Peter Thorwarth, President of BMA Mystery Shopping, answered some questions for us about mystery shopping for BMA and his thoughts about the challenges facing the industry today.
BMA is a founding member of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association, and Peter was one of the presenters at the MSPA’s recent Shopper Educational Conference in Pittsburgh.
BMA’s clients are well-known retailers, manufacturers and other businesses, and they perform mystery shops across the United States and in Europe. They have been in business since 1991.
Here is what Peter had to say about mystery shopping for BMA.
Describe the ideal shopper.
Priority number one is the ability to read, understand and follow directions. Number two is to innovate and think on your feet if something surprising happens. And number three is keeping the schedulers up to date.
Does your company recognize MSPA certification? What advantage does a Silver shopper have over non-certified? Gold over Silver? Do you recognize any other certifications?
BMA uses Prophet, whch does allow us to favor shoppers who are MSPA Silver- or Gold-certified. We have not learned much about any other significant certifications.
What types of shops does your company do? What types of reports are used?
While we do a lot of retail (but not many bank or restaurant) shops, BMA also seems to get the fun and unusual. For example, we send shoppers to go to investment seminars, career schools, and time shares. We also have a good number of phone and web shops, which you can do from home with the survey form right in front of you.
What is the best way for a new shopper to get in the door and get a first assignment?
Apply at http://prophet.mystery-shopping.com (note there is no www). As part of the process we have a common-sense quiz about mystery shopping. Answer as well as possible to set your initial grade high.
How can shoppers qualify for your best shop assignments?
Like most companies we usually use proven people in each zip code before unknown people. However there are some zips where we don’t have coverage or we need someone of a different age or we need rotation. That will open the door for a new person to get their first chance to show us how dependable they are, which will lead to (hopefully) a high grade in our system. A high grade means getting first look at our shops.
How long after a shop are your shoppers typically paid? Do you use/require PayPal?
We favor PayPal now, but will still accept shoppers who don’t use it. We pay twice a month, usually on the 1st and 15th.
How is your company helping shoppers deal with the high price of gasoline?
We’re trying to group shops whenever we can. Our clients are not paying us more, even though we do bring it to their attention.
What is your biggest problem/pet peeve with shoppers?
Shoppers who take an assignment and then don’t do it or inform us. if someone contacts their scheduler with enough advance notice to say they can’t / won’t do that shop after all, their grade will stay high. If on the other hand they don’t communicate and the scheduler is left suffering and wondering if it’s going to be done or not, the shoppers grade will drop very low.
What are the biggest challenges facing mystery shopping companies today?
1) Scammers, including a company pretending to be BMA that is sending people on fake Western Union scam mystery shops and keeping a lot of money. 2) Budgets lost to surveys based on cash register receipts. 3) The price of gas, which we hope will continue to come down.
What do you see as the future direction of mystery shopping?
More online qualifying tests to verify shoppers have learned some language / lingo that is unique to the client’s business.
What do you want shoppers to know–what will make them more valuable to your company?
We want them to know we appreciate and identify with them.
Anything else you want to add? Advice? Funny shopper stories?
As I told the group at the Pittsburgh MSPA convention – never contact the end client unless you are specifically told to do so. Help the MS companies look good by providing accurate information that is not confusing or contradictory. Favorite shopper story is a shopper in San Francisco who called to say she couldn’t do the shop after all (which is good) but then faxed back the entire blank survey form, as if a) we needed it and b) it would no longer be her concern (which didn’t work because it was still there with her).