvement, they are likely to realize the importance of a third party evaluation that offers insight in the form of a written assessment.

The mystery shopping industry not only detects what may need improving, but also can help to recognize valuable services and/or quality. In a world where prompt and effective customer service is often difficult to come by, it is important for a company to know which employees and/or locations are excelling in the way that they handle both the customers and the daily business operations. Mystery shopping can be used as a way of identifying outstanding employees and potentially even rewarding them with incentives to keep up the good work. Overall, mystery shopping is designed to promote improvement when needed and recognition when deserved. The only way to know for sure which category a particular business falls into is to take away the mystery and hire a secret shopper.

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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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