Here are some tips for making the process of writing mystery shopper reports more effective and efficient, and making your reports better.
1. Using spell check can help catch errors in your reports, but also proofread carefully. Your spell checker won’t know you meant ‘from’ when you entered ‘form.’ One way to spell check your web-based reports is to write your comments and narratives in Word or another program with a spell checker, then copy and paste them into the report form.
2. Save a copy of your comments and narratives. Computer problems happen, and your report could be lost. Having a back up copy could save a lot of time re-doing and re-entering reports.
3. Stay objective. Don’t give opinions (unless specifically asked), just report what happened. If you find yourself writing things such as ‘I think,’ ‘I believe,’ ‘I didn’t like,’ etc., you are putting your opinions in your reports. Tell what you saw, heard and experienced, not what you felt.
4. Never say never. Avoid absolutes such as always and never. And how much is very? ‘Very’ is not a specific term. Leave it out.
5. When a sample report is provided, use it as a guide. It lets you know how much detail is expected and the kind of information the client wants to see. But don’t ever copy and paste any part of the sample into your report.
6. Don’t copy and paste one report into another. Even if you did six branches of the same bank, and the shops were similar, don’t copy and paste the narrative from one into another and just change the name of the employee. Each shop is unique, and your reports should reflect that.
7. Describe the actions, not the feelings. Saying that someone was friendly or rude or whatever isn’t clear. We all have our own ideas of what those terms mean. Instead, say what the person did that made you think of them as friendly. Perhaps, ‘Sarah smiled and made frequent eye contact.’
8. Don’t use exclamation points!!!! Don’t use emoticons :o) or odd abbreviations (such as ‘u’ for ‘you’). Use correct and formal language when writing your reports.
9. Tell the story of what happened so that the readers feel like they were there with you. Include the details and quote what was actually said whenever possible.
10. When in doubt, include it. Editors from many companies have told me that they have never told a shopper, ‘You give too much detail.’ Although there is probably an editor somewhere who has said that, most editors want to see everything you’ve got. If it is too much, or not appropriate to include, the editor will take it out.
Cathy Stucker is the author of The Mystery Shopper’s Manual.