The first thing you should do when you are booked on an assignment is to schedule it into your week.  Sometimes you are asked to carry out the assignment on a particular date and other times you are given a time period in which to carry it out.  Allow plenty of time to complete the evaluation before the deadline, never procrastinate! It is important that you, as a team member complete your work for pre-arranged deadlines.

If you cannot complete the assignment once it has been booked out to you then you must notify the agency in order to give them enough time to have it re-booked out.  Letting them down too often would result in them not offering you anymore assignments.

Once you have accepted an assignment you will normally be emailed or posted a questionnaire.  All the instructions to complete your evaluation will be included or emailed to you.

You should always read your paperwork carefully as soon as you receive it and contact the agency if there is anything you are unsure of.

On the day of the evaluation you should go over the paperwork again.  Jot down important notes on a small piece of paper that can pass as a shopping list if seen so that you can refer to it on the premises without being noticed.  Infact, I have used my mobile to make notes then if I need to refer to my notes it just looks as if I am checking my phone or sending a text.

Always check the address on the paperwork to make sure that you are evaluating the correct store as sometimes there is more than one outlet on a high street.

Most agencies will require you to note down what was to the right and left of an outlet.  This information helps to validate your assignment.  It the outlet is on a corner or has no other shops near it then you will be required to note down the name of the street or address of the property to the left or right.

Your instructions will sometimes give you several scenarios and ask you to choose the one you are comfortable with before you enter the premises.

As a Mystery Shopper your job is to blend in and look like a normal customer but to notice everything.

When you pull into the outlets car park, if they have one, You must look to see if there is any litter, pot holes etc – nothing must escape your attention.

On approaching the property you must look at the condition of the exterior to check that it is clean, tidy and in good repair, the windows are clean and that the pavement directly outside is litter free.

On entering the premises you should check that the floor is clean and litter free, that the walls and work tops are clean and tidy.  The merchandise is displayed neatly and that there are no trolleys or stock obstructing the walk ways.

Sometimes you will be asked to check the walls for promotional posters and take a mental note of the special promotions on offer.

You must observe if the employee who serves you makes eye contact and greets you with a smile and in a friendly manner.

You will time how long it takes to get served, how many staff are available and how many checkouts are open.  You will note whether the cashier handled the transaction efficiently.  Also if there are any employees standing around talking and not looking busy.

If you are evaluating a restaurant you will need to time how long it took between taking your order and delivery of the first drink, and between courses and time how long it takes for the plates to be collected.  Whether the food was hot and as described on the menu.  Whether the music was at an appropriate level and if the temperature of the restaurant is comfortable.  You are also asked to note if the waiter checks back that everything is ok with the meal.

You will be asked to check either the male or female toilets to make sure that they are clean, tidy and free from litter, well stocked with soap and toilet tissue and smelling nice.

You will check that the staff are wearing the correct uniform and sometimes have to ask a question which tests the employee’s product knowledge.

Sometimes you will be asked to listen out for certain phrases like “thank you for shopping with us today” or if they are using suggestive selling techniques like “would you like fries with that”?

Immediately after the evaluation you should go somewhere to sit quietly and maybe have a coffee.  If you go back to the car you should drive away from the vicinity of the premises in case any staff see what you are doing if they happen to walk past your car. Don’t go too far away though incase you need to pop back if you have forgotten something.

You should write detailed notes and review the evaluation questions to make sure you haven’t left anything out.  Critical information can be lost if you wait even an hour later.

If you are new don’t rush – be patient with yourself, you will get quicker the more evaluations that you do.

It is essential that the evaluation is conducted in a fair and unbiased manner and that you include as many comments and suggestions as possible in order to give a full picture of your experience.

For instance if you are asked to say what you like about the place you evaluated it is not acceptable to say “It was enjoyable” that does not tell the client anything.  You should say why it was enjoyable, what contributed to it i.e. what was the ambience like, what was the service like were the employees attentive. Friendly, etc.

If an employee provided exceptional service, write in detail what was done or said to provide satisfaction again just stating that “Our waitress was very professional” doesn’t really tell the client anything.  It would be more useful to list two or three things that happened to allow the client to understand why the service was good.  If the service was not good then you have a unique opportunity to explain what needs to be improved to make a customer happy.  Using harsh or hurtful words is not an objective way to provide feedback.

If you need to give a description of an employee first take in their height.  Think of your height and try to judge how many inches taller or shorter the person is than yourself. Note down their build and any other obvious characteristics bright red hair, rimless glasses, pierced eyebrow, that kind of thing.

Give the person assisting you every opportunity to do well. Listen carefully to what they are telling you and try not to cut off their conversation.  Allow them a chance to use their selling skills that you are hired to evaluate.  Allow them to offer you dessert at the end of your meal, or suggest a bag that matches the shoes you just purchased.

Tax and NI

Some agencies will deduct tax and NI for you and some will expect you to arrange it yourself.  You will only be taxed on your fees not the expenses.  Payment is usually made directly into your bank via BAC’s or you may be sent a cheque.

Types of Mystery Shopping

Mystery Shopping covers an enormous breadth of different types of work.

Physical Mystery Shopping – Involves actually visiting a store, enacting a scenario and reporting your findings.

Video Mystery Shopping – Goes one step further and involves recording the experience via a hidden camera.

Purchase and Return – You would be asked to enter a Shop and purchase an item, then return it at a designated time, usually between 20 minutes to 2 weeks later.  In this assignment you will be evaluating the return process. Professionalism and procedures.  You will note if the employee filled out the paper forms and if he or she was friendly during the return process.

Telephone Mystery Shopping – You may be asked to telephone a company posing as a customer with a problem to see how well your case is handled and how long it takes. Or you could be asked to telephone a request for information to be posted to you from an outlet to evaluate if the correct information is sent and how long it takes to get to you.

Dead Letter Box Mystery Shopping – You may be asked if you address can be used to send post that you then forward back to the agency.  Pay for this is usually £5 for each item of post you forward on.

Website Assessing – Surfing the web assessing websites and reporting on their usability, effectiveness and customer performance.

Price checking – This is often carried out undercover as well, and many mystery shoppers will undertake this kind of work to establish promotions that are on offer in a particular store and its different competitors.

Some assignments that you are offered are undesirable.  In some cases, you might be asked to pretend that you are unemployed or that you are suffering from a certain medical condition.  You might be asked to undertake a long and arduous financial transaction, such as applying for a mortgage or business loan.  You are not of course, obliged to undertake anything before you understand what it entails, but this type of work is not for everyone.

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