Elaine Buxton, President of Confero answered some questions for us about mystery shopping for them. Confero provides mystery shopping services to a wide range of industries, including retail, banking, automotive and food and beverage. Confero is a member of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA). Elaine was involved in the formation of MSPA and has served on the Board of Directors.
Here is what Elaine had to say about mystery shopping for Confero.
Describe the ideal shopper.
Whew! That’s a tall order. Let’s see….
Most important characteristics would be observant and dependable.
Most important skills would be the ability to read and follow guidelines carefully and to submit comments on the online survey form.
Many people are observant but don’t write well. Others write well and aren’t observant. For us, observant wins every time. Although we encourage shoppers to proofread their work and use the spell check feature prior to submission, we are able to edit grammar and spelling. We can’t edit a shop in which the shopper failed to make the required observations.
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?
Yes. We recognize MSPA shopper certification. Confero gives scheduling priority as follows:
- Shoppers who have experience on a particular project.
- When new shoppers are needed for a project, we search for Gold certified shoppers.
- If no Gold certificated shoppers are available, we search for Silver.
We do not recognize any other certifications.
What types of shops does your company do? What types of reports are used?
Confero conducts shops in restaurants, retailers, banks and automotive service establishments. Some venues may be challenging, such a military bases, post-security at airports, amusement parks, institutional restaurants and college campuses. Our forms usually require detail, including comments, but most don’t require long narratives. We have been in business for 22 years and we don’t shy away from projects with challenging locations. We also do thousands of on-the-spot reward shops each year.
What is the best way for a new shopper to get in the door and get a first assignment?
Log into our system and visit the Job Board. When you enroll, take the time to compose a good writing sample in your profile. This is the first thing a scheduler will look at when choosing a new shopper. Please continue to request shops. As new locations become available or experienced shoppers become unavailable, you will have a chance to conduct your first shop for Confero.
How can shoppers qualify for your best (highest-paying and most interesting and enjoyable) shop assignments?
To get the best shops, conduct any assignment you agree to perform for us well (on time, follow our guidelines, report thoroughly). Your rating will rise in our system and our schedulers will reward you with the most lucrative or enjoyable shop offers.
How long after a shop are your shoppers typically paid? Do you use/require PayPal?
Confero pays shoppers on or around the 25th of each month for the prior month’s shops. For example, September shops were paid on October 25th. We pay only by PayPal.
How is your company helping shoppers deal with the high price of gasoline?
All our shoppers are independently contracted and are therefore free to conduct assignments for multiple companies. This is really one of the best solutions to overall cost issues. We do allow shoppers to conduct multiple shops for us in one day. However, if we allow more than one shop of the same type of location (for example, two grocery store shops) and then the shopper mixes up the data in any way, we cannot accept or pay for either report.
We have given our schedulers as much flexibility as possible to work with shoppers on due dates. That’s a two way street, though. If we allow for extensions to better suit a driving route a shopper wants to take, we must have confidence that the shopper will actually come through in time for us to meet our deadline obligations to our clients.
What is your biggest problem/pet peeve with shoppers?
Failure to follow the guidelines. Our shops are not about “being an average customer and providing feedback”. Confero’s shops are about looking and listening for specific items or employee behaviors. Few of our shops ask only for shopper opinion; most ask only for shopper observation. If the guidelines require a rest room visit, the shop is invalid without one. If all shoppers are required to order a specific fast food hamburger so we can compare quality, don’t order a fish sandwich.
What are the biggest challenges facing mystery shopping companies today?
Clients want to pay less; shoppers want to make more. Fraudulent shoppers.
What do you see as the future direction of mystery shopping?
Increased shopper qualifications.
Confero will do more on-the-spot reward mystery shops, as these work well to increase sales for clients.
What do you want shoppers to know–what will make them more valuable to your company?
Please give the shop the same respect you would give to your own performance review. Our clients and their employees deserve a report on observations that is reported accurately and fairly. This requires following the guidelines so that all the clients’ units are shopped the same way. Shoppers are part of the success or failure of any mystery shopping company. We value feedback from shoppers about the shop survey form, the online system, ways to make their jobs easier, etc.
Anything else you want to add? Advice? Funny shopper stories?
Every now and then, a really funny comment will come from a shopper report. It’s usually just a dangling participle but the end result is some much-needed humor around our office. Examples include, “The remains of the previous customer were on the table” and “I saw a big bag of produce leaving with an employee.” Both of those examples conjure interesting mental pictures.
If you would like to become a mystery shopper for Confero, you may apply at their web site. Elaine says, “We have re-launched our website with additional content for clients and shoppers alike. The changes have made our website even more user-friendly and easier to navigate. Our online reporting system, COMPASS, is based upon the Sassie system. The system has some modifications to suit Confero’s process. We invite shoppers to visit the site at www.conferoinc.com and encourage them to start logging into COMPASS from our main Confero website. This will ensure that shoppers don’t miss out on important announcements and information.”