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Asking smart mystery shopping questions

In a lot of ways, the role of a mystery shopper is comparable to a newspaper reporter. In both jobs, one must go to a location, gather information and write about what they saw.

There is no degree program for secret shopping, but reporters are trained in journalism school to handle those tasks. One element taught there is how to ask intelligent questions, ones that will be rich with details that will lead to useful answers for the reader.

Secret shoppers also should learn to ask smart questions that can help them with their work. Here are some do's and don'ts for asking questions when out reviewing a business.

DO: Get to the point
On a Media Helping Media list of interviewing tips, one that jumps out to secret shoppers is, "Ask the most important question first." Since you are not doing a formal interview, and instead just trying to gather information in the guise of shopping, you have to ask specific questions immediately. If there is a follow up that comes naturally, ask that as well. But don't make it seem like you are just there to talk.

DON'T: Ask yes-or-no questions
There is little to gain by asking something that can be answered in just one word. Give the person you are speaking with the chance to expand on their response by asking thoughtful questions. You will end up learning more that way while taking up less of their time.

DO: Remember the five "Ws" and the "H"
There are really only six basic questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Finding out these details from business employees, managers and owners will help you write a comprehensive report when your mystery shopping experience is complete.

DON'T: Forget to say thank you
You are secret shopping in part to evaluate customer service, but a worker's job is not to only cater to you. They have lots of obligations to take care of, so if they do take the time to answer some questions you may have, be sure to thank them. It may seem like a little thing, but it can help you get a greater glimpse of how the business interacts with its customers.