“Top-Rated” Mystery Shopper Shares Insider Know-How

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Things You Should Know About Mystery Shopping:

  • Almost anyone can be a Secret Shopper (also known as Mystery Shopper).
  • Mystery Shopping can be a lot of fun! Get paid to shop, observe, fly or drive.
  • You should never PAY to register as a Mystery Shopper – the company pays YOU! If they do ask you to pay to register it’s a scam!
  • Never accept a Mystery Shopper job where they ask you to wire money or cash a check. It’s a scam!
  • There is no need pay for a “directory” to Mystery shopper gigs. this information is free! Just sign up with reputable companies directly or via MSPA.
  • Some Mystery Shopping companies double as private detective agencies and contract with clients, organizations, government entities. They pay you per gig.
  • Some Mystery Shopping companies are quicker than others at paying. See below for the fastest paying and most reliable companies I have contracted with. One company takes up to 90 days to pay for a gig and you have to send them an invoice and remind them when they haven’t paid (which is every single time). This is highly unusual and not the norm).
  • Most legitimate companies pay via Paypal or pay directly into your bank.
  • You choose your own gigs on your time at a schedule convenient for you.
  • You can dos many and as little gigs as your want per month.
  • Doing some research on Mystery Shopping companies is a good idea AND check them out here: MSPA Europe  MSPA Global MSPA North America

Insider Tips of the Trade:

  • Use a good scheduling app, a phone calendar or use a business appointment diary. Collins  is a great business appointment diary.  (Also known as a desktop diary).
  • Act professionally at all times – you are not only representing yourself but the company you contracted with.
  • Get reports in on time. Many gigs ask that you to complete an online report of  your findings. It’s good practice to fill reports as quickly as possible within time frames given. It not only helps you recall but may up your changes of getting good gigs. Some reports are due the same day or within 24 hours, most are due within 3-5 days or a week or more.
  • Taking notes immediately after your gigs (for completing your reports) makes it easier to remember the minutia. You can use your phone and record voice notes if you prefer (after you are out of sight and earshot of the target client and after the gig is completed).
  • Always be respectful to those you are Mystery/Secret shopping.
  • Good planning skills come in handy. Getting gigs in the same area saves time and money (petrol/gas/train fares). It’s better to work one day in one or two areas than go to five different areas large distances apart. In major cities, it’s easier to do this.
  • Mystery Shopping is confidential and your findings should not be shared except with the company you’re contracted with (the Mystery Shopping company).
  • To get the best jobs, work towards a top rating. Companies typically use a 5 or 10 scale.
  • Some entities hire mystery shopping companies with a specific demographic in mind so that shoppers don’t stand out and can remain incognito. Don’t feel disappointed if you don’t get a gig on this basis.
  • Example 1:  In California, the minimum drinking age limit is 21 and to ensure stores, hotels or bars selling alcohol abide by the law, Mystery Shoppers in a similar age range are typically hired.
  • Example 2:  Hair replacement clinics will typically hire a Mystery Shopper who is balding or has no hair.
  • Example 3  A kindergarten will typically contract with a Mystery Shopper in the “age range” most common to parents of kindergarten children (or the age of a grandparent).
  • Some Mystery Shopping gigs are called “Audits”.  These are ones where you audit the client company.

Example 1: In a store to ensure credit card legal compliances and the handling of confidential information. (If you don’t have auditing experience, you may be taught how to do this).  Are paper documents stored in fire-proof locked cabinets etc. Who has access? Have they been screened? Are credit card applications in person handled in a quiet private area out of earshot of other customers?

Example 2: Other types of audits may include merchandising audits, again to ensure compliance with company standards related to displays, health and safety and/or legalities. With audits, sometimes they are expecting you and at other times, you will simply ask for a manager and will be required to show your ID and certain documentation from the Mystery Shopping company you contracted with.

  • There are many types of Mystery shopping gigs. Here are a few:
    • Visiting retail shops to ascertain how great the customer service is (personal shopper for high end brands) or how clean the shop is (bathrooms, changing rooms, counters etc).
    • Test-driving a car (often high-end vehicles) and negotiating the purchase price (This is so much fun). The aim is to help a salesperson improve their sales skills so they earn more money, un-beknown to them at the time.
    • Compliance auditing such as ensuring a bank complies with disclosure requirements, legalities, other reasons such as customer service knowledge.
    • Health and safety mystery shops in hospitals, retail shops, apartment complexes, gyms. (Knowing H & S Regulations may help but this is not usually a requirement)
    • Flights to ascertain customer service levels of flight crew, check-in staff, cleanliness of airline and business lounges, efficiency, food temperature etc.
    • Example: British Airways pride themselves on customer service, Virgin on customer service and a fun experience – Was your personal tv screen functional with latest movies? On Emirates, did you get your shower on time? On Delta,  customer service is the focus, were the flight attendants cordial? Was the food the right temperature? How was the check-in?

    • Hotel gigs to ascertain customer service, cleanliness, food, concierge knowledge, health and safety etc.
    • Example: Was your wine glass clean? Was the napkin placed on your lap in the restaurant? Were you greeted within 30 seconds upon arrival? Did the valet expect a tip? Were all staff wearing name tags? Was the food served warm and was the order accurate or did they forget to bring the bread or water? Did the sommelier do a good job or did he/she just call themselves a sommelier? Were the sheets clean? Was the exterior vegetation groomed?
    • Newly-Built subdivisions and existing rental apartments – Typically checking on sales ability and knowledge of sales staff, legal compliances, disclosures or other reasons.
    • Example: Were you acknowledged as you walked into the sales office? Was signage adequate? Were you offered a tour? What happened when you raised objections about the property – How persuasive was the sales agent?
    • Ride-share companies use Mystery Shoppers for customer service or other reasons. Some use their own staff and offer free rides to employees. Some also work with insurance and tracking companies to see how many times you break and accelerate – are you giving a smooth ride to passengers?
    • Government agencies hire 3rd party companies who then contract with Mystery Shoppers to ascertain compliance, legalities and other issues on behalf of a department. They may be doing this for research purposes or other reasons.
    • Insurance companies may use Mystery Shoppers via private detective agencies for everything from worker’s comp claims to proof concepts. They also use apps and software to monitor some gig industry behavior such as ride-share gigs.
    • Law firms may use Mystery Shoppers often via private detective agencies
    • Market Research Companies may use Mystery Shoppers to conduct research.
    • Example: polling feedback, phone calls, food launches, the list is endless.
    • Private and public companies use Mystery Shoppers via 3rd parties. This could include their HR department, a private detective agency or directly with a Mystery Shopping organization.
    • Media organizations use Mystery Shoppers (via 3rd party mystery shopping companies) often to solicit a story, conduct research or prove a story.
    • An entity may hire a Mystery Shopper (sometimes an actress or actor) as “honey bait”. This occurs in everything from divorces to the legalities of access to clubs and preferential treatment with seating in restaurants.
  • Registering with multiple companies makes it easier to fill your schedule in the same area on the same day and offers more variation of work giving you a wider range.
  • It’s likely you’ll find a few companies you prefer working with.
  • When Government agencies and insurance companies work with 3rd party companies who then hire Mystery shoppers, it is quite possible you will not be told your work is related to Government.  Instead you will be gigging via a Secret Shopping Company.
  • If you don’t show up or complete the gig per contract, either your rating could go down or that company may “drop you” as they have 3rd party clients which contract with them to provide great service and feedback.
  • Some gigs are simply phone calls. They are quick and often easy lasting 5-15 minutes typically. Medical doctors offices and hospitals often use this method to ascertain how quickly it is to get an appointment with a specific surgeon, or to check customer service levels via the phone. How many times were you redirected?
  • Some companies prefer to offer jobs if you are MSPA registered. Some don’t.

These are gig jobs. You are self-employed, you decide which gigs to take and you set your own schedule and provide your own transportation, phone, stationary.

  • If you have a proven excellent rating and a range of experience, you can use this experience to start your own “customer service” consultancy business and get hired by companies to train their employees in superior customer service skills. Retail shops are losing business to customers purchasing online and companies pay consultants for this type of service.
  • Taking feedback and acting upon this feedback is a good idea. Don’t take it personally.  It’s just business. And on the rare occasion, there are inaccuracies.
  • You may not always get the gigs you want so the more pro-active you are and the better relationships you build with Mystery Shopping companies, the more gigs you are likely to get when you want them.  Great work builds better relationships!

The best companies I have personally worked with as a Mystery Shopper are:

  • NWLPC
  • Bare International

This is not to be construed as a recommendation, these were simply the best in my experience in terms of professionalism, positive feedback, consistently paying on time and with accuracy. Both companies have won the highest recognition and deservedly so.

Have fun and enjoy being a wannabe Sherlock Holmes or James Bond 007!

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