One of the goals you should have when writing mystery shop reports is to help those who read the report to feel that they were there, experiencing what you experienced during the shop.
Directly quoting what employees said to you during a mystery shop visit is one of the things that helps the mystery shopping company and the client imagine what your visit was really like.
But quotations can be overused. Let’s look at when you would use quotations and when you should leave them out.
First of all, read the guidelines and report form to see if they mention quoting employees. Some clients may want to know exactly what employees said, and others may say not to include direct quotations. You should always follow the guidelines, but what if the guidelines are silent on whether or not you should quote employees? Here are some things to consider about using quotations in mystery shopper reports:
When the specific words used by the employee are important, use a direct quotation. For example, “Are you guys ready to order, or what?” is different than, “Are you ready to order?” In the first example, there is a tone implied that is less-than-pleasant, and using the exact words gives some insight. I wouldn’t quote exactly what an employee said in every interaction, unless it was requested by the client. For many interactions I would probably say something along the lines of: Jane thanked me by name and asked me to return.
If the words used by the employee include profanity, you may not want to include the entire word or phrase in your report. For example, you might replace some of the letters with asterisks, such as f***. Don’t replace all of the letters with asterisks, though. There may be a big difference between **** and ****, but we don’t know because we can’t figure out what the employee actually said.
If you are not sure exactly what the employee said, do not write it as a quotation. Using quotation marks indicates that what is in your report is exactly what was said, not approximately what was said. If you are not 100% certain, do not include a quotation.
You generally do not need to write short expressions such as “thank you” or “hello” as quotations.
You do not need to recount the entire conversation as quotations: As I entered, John said, “Hello.” I replied, “Hello.” John asked, “Can I help you find anything?” I said, “No, thank you, I am just browsing.” He said, “Let me know if I can help you with anything.”
I probably would not write any of the previous paragraph as quotations. I might write something such as: John greeted me as I entered and asked if he could help me find anything. When I said I was just browsing, he said to let him know if I needed any help.
Quotations add a level of detail that can make your reports better. You might think of them as adding seasoning to your report, just as salt seasons the foods you cook. Like salt, a little is good but too much destroys the flavor. Use quotations sparingly to spice up your reports.