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How To Start Your Own Mystery Shopping Company

Updated on September 28, 2016
How to Start Your Own Mystery Shopping Company
How to Start Your Own Mystery Shopping Company | Source

How to Start Your Own Mystery Shopping Company

Mystery shopping is a genuine and important business for any company serving the public. While it's mostly large/national companies that we see using mystery shoppers, smaller, local firms are also using mystery shopping as part of their business strategy, Even the Government use mystery shoppers, for example when the police send kids into booze shops to see if they get served under-age! Breweries will also check their tenanted pubs. Car dealers will make sure their salesmen are attentive and not dishonest.... any serious business will use mystery shoppers at some point to gauge customer service and to ensure the training they've given staff is still being adhered to.

Put yourself in the shoes of the CEO of McDonalds.

While he's sitting in his sumptuous office, looking at the training budget figures and sales figures ..... are the staff at McDonalds around the world serving up cold burgers while wearing the T shirt they wore last night to a rock concert? Are they chatting and ignoring customers? Sending in mystery shoppers lets the boss know exactly what is happening in their organisation, so they can then manage the behaviour of their staff in order to keep their customers coming back.

When a mystery shopper is engaged, it will be to answer some questions. How many staff were on? Were they wearing a name badge? Did they acknowledge you? How long was the queue? How long did it take you to get served? Were you offered the Special of the Day/upgrade? Did you get what you ordered? Did you get the right change?

Mystery shopping is done in every kind of business you can think of - even hotels and restaurants or even cruises! Imagine that, getting paid to go on a cruise to let the bosses know if the cabin was clean, if the staff were friendly, if the food was tasty and if you were short-changed at the bar! Well, it does happen.

Mystery Shopping Responsibilities

As a mystery shopper, it's imperative that you're observant and pay attention to detail. The written brief you receive will give instructions that can even determine what you wear! If the brief says "Dress smartly, go between 10:30am and 12:00pm and go alone", then you can't turn up in your jeans at 12:30 with 3 kids in tow!

The written brief gives you specific questions and timings you have to do. Time how long you're in a queue, time how long between ordering and receiving the goods. Notice if the outside is dirty, visit the lavatories and report back if they're dirty or only have cold water.

Your job as a mystery shopper is to report back, diligently, exactly the information the brief requires. If you do anything else, then you won't be paid. If they want you to arrive at a hotel, dressed smartly, at 11am, to order a pot of tea and a sandwich and to report back how long it took before your order was taken and how long it took to get to you and whether the sandwich had a slice of tomato on the side ... then you can't turn up at 12, with 3 kids, order 3 cokes and a glass of wine, 4 lots of chicken nuggets and chips and write on the report "food was OK".

Attention to detail is everything.

Mostly these days the reports are filled out online within 1-2 hours of you attending the client's shop or premises. You must keep a receipt for anything they asked you to buy and you scan/photograph the receipt and upload it with your pay claim. Most companies will reimburse your expenses ahead of paying you for the assignment. Most mystery shopping assignments will pay in the month following the month in which you did the work.

But who is running these companies? Somebody is - and - they're usually large companies. This means one thing for you: a gap in the local market.

McDonalds is a big company. It'll hire a mystery shopping company to carry out the research for them and give them a report. The mystery shopping company will have compiled the list of timings/criteria/questions with the client - and when you submit your report online they'll simply perform some basic maths across the whole dataset, possibly putting in a few colorful Excel charts ... bind it - and that's a report!

10% of mystery shoppers waited more than 3 minutes to be served
20% of mystery shoppers had to ask for a condiment that was missing from their meal
60% of mystery shoppers reported that staff were not wearing their name badges.

The usual type of analysis/totalling up of all the results.

But what about the other businesses in your local area? The healthfood shop that runs 4 branches, the ice-cream parlour that has 6 shops? They need to know how their customers are being treated too - and that's your chance to start your own mystery shopping company.

Mystery Shopping By Telephone

If you're house-bound, then mystery shopping can also be done over the telephone, or on the Internet.  Measuring the quality of customer service can be done wherever a company gets a chance to impress or displease a potential customer.

For telephone mystery shopping, how many rings before it was answered? Did they use the proper phrase when they answered? What was the answer to the question you asked them? Were you transferred successfully?  Did you get the right answer to the question? How long was the call in total?  You get the idea!

Large companies spend fortunes on usability testing of websites - they want to test if somebody can navigate their way round their site and what the obstacles are that prevent people buying from their online shop.  This job is also done by mystery shoppers - regular people in the street, everyday people, the sort of people who would naturally be their real customers.

So, the opportunities to start your own mystery shopping company aren't limited to being near a large town, or having to go out and do the shopping physically and in person.

Hiring Others to Help in Your New Mystery Shopping Company

Once you start to expand, it's easy enough to find willing and able people to undertake the mystery shopping for you.  Maybe a client has 4 shops and wants them all visited between 3pm and 4pm on a Thursday to enquire about some product they stock but aren't selling much of.  To measure the attitude of staff, willingness - and their product knowledge.

If you're naturally a people manager, then you could set up your mystery shopping company without doing any of the shopping yourself, just managing your team.  And if you're not keen on selling the service to local businesses, there are plenty of unemployed sales people out there looking for work!

You Can Do This - You Can Start Your Own Mystery Shopping Company

If you've not done any mystery shopping before, then why not join a couple of mystery shopping companies, or join a couple of forums, and find out a bit more about it.

It's real, important, work.  It's done by massive national and international firms, as well as some smaller ones.  The single thing that stops most smaller companies having a mystery shopper is they can't afford the big company fees - with a big company you're paying for the CEO's Rolls Royce and the prime location business premises  ... something you don't have, so there are savings to be made, your costs will be lower, your prices cheaper.

Everybody wins!

Find out more about it.  It might be just what you're looking for.

The Mystery Shopper Training Program Book: All You Ever Wanted to Know About the Best Part-Time Job
The Mystery Shopper Training Program Book: All You Ever Wanted to Know About the Best Part-Time Job

The Mystery Shopper Training Program is 230 pages with - see the "look inside" feature to preview this book



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    • 123magic profile image


      7 years ago

      This is a great article, though not all "serious businesses" use mystery shoppers. I am curious if you have started a mystery shopping company yourself? Its one thing to be a mystery shopper, but creating your own mystery shopping company is another thing, though I would love to do it!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for this enlightening post. I like the conversational style. You've clearly explained what mystery shopping is all about.


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