I have a list of 200 legitimate mystery shopping companies on my web site, and I get calls and emails all the time from new shoppers who want me to tell them which mystery shopping company is best. “I don’t want to apply to all of those companies. Can’t you just give me the names of a few companies that are best?”
Well, no, I can’t. The companies that I think are the best might be useless to you. Here are some of the things to consider when deciding which mystery shopping companies are the best for you.
What types of industries do they mystery shop? Most companies say on their websites what industries they serve. Some work with a broad range of industries, while others are more specialized. If you don’t like to do bank shops, a company that specializes in the financial industry is not a good match.
Where do they have assignments? You can not always tell from looking at the website where a company’s clients are located, but there may be clues. Some will say where they have a pressing need for new shoppers, and some may say where their clients are concentrated. Of course, they could land a new national client tomorrow, and all of that changes. Tip: Sometimes companies have more clients in the city or state where they are headquartered. Although I have worked with companies all over the country, you might start by applying to companies located near you.
What do other shoppers say about them? Although confidentiality agreements prohibit us from talking about client-specific issues, we may share information about our experiences with mystery shopping companies. Check out forums (such as Volition or MSPA) to see what other shoppers are saying about mystery shopping companies. If one shopper complains, I would take it with a grain of salt; however, if many have the same issue, there is likely a problem there.
Do they belong to the MSPA? Although there are many good companies that have chosen not to join MSPA, knowing that a company is a member makes me comfortable with them.
So how do you know which companies are “best”? Short answer: It is not always easy to tell, until you start to work with them. Even then, you may not know about some really amazing clients they have, because you will not know about those mystery shopper jobs until you have successfully completed several assignments with the mystery shopping provider.
The course of action I recommend is to apply to as many companies as you can, start picking up assignments here and there and see how it goes. Many shoppers end up do assignments for a few of the same companies nearly every month, with assignments from other companies sprinkled in now and then. If you find that a company never offers shops that are interesting to you, or doesn’t have anything in your area, you can deactivate yourself, stop their emails, or just ignore them.
For great advice on a process that makes applying to mystery shopping providers fast and easy, see the Quick Start Action Plan in The Mystery Shopper’s Manual.