What is mystery shopping and why is it necessary?

People looking into becoming a mystery shopper may wonder why this practice is necessary. Making money is great, but it's always good to know the root of why a retail business or restaurant needs mystery shopping in the first place.

People looking into becoming a mystery shopper may wonder why this practice is necessary. Making money is great, but it's always good to know the root of why a retail business or restaurant needs mystery shopping in the first place. Customer experience expert Jeannie Walters broke it down on Business 2 Community, saying any brand trying to sell products or services to customers needs a mystery shopping plan to help make sure they are getting the most out of their services.

"Using the objective feedback of yes/no to those straight-forward questions, real data can paint a compelling story," she said. "If the store manager expects the customers to be greeted every time they enter, the data of mystery shoppers who were only greeted 20 percent  of the time shows that this expectation is not being fulfilled in the right way. It's an easy and quick fix to improve the customer experience."

Mystery shoppers can also help reveal larger issues that may be happening that a store manager may not even know about, Walters said. Unorganized goods, poor service and other issues could be revealed once a shopper completes an assignment. These are things that are imperative for businesses to fix as quickly as possible. 

The key thing, Walters said, is being able to observe customers in key moments and make sure they are having a satisfying experience.

"But it's very, very, very difficult to mystery shop your own organization," she said. "If you are inside the organization, you will inevitably see the organizational dependencies differently than a customer would. But if you're ready to consider examining your customer experience via outside mystery 'shoppers,' get ready to consider both quick fixes and long-term solutions. There are often long lists of both to address."

A potential gold mine for shoppers
For those who are intrigued by the idea of why companies bring in mystery shoppers, LearnVesters contributed a post to Forbes on how one person made $14,000 per year on the side doing this work. The post said when they first signed up, they were doing it on the side of their full-time job as a legal assistant. With a mountain of debt piling up from law school, this potential shopper liked the idea of making some quick cash on the side and said they were cautiously optimistic about the opportunity.

At the start, they figured out how to start applying for jobs and get gigs as a mystery shopper. From there, the process of starting to shop seemed simple and paid some decent part-time wages. The writer's first time experience was at an electronic store to see if customer service representatives would engage in conversation and help.

"It seemed weird to pretend - in fact, it's still a little weird sometimes," they said. "You have to get an employee name, so if the customer service person isn't wearing a badge, you need to ask, which can be awkward. Afterward, you file reports online, which are structured as multiple choice or two-sentence fill-in-the-blank answers."

During the busiest periods, the writer was spending four to six hours on Saturday going around to different shops. Slowly, the money started coming in from these gigs. Anyone can see similar success if they start their mystery shopping experience and commit some time to it each week. Not only does it help companies, but it will also help you make some extra cash.