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Becoming a Successful Mystery Shopper

Updated on April 23, 2015

Observe, Evaluate, and Describe

Writing in an Effective Journalistic Style -The 3 Essential Objectives of All Successful Mystery Shop Reports

"Just the facts Ma'am".

Think of Mystery Shopping as "industrial journalism" and you get the broad picture. Industry Marketing executives utilize mystery shopping as a tool to glean important knowledge about sales trends, employee integrity, cost effectiveness of marketing promotions, customer retention, and adherence to company policies. While flowery, emotive laden prose might be suitable for creative writing in the mystery shopping world objective, jargon free, candid writing is the order of the day.

This is not to say that mystery shopping reports are to be written in an sere, dry style rather that the writing be descriptive yet unbiased as would befit an objective observer with no pre judgements about what he or she is writing about. In effect you are the umpire judging the game rather than the hometown fan cheering for one side or the other.

Consider the following descriptive phrases about the same restaurant experience as told from two different perspectives.

A/ I arrived at a quarter to nine at Benny's Brewery. I was greeted by an unfriendly waitress who did not state her name, never looked at me, and neglected to thank me and did not allow me to take a seat of my choice.

B/ I arrived at 8:45 at Benny's Brewery. I was greeted by a waitress who did not identify herself in the initial greet, avoided eye contact, and did not acknowledge me during the seating process.

As you can likely surmise paragraph "B" is more objective, unbiased, and concise. An effective mystery shopper is always "self editing" and taking the position of the humble but ever observant "fly on the wall" recording the facts in an unobtrusive, collected, and objective manner. A good mystery shopper is careful not to "take sides" as is clearly the case in paragraph "A". A marketing executive reading the two reports would naturally trust the cool candor of Writer "B" while thinking twice (or more!) about accepting the validity of Writer "A"'s opinions.

Regardless of the venue a good mystery shop report should develop from 3 basic Objectives.

Observe- Know what your objective variables and observe the variables that are being measured PRIOR to performing the shop. For example in a drive thru mystery shop you would typically be asked to measure several timings during the observation, the accuracy of the order fulfillment, the courtesy of the employees whom you interacted with, and the cash integrity of the register person while in an employee integrity shop perhaps measuring the integrity of the employee would be the sole variable. So prior to completing ANY shop-learn your objective variable(s), review the shop parameters THOROUGHLY and REMEMBER to Observe, Observe, and Observe. Often easier said than done.

Evaluate- Here's the Fun part and in most instances the bedrock of most mystery shopper reports. Did the employee greet you within 3 rings? Were the French Fries served with at least TWO packets of ketchup on the side? Was the interior of the restaurant free of loose trash and spills?. Here you are in effect "grading" the variable(s) being tested. It is your answers to these questions that give Managers 'Scorecards' on which employee bonuses, promotions, and retention are often affected. In Employee Integrity scenarios most likely an employee's very livelihood is on the line. Needless to state for obvious ethical reasons it is a MUST to have the ability to be OBJECTIVE in completing all mystery shops. Mystery shopping locations where known family/friends or other close associates work is a NO-NO and is a prohibited practice that at the LEAST will ban you if discovered from future mystery shopping assignments and could adversely affect the employees observed.

Describe- Most reports will typically require a capsule summation of what happened during the visit. In as much detail as possible you are to complete a "narrative" of what happened during the visit. Voice recorders, Smart phones, and even hidden camcorders are effective tools for the shopper to verify the events that occurred during the shop. Just as in the Observation phase of the shop ADVANCE preparation is STRONGLY recommended. If for example you are utilizing a voice recorder to complete a shop scenario first perform a dress rehearsal at home with a friend or relative. Test the effectiveness of the recorder in a shirt or jacket pocket? Is the recorder effective at CLEARLY recording the content of speaker? Is the recorder INVISIBLE to the person being 'Shopped'? Is the battery capacity sufficient to complete the shop? Failure in any of these areas would render the above hypothetical shop useless and will cause the shopper to forfeit any compensation. As the old saying goes "garbage in -garbage out".

While these steps may seem daunting with good practice due diligence in focusing on these 3 objectives will help you build a strong mystery shopper "portfolio" that Mystery Shopping companies will covet. Ultimately you will be able to score high 'ratings'with many companies and have the opportunity to cherry pick the most suitable and lucrative shop assignments for your perusal.


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