The question of who checks up on the mystery shoppers gets asked a lot. It would be extremely unlikely that a company would send two shoppers in to a business at the same time so that one could check on the other (or the reports could be compared), but there are techniques that mystery shopping companies use to check the accuracy of reports or determine if the shopper may not be doing a thorough job.
Of course, one way the report can be checked is by looking at video from the location’s surveillance cameras to see what happened during the shop. A client may do that if they believe that report is not accurate, or perhaps just because they got a negative report.
Additionally, most mystery shopping providers have ways they attempt to verify reports before they get to the client. A mystery shop may require the submission of a receipt, business card, photo of the location, or other documentation that shows that the shopper was actually there. That is a first step toward verifying the shop report. The next is to determine if the submitted proof is valid.
What are integrity questions? These are questions on the report form that are put there to see if the secret shopper is paying attention and answering questions honestly and correctly. For example, the form might ask, “Were all awnings in good repair?” when there are no awnings on the client’s buildings. A shopper who didn’t check will probably answer “yes” instead of “N/A.”
These questions are not really part of the report and the answers do not go to the client. They are only there to verify that the shopper is taking care to answer questions correctly. Answering an integrity question incorrectly does not necessarily mean that a report will be rejected, however, it will cause the mystery shopping company to look at the rest of the report more carefully.
Verifying the shopper’s identity
There are some people who try to game the system by signing up for multiple accounts using different names. Many companies verify the shopper’s Social Security Number as a way of ensuring that shoppers are not signed up with more than one name.
With automation, it is now possible to check reports against a database to determine is a report is a duplicate of one that was previously submitted.
Comparing uploaded images
It is also possible to compare images for similarities. For example, most secret shops require that the shopper submit a receipt for a purchase. There are systems that can automatically compare a receipt image to other images that were submitted in the past.
Some companies are encouraging shoppers to use smartphones to submit shop information. These submissions can be geo-tagged with the shopper’s location to verify that they are actually at the client location.
Although most mystery shoppers are honest and do the best work they can, there are always some who will take shortcuts and try to game the system. Verifying the integrity of shop reports means that dishonest or unqualified shoppers will be weeded out and shoppers who do their work properly will have more opportunities.