Several years ago, when I was developing the MSPA Gold Certification, I spent a lot of time talking with executives, schedulers and others at mystery shopping companies. As we talked about what they needed shoppers to know, I discovered some shocking and disturbing truths about mystery shoppers.
The biggest problem was that of shoppers who accept assignments then do not complete them. Sometimes the shopper cancels at the last minute and other times they simply do not do the shop. It happens more than you might think. In fact, many companies have told me that it is typical for 25% of mystery shopper jobs to be reassigned because the shopper “flaked.” That’s right, it happens so often that there is an industry term for it.
Other problems they mentioned include not reading and following shop guidelines, submitting shops late, failing to include required information or documents (such as a receipt) and unclear comments that require the editor to follow up with the shopper. The consensus was that the editors have to contact the shopper for more information as often as 50% of the time. (I know that shoppers have their complaints about the companies, too, but I was trying to learn what we could do to be better, more successful shoppers.)
After hearing so many things that are wrong, I was hoping for some good news. Bravely, I asked, “So how many shoppers do a great job?” The number everyone agreed on was 10%. That is, 10% of mystery shoppers can be counted on to do the shop, correctly and on time, every time.
At first I was shocked that the number was so low. Only 10%? But as I thought about it, I realized that in any endeavor probably only 10% of people are really good at it. The thing about mystery shopping is that it is so easy to be in the top 10%.
Mystery shopping can be hard work. But it is not particularly difficult to understand. By making just a bit of an effort, you can stand out and be among the top 10% of mystery shoppers. Here is what it takes.
Do your shops. When you accept a mystery shopping assignment, do it. On time.
Read and follow the guidelines. Prepare for the shop by making sure you understand the client requirements. Ask questions if you need more information.
Submit a complete report by the deadline. Answer all questions, provide any needed comments or narrative and attach needed documents, such as a receipt, photos, invoice, etc.
Proofread your report carefully. Before you click “submit,” be certain that your report is accurate, clearly written and free of errors. Do not rely only on spell check. It will not catch every error.
That’s not so hard, is it? The bottom line is that what it takes to be an excellent mystery shopper is to do the job and do it right. It is not necessarily easy, but it is simple.
And to really stand out, be the go-to shopper. The one that schedulers know they can count on. That doesn’t mean doing every shop they send your way, no matter what, but it does mean being willing to do a last-minute shop now and then when someone else flakes or going a little out of your way to help a scheduler get a hard-to-fill shop done.
Make it your goal to be a top-ten-percenter. You will get more and better mystery shopper jobs when schedulers know that they can count on you to do a good job.