Principles of customer service

AC 3.1 - Designing research tools

Mystery shopper checklist

What is a mystery shopper?

Before looking in detail about developing a mystery shopper checklist, we might need to consider in some detail what a mystery shopper actually does!

Set out below is a Q & A explanation from a website which recruits mystery shoppers.  Read through the questions and answers carefully.

Q & A

Q: What is a mystery shopper?

A: A mystery shopper is a person who poses as a real customer whilst assessing customer service levels provided by a company or organisation. A mystery shopping assignment can be a telephone call, visit, email, letter, website survey, face to face visit, a home visit.

Q: What are you looking for in a mystery shopper?

A: You need to have a good memory, excellent observational and writing skills, a good command of written and spoken English, and an ability to work to strict deadlines. You must also be committed, enthusiastic and reliable.

Q: Can I become a full-time mystery shopper?

A: Mystery Shopping is a great way to earn a few extra pounds in your spare time, but is unlikely to provide you with full time work. However, video mystery shopping assignments, which involves mystery shoppers using covert recording equipment whilst visiting stores/restaurants/car dealerships etc., often pay a higher fee.

Q: Are there any age restrictions?

A: There is no minimum or maximum age to be a mystery shopper, but if you are under 18 we may need to obtain formal agreement from your parent or guardian.

Q: Do I need any qualifications?

A: No formal qualifications are required, but you must have a good command of written and spoken English, and regular access to the internet and email.

Q: I'm disabled, can I still be a Mystery Shopper?

A: Yes, definitely! We also have some assignments specifically for shoppers with access issues or disabilities – when you complete your application form make sure you tick the relevant box, then when we have an assignment relevant to your disability, we can contact you.

Q: How long do assignments take?

A: Assignments vary depending on the type, it could be a 2-minute telephone call, or an overnight stay at a hotel. Always make sure you read the Shopper Brief before you agree to complete any assignment.

Q: How many assignments will I get?

A: We never guarantee regular assignments to our mystery shoppers because the available work depends completely on our clients’ needs and requirements.

Q: How much will I get paid?

A: The payment will depend on the length and complexity of the assignment. The fee will be stated in the details of the assignment. Sometimes we will ask you to make a purchase as part of the assignment, in which case we often reimburse you for the cost. Please check the Shopper Brief for this information.

Activity 1

So, after reading the Q & A section above, can you now explain what a mystery shopper is and does?

Try writing out in a few lines what you think the job of a mystery shopper involves.

After you have finished writing, reveal the definition of mystery shopping below.  See how far away you were from the definition.

Mystery shopping (also known as a secret shopper) is a tool used by market research companies, watchdog organisations, or internally by companies themselves to measure quality of their customer service and experience. The mystery consumer's specific identity and purpose are generally not known by the establishment being evaluated.  Mystery shoppers perform specific tasks such as purchasing a product, asking questions, registering complaints or behaving in a certain way, and then provide detailed reports or feedback about their experiences.

Now that you understand what mystery shopping involves, you can try out being a mystery shopper the next time you go shopping for clothes.  Use the checklist on the next page to see how well the assistants rate against the questions asked.  (Remember – DON’T TAKE THE FORM IN WITH YOU!).

Activity 2

Planning a mystery shopping exercise for a tourism organisation is a bit different from shopping for clothes.  In most cases, there are far more aspects to cover.  Before you design your checklist for a mystery shopping exercise in a chosen tourism organisation you will need to consider some aspects. These aspects are in anagrams - can you work them out?

It may well be the case that you cannot cover all of the aspects of the anagrams in your mystery shopper checklist, but it might help you to decide which to include.