Tips for Mystery Shoppers Part 3 of 3

A successful mystery shopper is one who is able to get the mystery shopping assignments and complete all the steps through to payment. Being a successful mystery shopper takes knowledge and an eye for detail. It takes careful consideration for every step of the process. I have been a successful mystery shopper for more than 7 years now and I have some tips on what has worked and what has not worked for me!

The key to being a good mystery shopper is to do a fantastic work on every job you accept. Every job is important to someone whether it pays $5 or whether it pays $150 or more. If you accept a job, you should be sure that you make it a high priority. Follow all of the directions to the letter and be careful to note everything in an objective perspective.

A scheduler is a person who works for the mystery shopping company and makes sure that all of the jobs that the company needs completed are assigned to a mystery shopper. A scheduler assigns jobs to mystery shoppers based on the need and availability of shops and shoppers. It is a hard job because there are always jobs that are harder to fill than others and even these jobs need to have someone to complete them. An important thing to remember that probably the most important thing that you have to know is that the scheduler can be your friend or your foe. Make your scheduler happy and she will make you happy. Upset your scheduler and you may not work for that company (or others even!) again!!!

Once you accept a job, MAKE SURE YOU COMPLETE IT! If you ever want to work for the company in the future, do not “flake out” on a job you have agreed to do. Schedulers refer to “flakes” as people who do not complete the assignments they were given. Schedulers have a hard enough job finding mystery shoppers to complete some jobs. But, to find a mystery shopper at the last minute can be really tough for the scheduler and they will not like you if you just don’t do the job that you promised to do. If they don’t like you, they will not allow you to have any more jobs with their company. AND, schedulers talk to other schedulers, even with different companies. So, if you do not complete a job, it may even affect the work (or lack thereof) that you get with other companies as well.

Do note that most schedulers have heard it all. Your grandmother has died twice this year, your kid has been sick every other week, your husband had to go in for surgery, and your car has broken down five times. Schedulers keep track of these things and MAY forgive you once, especially if you give them some notice but don’t make a habit of leaving them with jobs to re-fill! And, if your car REALLY has broken down five times, then you don’t have transportation reliable enough to be a mystery shopper!

One way to get on the really good side of a scheduler is to accept those last minute jobs that someone else has dropped. If a scheduler calls you up and says she has an immediate need for someone to complete a job, take it if you possibly can! You will make a scheduler happy and then when you WANT a particular job, you can remind the scheduler of the favor you did for them. Of course, if you do enough of these last minute jobs, you won’t have to remind the scheduler, she will remember you and give you prize positions without you having to ask!

Once you are established, you can also ask for extra compensation for taking last minute jobs. Be reasonable but do ask. If you know that a scheduler need a job completed before the end of the month and it is close to that date, you can ask for extra money based on the amount of travel or the amount of work to be done. Or you can simply ask if there is any way the scheduler can give you some sort of “bonus pay” for the shop. Many times you will find that it is possible, especially if there are not a lot of mystery shoppers in your area.

It is good to know how much competition you have in your mystery shopping position. It also may be hard to get this information. It is all based on the area you live in and how saturated the mystery shopper population is. Even if there are a lot of mystery shoppers in your area, you will probably still be able to get jobs but getting the more ideal jobs may be difficult at first. You should take any jobs you are offered at first. This will help you break into the field and establish yourself as reliable. Once schedulers know that you are reliable, they will often reward you.

Be sure to follow all directions completely and obsessively! Not adhering to directions may result in you not getting paid nor getting any more work from the company in the worst case. It also could result in a poor “grade” if the company grades performance or it could mean you have to re-do the job. In the very least, you may have to provide extra information which slows up the process for the company and thus slows up the time it takes you to get paid. If a company does contact you for more information, be sure to provide it as quickly as you possibly can and be as complete as you can. Sometimes they just need simple clarification.

Also, pay attention to details. Little things are often important to the mystery shopping customer. Whether the server said, “Can I get you drinks?” or if she said “Can I get you a Pepsi?” might make a huge difference! The company you are shopping may be sponsored by Pepsi and may get incentives for all the Pepsi that they sell thus it is very important for them to know what their servers are suggesting to customers. Sometimes servers’ raises are dependent on the things that mystery shoppers say. Sometimes their very jobs depend on it so be accurate and be precise!

Be very objective when you write a mystery shopping report. Those that review your report will reject a report that is written as your opinion. They want to know what actually happened! Instead of saying, “the service was terrible” you can say “it took 20 minutes for the server to come to my table” or “when he brought the food, it was not the items we had ordered.” This is what actually happened, not how you feel about it. This is important because what you find terrible may be just fine for someone else. If you are objective, however, there is no need to wonder what happened.

Use a stopwatch to time interactions if that is what is asked for. Do not just guess-timate what the amount of lapsed time may be. Timings are often very important and can determine whether service was in compliance or not. Put a small stopwatch in your pocket, depress the button at the appropriate time and press again when the timing is done. You can go to the restroom to check and jot down the time if it is necessary.

Which leads me to my next tip: NEVER bring mystery shop paperwork into a location! Never let the company being shopped see you writing notes down. If you cannot leave the location at that moment and you need to jot something down, be creative! If you are in a restaurant, you may go to the restroom and jot down some information while in a stall. If you are in a grocery store, you may write some cryptic notes on the back of your shopping list. If you are really careful in a restaurant, you can write notes on the back of your kids’ coloring pages (just don’t forget to take it along with you when you leave!) Other times, you just have to remember and, as I always say, “download your brain” as soon as you pull away from the location. I always liked taking someone with me to drive when I was doing route shopping so I could write notes while the other person was driving away.

Another thing that some shoppers do to help them remember is to use a micro-recording device. They hide it in their pocket or elsewhere and simply record the interactions so as not to forget the words of an employee later. I have not used this method and question how well it would work for me, but others have found it quite useful! I also know of mystery shoppers that use their cell phones and leave themselves a message so that they do not forget what has happened. They have to be discreet but can say something into their phone like, “Hi, Sue (which is the name of the server!), I just ordered my meal at 7:15 (time order was placed). I’ll see you later!” Bye!”

I think one thing that scares most people the most is what to do if they are “spotted” as a mystery shopper. First thing to do is not to panic. If you simply think you have been spotted, continue on with your work in the most inconspicuous way you can and leave the location when it is right to do so. Chances are that you are just feeling paranoid and you have not really been spotted. If, however, you are directly questioned as to your identity, simply play dumb. For example, an employee asks “are you the mystery shopper?” Your reply can be “Mystery shopper?” with an attitude of “What’s that?” or you might simply ask “what’s a mystery shopper?”

Above all, always remember to do the best that you can do. Remember that the work you are doing as a mystery shopper helps improve customer service for everyone!

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