A mystery shopper is like an undercover agent. You might accept assignments for restaurants, grocery stores, automobile dealers, retail stores, or amusement parks. Just about any type of business you can think of could benefit from the services of a mystery shopper.
You receive a specific assignment for your shop. For example, you may be asked to describe the parking facilities, cleanliness, friendliness of staff, and your wait time at a restaurant.
You must always work undetected. The staff should not suspect that you are an
evaluator or they would treat you differently. Your job is not to spy on employees,
or try to find things wrong or right. Your job is simply to follow the script that comes
with your assignment and provide an impartial evaluation.
You are the link that keeps the Corporate Headquarters informed and they need you to maintain yourself in a professional manner. For a business to be successful, they must maintain customer satisfaction. They can better please the customer if they understand how the customer is being treated and if their product is being sold as they intended.
You will have the benefit of working around your schedule, which can be beneficial for a housewife, mother or part time worker. Some places may want you to go to their establishment only during certain hours, i.e. happy hour, early bird specials, moonlight madness sales, etc. You may be able to request certain hours of the day that are best for you, such as early mornings for mom’s with small children in preschool or late afternoons-early evenings for those who already hold down a part time job.
Shining a Light on Mystery Shopping
It is possible that you may be of the view that the commonly used slogan “Customers are always right” is not right, but perhaps, you may change your view if you could come out of your shoes and be in theirs, then you may see things their own way. Customers’ opinion about your product and services goes a long way in determining the success of your business. And it is expected that you maintain the same standard of operation in all your branches irrespective of the location. Failure to do that in any of your branch may cause serious damage to your business in total.
Limitation of Customer Feedback:
Some of those licensed to do business using other company products may seek to see some improvement on the side of the customers’ attitude. This may lead to these licensed business dealers to feel contented with just the voluntary feedbacks by the customers. It is definitely one of the measures to retain an already existing customer, but more needs to be done. One major thing about voluntary customer feedback is that it just focuses or emphasizes on one aspect of the business that interests them most but that shouldn’t be all. A lot has to be learnt.
The Mystery Shopping Option:
Studying the “Mystery Shopping” program extensively will enable you visualize the service environment as experienced by a customer at a particular time. Mystery shoppers are skilled when it comes to being attentive, vigilant or watchful and will provide you with information that is very relevant to the supposed standards of your brand.
In some cases, Mystery shoppers can help you relate the information you seek about the service rate to your customers, example, when you are of the expectation that your customers will be attended to within 30 seconds of arrival, mystery shoppers can help you decipher the length of time they take before being attend to. Also, if you wanted every customer to be offered larger drinks upon smaller drink demands, the mystery shopper gets the information for you by making the others in the way you need it to be done and then providing recorded proof of the moment. There are cases were the franchisers may feel that their employees are not customer oriented during the weekend, the mystery shopper can always help you out by assessing and observing your franchise at any time any day.
Qualities of a Good mystery Shopper include; being trustworthy, dedicated to providing quality services, responsible and must be very observant to details. Some of the companies that provide mystery shopping services may care less about these qualities as you only get reward equivalent to your services but others do take their time to access their to-be employee skills and go further to training them to become more efficient in providing the needed services.
It is of your best interest when you conduct mystery shopping over a particular period of time at specific tie intervals. In other to be regulating the improvement or development in your business, mystery shopping can sometimes be conducted bimonthly or quarterly, all depends on your preference. The outcome of this results most times detects what the employee’s reward even when they are in unionized settings but not mostly used for disciplining them. Most times, these employees are aware of the mystery shopping evaluations and get prepared for them, and put in more efforts in providing quality services.
Mystery shopping is not meant just for the large franchisors but considered very useful and valuable for the upcoming franchisers as this would be an excellent selling point for them, showing off the strength and quality of their brand.
There are franchisees that can run the mystery shopper programs without depending on the franchisors. But they do that sometimes to get prepared for inspections which can be viewed as trying save their business or improving it.
Criticisms of Mystery Shopping:
On the side criticism, mystery shopping critics call the act, taking a “snapshot” of a particular day in business as these business dealers can be properly prepared just to get good evaluation from the mystery shoppers. Valid sample sizes cannot statistically be fully shown by mystery shopping. Rather, it can be effective in evaluating employee-customer relationships and generalizing the business practices of that business location and its staff. Some feel it is better to conduct surveys or have online comment card instead of wasting time in conducting mystery shopping. But both surveys and mystery shopping pay important roles respectively in any business. Comment cards on their own are usually noticed only by the customers who wish to show their emotional expression over the services they received, either pleasant or unpleasant experience. Example, you might receive complaints like “I waited I line for too long, more than 45 seconds”. This might be the maximum time the brand owner promises not to keep you up to.
Getting Prepared for the Mystery Shopper:
Below are the necessary questions you need to check yourself with before requesting for the services of a mystery shopping provider;
- What type of information are you seeking to get from the mystery shopper and how can you make good use of it?
- Is your employees aware of the goals you tend to achieve with the program? (Considering what the purpose it, it will be useful.)
- What will be the most effective evaluation for your franchise? Such as phone calls, visitation in person, competitive inspections or website and email evaluations. You may decide to combine any of these evaluation techniques.
- What preferable way will your Mystery Shopper’s schedule be arranged?
- Do you have a specified demographic profile for the requested Mystery Shopper? (Although, franchisers don’t get what they requested most times as they may consider it part of assessing your franchise.)
- What is will your proposed maximum expenses be?
- How to Select the BestProvider
Getting a mystery shopper provider with enough expertise for flexibility to your needs and guidance purposes will be the best way to expect the best from your mystery shopping program.
To be able to select the most suitable mystery shopping service provider from the numerous providers, there are basic things to look out for. They include;
- Mystery Shop service providers should be attentive to their client’s needs and have quick client-response ability. There should be a particular team assigned to you to respond to your needs by them. Mystery shopping program needs an efficient supplier who possesses the best time management skills for it to be effective.
- A provider should have a user-friendly internet-based program to help decrease the administrative problems of Mystery Shopping. Internet-based program will help facilitate the administrative skills of the program as well as reduces cost for making changes to your standards, tasks, timelines, questions and instructions. Some are still security conscious and that will make them prefer sending results through traditional mails, couriers or fax than sending through online. Although any information that leaks online seems to be scandal-free.
- It is better to choose Mystery-shopping provider that has history with handling your clients because will help them to ascertain the possible problems you encounter. Good company should have the ability of presenting straightforward evaluation forms/checklists, efficient shopping scenarios and adequate statistical reports. And you should be able to easily identify the problems using a well-structured information/data which can be presented inform of questionnaires, graphs or charts.
- There should be flexibility in satisfying the clients’ needs by the provider. If they provider runs an internet-based program which is of course very efficient, the provider should also be able to provide information through other means other than the internet as requested by the Franchisor.
- The provider should always examine, have a well-detailed profile and provide skilled and efficient Mystery shoppers. And to sustain the objective view of your product and customers, it is necessary that they should be reshuffled to avoid recognition.
- It is of extreme importance that the provider is fully insured professionally. This is to ensure that you have maximum protection if any data collected by your provider instigated legal actions.
- You should only receive accurate, timely and useful information. Always work jointly with your Mystery-Shopping provider to guarantee that task-specified information reached to the targeted or right people. These information may be specifically needed in job-specified formats y different user groups. Examples, the Human Resource department may require information on training effectiveness while operation department will find information on standards and procedures useful. So, they should ensure that information get to the right targets.
- Providers should make their services cost-effective, something lesser than the cost of having customer feedback. So, the provider should be aware of over burdening you with administrative costs. This once again can be eliminated through the use of internet-based programs.
- It should be a necessity that the provider ensures and drives you towards the development of your organization. They can be a bit strict with handling your affairs, by providing more comprehensive evaluation procedures, tough scores and increasing the demands from your employee. This will surely make them sit up and be driven towards positivity.
- There should be other complimentary services from your Mystery-Shopping provider like providing electronic comment cards, breakdown of the competition, telephone programs with follow up surveys showing customer’s satisfaction, and onsite exit interviews. These services should be unique to you preferred standards.
You can also note that Customer relations are the key to distinguishing asuccessful franchise from an unsuccessful one especially during the period of high competitiveness. These information provided by the Mystery-Shopping providers stand as an advantage towards the ability of keeping your organization on the right track and providing quality services as time goes on.
How To Get Started With Mystery Shopping?
There are many companies that hire Mystery Shoppers … you will be surprised at how many we have listed.
You can apply online to over 140 companies. You will find the application page link below. If you are interested in finding a local mystery shopping firm to work for go to your library or telephone book and look for local Marketing Research companies and submit a resume. Although, you will find the online companies much easier and convenient.
Mystery shopping is big business, so don’t limit yourself by applying only to
companies that are physically located near you. Remember, most mystery shopping companies are nationwide. Their clients and stores are nationwide. Just because a company has its offices in New York does not mean you can not work for them because you live in Texas. These Mystery Shopping companies contract with retail and restaurant chains. These chains are located Nationwide, therefor they need shoppers nationwide.
Never feel pressured into a job. It will not be held against you if you are unable or unwilling to take a particular assignment. Some things will just not appeal to you. Just recently I declined an assignment at an automobile dealership because test driving a car and discussing prices was involved and I felt very uncomfortable with that. Sometimes the job will just not fit into your schedule. If that happens to you, just be honest with the company right away. If you are sent an assignment and do not wish to complete it or can’t fit in into your schedule, make sure you decline it right away. This allows the company to find someone else. Companies do not care if you decline assignments as long as you do it promptly. If you do not decline promptly you will probably not be sent many assignments after that. All it takes is a quick email saying you can not complete this assignment.
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