Mystery shoppers provide information, not opinions

Mystery shoppers should approach assignments with a positive attitude and awareness that they are doing their part to improve a business' operations.

Mystery shoppers should approach assignments with a positive attitude and awareness that they are doing their part to improve a business' operations.

One common misconception about mystery shoppers is that they are hired just to get other people fired. This is completely untrue. According to Mystery Shopper's Manual, secret shopping gigs are designed to provide business owners or corporate strategists with an idea of whether their company policies are working. It is true that when staff do not adhere to policies they may be reprimanded, but rarely is the goal of a mystery shopping assignment to get rid of unacceptable staff who perform poorly.

The duty of a mystery shopper is to report their experience exactly as it occurs. They are typically not asked to make a judgment or offer opinions on whether something was good or bad. Those qualifiers differ widely among patrons. Business owners simply want an inside look into the customer experience. As a journalist should stick to the facts of a story, rather than inserting their opinion on the matter as an op-ed columnist would, so should mystery shoppers report on their gigs accurately and neutrally.

Stay optimistic
One thing that will help keep a secret shopper on track is going into a job with a positive attitude. Often, when patrons expect poor service, they interpret everything as below average and this may skew the neutrality of the final report. However, entering with a slightly upbeat disposition will make the shop easier. Interactions will come more naturally and shoppers can better observe their surroundings.

This attitude is also important when dealing with schedulers and mystery shopping companies. Being kind, reliable and responsive will improve the professional relationship and likely lead to better work. Being willing to offer help where needed demonstrates positivity, as well. Building good mystery shopper karma can only lead to more shops and additional income.

It's also important to remember that the staff shoppers deal with during their assignments are real people. The reports written after a gig are used to either improve their performance or recognize them for a job well done.

Real results
The Red Bluff Daily News recently published a list of local employees who excelled during their interactions with mystery shoppers. For example, two Chase bank employees received gift certificates to a pizza restaurant in town for going above and beyond while helping a secret shopper set up a college bank account for her daughter. While the service was quick and friendly, it was never the secret shopper's intention to sabotage the interaction or find flaws in performance. The shopper simply reported the facts. 

She also remembered or recorded the employees' names. Many gigs require the report to include the name or names of those who helped the shopper during his or her visit. Without the names, Chase bank would not have been able to honor their helpful staff. Here are tips from Mystery Shop Maven for securing the employee's name:

  • Check the receipt. Most receipts in restaurants or retailers have the employee's name up top. There may also be an employee number. 
  • Ask another worker. Feel free to engage someone else if the person helping out steps away briefly. 
  • Request the spelling. If a name is difficult to pronounce or you missed it the first time, ask the employee how they spell it.

It's important for mystery shoppers to remember that their role is more like a reporter than it is a supervisor. Leave the real evaluation for the business' management. All the shopper should focus on are the immediate results accrued based on the directions provided.