Cory Jensen, owner of I-Spy Mystery Shoppers, recently shared some comments about secret shopper pay, giving us the perspective of a mystery shopping company owner. I invited Cory to tell us more about his company and how they work with mystery shoppers. In part 1, Cory tells us what makes a shopper valuable to I-Spy and more.
Next week, I will share part 2 of this interview, where Cory again addresses the issue of lower pay for mystery shoppers and what shoppers can do about it. Be sure to subscribe to updates via RSS or email so you don’t miss the rest of this interview.
Describe the ideal shopper.
The ideal shopper is reliable and thorough. They are objective in their observations by providing an accurate description of what they saw without any interpretations. They must have good writing skills, including accurate spelling and grammar. Since we review every evaluation that comes in, good writing skills help streamline our process and decrease the amount of time a client waits for the information we are providing.
What is the best way for a new shopper to get in the door and get a first assignment?
Four things come to mind. First, be sure to submit a thorough application. Second, become certified through the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA). Third, be flexible in the jobs you request. Keep in mind that some jobs are more popular than others. Experienced shoppers are more likely to get jobs that are in high demand. It may be easier to get less popular jobs with lower demand. Apply for an assignment that has been sitting there for a few days or respond when a scheduler sends out a “plea” for shoppers. This may be a great opportunity to show a mystery shopping company what you can do. Fourth, when you get that first assignment be thorough in all aspects of the assignment. Follow all the instructions, review your evaluation before submitting it and turn in the assignment on time.
What is your biggest problem/pet peeve with shoppers?
For us, this is really two separate questions. Our biggest pet peeve, because is doesn’t happen as often, is when shoppers falsify information or don’t do assignments and don’t notify us. Falsified evaluations affect our credibility with our clients because they are most likely the ones to catch the problem. The reports don’t mean anything if they are inaccurate. Shoppers who don’t do an assignment and don’t bother to notify us make it difficult, and in some cases impossible to fulfill our obligation to our client.
Our biggest problem is shoppers who are careless on evaluations. This includes shoppers who do not follow instructions, do not provide clear and objective narratives, provide inconsistent answers and make spelling and grammatical errors. Evaluations with these types of errors require more time to review and take longer to get the information to the client. It also greatly increases the potential for error. It is important for the shoppers to remember that they may be turning in a few evaluations a week, but our validators are reviewing a few hundred or more evaluations in that same time period. If a good number of evaluations require clarification or correction because of a shopper’s carelessness, it has a huge impact on the overall process.
What types of shops does your company do? What types of reports are used?
We do not focus on any particular industry and have done assignments for restaurants, retail businesses, sign companies, window companies, tanning salons, telecommunications companies, dry-cleaners, and even churches. We have found we get the best results by utilizing a variety of question types including multiple choice, yes/no, and narratives. For the narratives we have realized that many times WHAT a shopper says can be more important than the length of their narrative.
Is there equipment/technology a mystery shopper must have? Do you see the requirements changing?
At the very minimum, a computer, an internet connection, and an email address. Some shoppers find digital recorders to be a handy way to take quick notes without dealing with a pad and paper after you get to your car. Cell phones and PDAs, or smart phones can also be an effective way to record or write short notes to yourself without drawing attention. Most employees won’t think twice about seeing someone typing or talking into one of these devices.
How long after a shop are your shoppers typically paid? Do you use/require PayPal? Do you plan to?
We pay our shoppers the first week of the month following the month the job is done. For example, shops done in February are paid the first week of March. We do not currently use PayPal for paying shoppers but are planning to start in the near future. We also looked into re-loadable debit cards, but found PayPal a more cost-effective solution for us and our shoppers.
What are the biggest challenges facing mystery shopping companies today?
The biggest challenges include increased competition and unreliable shoppers. With increased competition, price becomes a bigger factor in a client’s decision making process, especially with companies that focus on price rather than value. We have lost customers to other mystery shopping companies that claimed to charge half of what we charge. I don’t know how these companies can charge so little and still cover their expenses, including paying shoppers. We prefer to sell our services based on the value we provide, but we still must have a competitive price.
Unreliable shoppers are a challenge because we have jobs that are not completed in a timely manner, are poorly done, or are declined at the last minute. All these factors make it difficult to fulfill our obligation to our client and provide them with quality information in a timely manner. To the shopper, declining a job means they don’t get the fee of 10 or 15 dollars. To us, it means we may not be able to fulfill our obligation to our client, especially when the shopper waits until the last minute. Most shoppers mystery shop for fun and a little extra money. For us, this is what puts food on our table and pays our bills. Not completing a job isn’t a big deal to a shopper, but it does greatly affect us.
What do you want shoppers to know–what will make them more valuable to your company?
Keep in mind that what you do is a direct reflection on you and on us. If you make us look good to our client we will be much more likely to give you more and better assignments. Submitting thorough evaluations in a timely manner will ensure you get the best jobs, that we maintain our client base, and continue to have jobs in the future.
Don’t forget to subscribe to email or RSS updates (in the right column) to read the rest of this interview.