The Merits of Mystery Shopping

by Nancy Twigg

How do businesses like restaurants, retail stores, and hotels find out what kind of service customers really receive from their employees? How do they know if employees follow company policies when supervisors aren't watching as well as when they are? More and more, businesses in the service industry rely on mystery shoppers and mystery shopping firms to give honest, objective feedback as to how well employees are doing at following company policies and meeting customers' needs.

A mystery shopper (sometimes called a secret shopper) is someone who is paid to visit a business posing as a regular customer. During her shopping visit, she observes factors such as cleanliness of the store, speed of service, and friendliness of the staff. She then reports her findings to the mystery shopping company issuing the assignment. The mystery shopping company passes the shopper's report along to its client.

Mystery shopping is a kind of win-win situation for both the shopper and the company under evaluation. If the shopper does her job well, the company receives valuable insight into how it can improve customer service. The mystery shopper also benefits by being rewarded for her input. At the very least, the shopper ends up getting something free (a restaurant meal, movie rental, tank of gas) after submitting her report and being reimbursed for what she spent. At best, the shopper gets something free and a nice payment for her time and trouble.

If you think mystery shopping sounds like fun, below is a list of some of the companies that hire mystery shoppers. (This list is by no means all-inclusive. Do a search using the keywords "mystery shopping" to find others.) When you sign up with a mystery shopping company, your name goes into the company's database. You will then be called or contacted via email when an assignment is available in your area. At that time, the company representative will discuss the requirements and rate of pay for that assignment with you.

Keep in mind that if you're in need of a reliable source of extra income, mystery shopping is not for you. Because of the large volume of applications these companies receive, you may not be called for months. The frequency and volume of assignments you receive is totally dependent on the company's need for mystery shoppers in your area.

Although you won't get rich mystery shopping, it can be a fun way to earn extra cash. The free meals, merchandise and services aren't bad, either.

Sites on Service
(612) 525-1460

Second to None
(734) 668-8148

Service Sleuths by Howard Services
(508) 520-1500

Reality Check
(800) 550-4469

Nancy Twigg is a Christian speaker and the author of Celebrate Simply: Your Guide to Simpler, More Meaningful Holidays and Special Occasions.

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