Mystery Shopping can be a bit hectic during the holidays and honestly I wouldn’t recommend it if you can help it and don’t have a hard deadline to meet. I’m such a stickler for good customer service whether I’m at a low end retailer or high end retail location. Customer service and product knowledge should be A-1 across the board. So, whether I’m going to spend $10 or $1000 I would expect the level of customer service to be the same. Most of the time when we go into stores we already know what we are looking for but, if you’re anything like me I always have questions and would like to know if I am purchasing the best product or is there a better recommendation from the salesperson assisting me. I will ask about price differences but, I’m usually quality over quantity so if it’s expensive but, will do the job that I need it to do and will last me a long time… I can justify my purchase! So, let me tell you what Mystery Shopping is… It’s pretty much market research. There are Market Research Companies that hire Mystery Shoppers as well as companies that hire internally to track the quality of their customer service, whether their employees are in compliance with the companies rules & regulations AND… what their product knowledge is on the products and services being sold.
I used to be on the other end of the “Mystery Shopper” a.k.a “Secret Shopper” spectrum. When I was a young adult one of my very first jobs was being a hostess at a popular restaurant. I eventually became a server and had to deal with “Mystery Shoppers & Food Critics”. I’m sure I was graded on how long I took to greet a table, put down beverage napkins, silverware and take a drink order. In addition to getting the drinks to the table, taking the appetizer order and even the entree order in a timely fashion. The restaurant was graded on how long it took the food to be prepared and get it to the table etc. I was also graded on my personality, knowledge of the menu items, food recommendations and the overall service to my guests. I NEVER knew when I was serving a “Mystery Shopper or Food Critic” so I was always on my P’s and Q’s. It’s always good to be your best at all times! I had regular guests that would wait to be seated in my area on a busy Friday & Saturday night and I knew I was guaranteed a $20.00 or better tip! Restaurants also get health inspections frequently and have to pass them in order to stay open. To this day I won’t eat at a location that doesn’t have a 90% or better sanitation score. I’m like that even at fast food restaurants and you can usually see it posted close to the drive-thru window. If it’s low, I have no problem cancelling my order and going somewhere else. Just a FYI…
So, what do you do as a “Mystery Shopper a.k.a Secret Shopper”? You look at your guidelines given by the market research company or brand. You must have the ability to memorize some things like the person’s name that assisted you, products that you were inquiring about, information you were given about the products and product knowledge and recommendations made by the sales person. It gets easier with time! Don’t ever pull out a pad and paper to look at notes or jot things down unless you are in a supermarket and can get away with it looking like your grocery shopping list. It’s all about being natural. The whole purpose of you being hired as a “Mystery Shopper a.k.a Secret Shopper” is so the manufacturer or retailer can evaluate the quality of customer service being given by their staff. So, sad to say that doing this task during the holidays may have it’s benefits and disadvantages. Benefits equal great SALE items and getting what you are required to at a fraction of the price and disadvantages may be not getting certain items due to them not being available at certain locations or they sold out and also not getting top notch customer service due to high holiday traffic and not being able to accommodate you or your expectations.
I actually went into a few retail locations on “Black Friday” and was disappointed. Two locations didn’t carry what I was looking for. One location did have it available online only. I wasn’t provided with product knowledge from any of the employees and that was a little disheartening. However, I took into consideration that they didn’t have the products available on hand. I also did my own research to find out that it was available online, the Sales Rep didn’t give me that information. I honestly don’t know if they knew! So, I have a few days left to shop a few more locations and we’ll see what happens. Seriously though… Don’t Mystery Shop on Black Friday & the day before or after Christmas! The Malls, Department Stores and most retail locations will be hectic! You’ve been warned! Oh, just in case you wanted to know… the pay varies by company and brand but you usually get to keep your purchases. If you come out of pocket, you will be reimbursed for purchasing the product(s) if you didn’t get the money in advance. Many stores also have customer surveys that you can take to give feedback about your shopping experience and offer cash, coupons or gift cards as an incentive. Have you ever been in a Mystery Shop Program? What are some of your Mystery Shopping experiences?