Sherry Fox (aka Sherry Shopper) created a popular resource for mystery shoppers in the Mystery Shopping Bible.
In this interview, Sherry tells how she came to create the Mystery Shopping Bible and shares some tips for successful mystery shopping.
How long have you been a mystery shopper?
I have been shopping since 2003, so 3 years now.
What is the Mystery Shopping Bible?
The Mystery Shopping Bible is an “all-inclusive” tracking system for mystery shopping. It is a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet that combines a list of mystery shopping companies with their website links. This portion allows you to list your passwords, and the date you registered with each site, so you continue to register for as many mystery shopping companies as you choose to as not all companies issue passwords upon registration. Then there is a worksheet to lit all your various assignments with all the details on the shop which allows you to schedule your time better and see at a glance what you have scheduled with which companies. The payments worksheet allows you to track when you receive payment for each shop and the mileage associated with them. And an Independent Contractor, this was a must as each company processes payments in a different way. Some pay by PayPal, others by check, some a week after your shop is completed, and some between 30-90 days. Still others bulk 30 days of shops on 1 check, and others issue a separate payment for each assignment. In addition, there are various reports that allow you to see how your business is developing from “every angle.” You can view your shops by date (day, week, month and year breakdown) or by company and such. The Mystery Shopping Bible even includes templates for file folder labels (to help organize) and an invoice for the handful of companies that require you to invoice them for shops completed. The idea is that you can track everything related to your mystery shopping in one document, and the reports analyze your shopping to provide you with everything at your fingertips.
Why did you create it?
By trade, I am an Excel Analyst. When I got into mystery shopping the Mystery Shopping Bible was something I created for my own personal use. At that point mystery shopping was a whole new ball game for me, and I needed to be confident that I did not inadvertently overlook an assignment I had scheduled for myself. And knowing that I would have to file my taxes as an independent contractor I wanted to ensure that I had everything in order. Some shoppers and I were chatting in IMs and on the various forums. Shoppers are always looking for a better way to track their business since there is so much involved, so when I was asked about this, I mentioned that I created something for myself. A shopper begged me for a copy of my Mystery Shopping Bible so she could get organized, and said she would give me $5 if I would agree. The Mystery Shopping Bible was then available! I started getting emails from shoppers (shoppers DO talk about what they like and don’t like, and they are NOT shy about their opinions, of course). These shoppers immediately provided me with feedback. I then posted it to my website with screenshots so any shoppers that were potentially interested could see exactly what the Mystery Shopping Bible is and make a decision based on all the information. I believe in the Mystery Shopping Bible and that it is the most comprehensive way for a shopper to organize their mystery shopping business. That is why I offer the Mystery Shopping Bible for such a modest price, because really, no shopper should be without one. And because of the low price of the Mystery Shopping Bible, a shopper only need one “extra” shop to cover the cost of the Mystery Shopping Bible.
What do shoppers tell you they like best about the Mystery Shopping Bible?
Shoppers adore the automation of the Mystery Shopping Bible, and the customer support I offer. They enter the information on one sheet and through the formulas it shows up in other areas. There is no need to be redundant in your data entry. That will waste time, and cause errors. As for the customer support, well, that is part of the package. There are times that shoppers will accidentally delete formulas or have various questions or whatever. I fix the problems for them if they are complex, or talk them thru the easy ones. I even added a FAQ page to my site to help them with the common items that come up.
What is the biggest challenge mystery shoppers face in keeping organized?
Most don’t know HOW to organize for mystery shopping. Although being a shopper is great fun, more importantly it IS a business. Come tax time you should not have a worry in the world if you are organized. I am organized to a fault! The file label template within the Mystery Shopping Bible allow me to print a label for each shop I do (now how organized is that?). For certain shops and types of shops there is more information that for others. On some shops you will have detailed instructions you printed and reviewed. In addition, many shops you will receive information from the location(such as apartment shops, bank shops, etc..). I keep this information in the folder for the shop. I print one of my invoices (totally automated) and use it as a “cover sheet” in my folder for all the shop information.
Do you have any advice for someone trying to get started as a mystery shopper?
First of all, be aware that mystery shopping is a business. Sure it is fun, but like any business, it must be taken seriously. Keep accurate records on all your assignments. Always read your instructions thoroughly, and give each assignment 200%. Perform at your best, and you will succeed, but if you give any less than your best, you will fail. There are a ton of shoppers out there, and when assignments come available, you compete with all the people in your area that have applied for the same shop you have. Build your reputation, and take your assignments seriously. I recommend getting your MSPA Silver certification immediately. And when the MSPA has a Gold conference close to you, I highly recommend attending. Not only for experience and information, but for the relationship building and networking. The opportunity to meet the schedulers and principals from various mystery shopping companies, and of course all the shoppers you have spoken with in chat rooms, IM, and of course on all the forums. That is another thing that is essential, read the forums.
How can shoppers order the Mystery Shopping Bible?
The Mystery Shopping Bible can be purchased on my website. I accept PayPal of course and send the Mystery Shopping Bible within three days (remember I work a full-time job, and shop). The main address is at: http://www.yourwebness.com/msbible.htm and if you scroll down you will can access screen shots and details about each worksheet within the Mystery Shopping Bible before so you can decide if the Mystery Shopping Bible is something you need.