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What could you be doing wrong while mystery shopping?

You may think that mystery shopping is as simple as walking into a shop, asking a few questions and walking out with the answers ready to complete the survey questionnaire. That might be the case, however, a lot can go wrong which may affect whether or not you will be paid for the particular assignment, your shopper score and most importantly, whether or not you can be relied upon for future jobs.


1. Signing up with too many companies


Shoppers often register with multiple companies because it offers them more job opportunities. However, each company works differently and has different requirements. You need to know what the company requires of you. For example, Mystery Customer allows for a 24 hour window after your visit to complete and submit your survey. Other companies may only offer 12 hours. Mystery Customer also requires well written detailed comments, whereas other companies might just want you to tick boxes and provide minimal comments.

Having lots of jobs assigned to you from a number of different mystery shopping companies will make it that much harder for you to manage them all. As a result, your responses may be rushed and may not meet the company’s standard of reporting. You may also find yourself missing the job deadline.

TIP: Apply for one or two companies to start with and once you feel comfortable with the workload, sign up with a couple more. We also have an article that helps you in choosing a legitimate company:


2. Being obvious during a mystery shopping visit


Mystery shopping requires a bit of acting. You need to pose as a normal shopper and make the transaction as smooth as possible. Some shoppers become anxious and behave so differently that employees are able to pick up these ‘tell’ signs and spot the shopper.

Example of obvious ‘tell’ signs:
• Pulling out your survey questionnaire at the venue
• Pulling out a stop watch to record the time
• Taking notes during the conversation
• Blurting out the required scenario at the wrong time of the conversation
• Telling the employee that you are the mystery shopper (it does happen!)
• Taking photographs inside the premises
• Texting notes to yourself on your mobile phone

• If asked whether or not you are a mystery shopper, tell them that you don’t know what that is.
• Read the survey questionnaire and instructions thoroughly before you complete your visit
• After you have visited the venue, find a place to sit and jot down some notes while they are still fresh in your memory. A good place would be the food court or in your car.


3. Unable to follow the scenario


Remember, mystery shopping is still a job. If you don’t follow the job instructions what is the chance of any company paying you – or even hiring you? Some shoppers visit the venue and don’t follow the scenario because they forget about it or they don’t think it is important. By failing to follow the scenario, the shopper is impacting the client’s research. If you are required to ask about a gluten free menu, you must ask the questions even if it doesn’t apply to you.

TIP: Read the survey questionnaire and instructions thoroughly before completing your visit.


4. Not being able to meet the timeframes and deadlines


Mystery Customer provides a due by date for most jobs and sometimes an actual time or date that the visit must be completed. Whatever the timing is, there will be instructions that you must follow because we are trying to meet our client’s requirements. If you don’t meet your deadline, we don’t meet our deadline. As a result, we score you based on whether or not you can meet the deadlines and generally offer jobs to shoppers who we know can be relied upon. Not providing surveys on time to a client may also result in Mystery Customer losing that client. Then nobody gets paid!

• Don’t apply for too many jobs
• Organise your jobs in your diary/calendar or prepare all jobs on a spreadsheet
• To find out about the due by date and the due date see the following article:


5. Completing too many jobs per day


Unless you have a really good system in place, it is advisable not to complete too many jobs a day. Restrict it to a maximum of about 3 jobs per day. There are many reasons for this including:
• You may be inundated with information and not remember each of your specific visits
• Your surveys may include information from another job by accident
• Your visits may be rushed and you may not complete everything that you need to do
• Your safety is at risk when you are rushing to multiple venues trying to complete all jobs
• You will spend the whole night entering completing all the surveys of the jobs you did

TIP: Don’t take on board too many jobs in the one day!


6. Constant cancellation of jobs


Jobs are only assigned to you if you have applied for them. To apply for a job, it would mean that you are interested in completing the job. By cancelling jobs, Mystery Customer will need to put out the job again to receive applications. This gives the next shopper who is assigned the job a shorter deadline. By constantly cancelling jobs, you may be flagged as an unreliable shopper and the amount of jobs you are given may drop off over time.

Please note: When cancelling jobs, you must inform Mystery Customer as soon as possible rather than leaving it until the job is a couple of days nearing its due date or even worse – until the actual due date.

• Don’t apply for too many jobs
• Apply for the jobs you know you will be able to complete on time
• Read the survey instructions thoroughly to find out when you need to complete your assignment


7. Poor reporting


The reporting standard for each company is varied. Mystery Customer requires shoppers to provide detailed feedback of their visit in the form of comments. It is important to answer all the questions given to you in a structured and well presented way. Shoppers often do not answer all the questions asked of them or don’t answer them properly. Put yourself in the shoes of the client. You are paying for a service, what do you want to know?

Please remember that merely restating the question as an answer is not acceptable.

It is also advisable to review your grammar, spelling and punctuation before submitting your report as they are another key factor that validators will judge your reports on.

Samples of some good reporting can be viewed in the following link

• Read the question thoroughly before answering it. The question might ask you multiple things, so you need to provide multiple answers in the single response.
• Re-read your answers and ask yourself whether or not you would pay for those comments
• Complete your answers on a program such as Microsoft Word and run a spelling/grammar and punctuation test before copying and pasting it into your survey form.

After reading this article, you can see how such a simple mystery shopping job can go so wrong. If we could summarise this article into one main point, it would be:


The secret to successful mystery shopping is to read the survey questionnaires, scenarios and instructions thoroughly at all times. If anything is unclear, please phone or email to ask first!


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