Friday, May 16, 2008

The Basics of Mystery Shopping: What is it?

I'll tell you a secret. I'm a mystery shopper. I've been working at it off and on for four years, more on since January than off, and have had a lot of questions from friends about how the process works.

For those who don't know, mystery shoppers are hired to shop in a certain way to gather certain information and report it to the hiring entity.

Superstore President Paul wants to know if his checkout clerks across the country are encouraging customers to sign up for their shiny, new Supercard like they have been trained to do. Superstore, Inc. calls Mystery Shopping Company and they arrange the details: which stores to shop, what hours of the day, what dollar amount must be spent, what items may and may not be purchased, what criteria for speediness and friendliness must be met by Superstore employees, the deadline for reports to be filed, how much they are willing to pay for this service to be executed, etc.

Mystery Shopping Company posts the job opening on their website and waits for their shoppers to email in and request the job. Sally Shopper reads the requirements, takes a qualifying test if it's required, downloads the questionnaire to fill out and reserves the date on her calendar. Sally goes to the assigned Superstore, makes the required purchase, observes carefully and completes the form. Sally takes the form home, enters the data on Mystery Shopping Company's website, files away her notes and waits for payment.

Mystery Shopping Company's Ellie Editor reads Sally's report and makes sure it contains the correct information in the correct form, adds it to the wealth of information gathered from all the other shoppers performing the same assignment at other Superstores and provides it to the client. Mystery Shopping Company may or may not be asked by Superstore to provide suggestions as to how to improve service or compliance with any number of issues. Superstore pays Mystery Shopping Company, Mystery Shopping Company pays Ellie and Sally, and a good time is had by all.

That's it in very broad strokes. in upcoming posts, I'll deal with the finer points.

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