Because mystery shopping is a very individualized job, everyone has techniques that work for them. However, learning new tips and tricks never hurts. If you’re new to secret shopping or just looking to sharpen your skills, here are some strategies that could help:

Be sure to take mental notes

Details are extremely necessary when writing mystery-shopper reports. However, being undercover has its disadvantages. As a mystery shopper, you cannot outwardly take notes because your cover could potentially be blown. Instead, mental notes could be your saving grace. By repeating things over in your mind, you will increase your ability to remember specific details. For instance, you might come across many different employees and, if you’re not careful, they will all start to merge together. Try zeroing in on an employee’s idiosyncrasies to help remember further details about the entire experience. For example, maybe an employee is wearing a very specific kind of shoe or has a particular haircut. Repeat these over in your mind so that down the line you can remember them.

Give yourself breaks

In theory, going directly from one shop to another can be a great time-saver. However, in practice, this could make your job as a mystery shopper much more difficult. If you continue on a long string of shops, they’re going to start to blend together. When writing your reports, you might not be able to recall which employee or service was from each store.

A good technique? Take a break in between your visits. It doesn’t have to be long — maybe 10 to 15 minutes, at most. During this break, you can recollect your thoughts by writing them in a notebook or in your phone. Give yourself the time to jot down your notes. This can improve your grammar and spelling, which is a very important aspect of secret shopping. You can also come back to them at the end of the day. This will not only make your writing process easier, but it will improve your accuracy as well, which will benefit you and the company.

Look at name tags

Get in the habit of looking at name tags. When working with someone in a shop, try to call them by their name, as this will improve your memory of the experience. The more you practice this, the more you will start doing it without even realizing it. Being able to reference an employee by name rather than appearance will strengthen your mystery shopping reports.

Do your research

When you’re given assignments, make sure to plan your traveling route ahead of time. Shopping at local stores you’re familiar with is helpful, but that’s not always an option. Sometimes you are given assignments in unfamiliar parts of cities and towns. This is where map apps can come in handy. Do your research ahead of time, and plan the quickest route possible. It can save you time, gas and a potential headache if you get lost.

Be organized

Folders and labels are not only for teachers. Keeping all your assignments organized is a necessity. Be sure to keep all old receipts, coupons, business cards, and notes you’ve written. You never know when they may come in handy. Try investing in a multiuse folders so you can keep each month separate. If you don’t have a receipt to back something up, you could potentially not get reimbursed. A general rule of thumb is to keep papers such as receipts six months, and then you can throw them out.