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Is Mystery Shopping A Mission You'd Choose To Accept?

Feb 9, 2008
Mystery Shopping has always fascinated me. I guess it is the notion of doing something covert, something sneaky, something spy-like. I always wanted to be the kid that got asked to go into a shop and try and buy cigarettes without the right identification. But then again I always wanted to be James Bond.

As I got older I began to recognise the difference between good service and bad service and the more money I had to spend the more irritating it became when things did not go right. After all good service should be a part of any product or service you purchase. It shouldn't be an expensive add-on. Especially bearing in mind that good customer service is not difficult it just involves a small amount of effort from the people offering the product or service. So now I make a living evaluating the level of customer service for a wide range of clients. The variety of paces that use mystery shoppers is vast. Here is an introduction to some of the major types of mystery shopping that exist.

A mystery shopper will generally work for an agency. This agency will dispatch the mystery shopper on different assignments that can encompass a broad range of businesses and activities.

Covert Video Shoppers

Covert Video shoppers record the performance of staff. They are recruited and trained to work in and report on an enormous range of types of businesses. This type of Mystery Shopper is most like a conventional Hollywood spy in that they are equipped with a small camera. They hide this small camera on their person - usually in a bag or lapel of some description. The covert video shopper, equipped with the camera, then enters the company or business they have been told to report on and acts like a customer. They will be given a particular task or question to ask the staff and will record the process. They are utilised many different situations. These include high street shops, banks, car salesrooms, offices and public services. They will also provide a written report to go with the video that they supply.

Report Only Mystery Shoppers

Report Only Mystery Shoppers do exactly what their title suggests. They supply reports on the business they are sent to report upon. The reports that these types of mystery shopper compile are typically based around a number of pre-determined tasks which the shopper is expected to fulfil as part of his or her research. They then evaluate their targets against the predetermined criteria. The data the report only mystery shopper provides to the agency can be both qualitative and quantitative. This gives the shopper an opportunity to share their honest opinion as well as the specific answers that are required to collate for analytical purposes. These reports are typically completed online and the time it takes between collecting the data and submitting it is minimal. This means that the company seeking their advice can get the results and start to rectify any problems immediately.
Postal monitor

This type of secret shopper analyses correspondence between a company and a customer through the post. So any letters that are received are analysed and the mystery shopper and the shopper reports back to the agency. The shopper will usually make a note on the speed and accuracy of replies to letters they send. The Mystery shopper is reimbursed for the postage costs and is also paid a fee for their work.

Email mystery shopper

Like postal shoppers email shoppers monitor mail from a company the only difference being that they do so on the computer and analyse email correspondence. Again they will look at things like speed of reply, accuracy of reply, quality of written English and they will also make comments on how accessible the information is to the reader. They will also have the opportunity to comment on whether circular emails from a company are useful or annoying.
About the Author
Shaun Parker has worked in the customer service training industry and is an expert on mystery shopping.
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