I’ve been doing mystery shopping in one form or another for over 13 years now and like to think there isn’t anything I haven’t come across before and I feel prepared no matter what is being asked of me. Learning how to become a mystery shopper has given me the chance to have fantastic nights away in hotels and meals out at restaurants I just wouldn’t attend normally and of course, earn some money online.
It wasn’t always like this though! I remember doing my very first mystery shop for MarketForce which just involved going into a phone shop and asking some questions about a particular tariff and walking past the shop about 3 times before deciding if I was brave enough to go in and do this or not!
I was worried about making a fool of myself, worried I wouldn’t get all the details needed for the report and worried I would be caught out as a mystery shopping and escorted off-site and end up in some kind of prison that is built only for mystery shoppers!
It’s because of this that I thought I would give you my top 5 tips for when you are starting out in the mystery shopping world!
Make sure that you understand the brief!
Whenever you go to do a mystery shop you will always be given a set of instructions to follow that outlines your ‘mission’. That might come via a PDF that is emailed to you or if you are doing an MS for the likes of BeMyEye or Roamler it will be on your phone but either way, it’s very important that you understand the GOALS you need to hit. Mystery Shopping is all about reporting on an experience. That could be interacting with staff or even just looking at a display and taking a photo of it but the end goal will ALWAYS be to get the information that is required if you in the brief and how you go about getting that is up to you!
The ‘Notes’ app on your phone is your best friend!
In the early days, I used to try and remember everything when I went to do my mystery shop. This was fine if I could get home straight away to write up my report but was an absolute nightmare if I was going back to work and couldn’t write it up for a good few hours.
This was in the pre-smartphone days though and thankfully now all phones have some kind of note-taking feature. I found these to be a life saver, especially when doing any meal based mystery shops where you have to remember all sorts of information from what your server looked like to when your food arrived! Using your notes app allows you to quickly jot down this information and it looks no different than as if you were writing a text message!
Do not throw away recipes or delete photos until you have been paid
It can be quite common for you to submit a report with photos and then a few days (or even weeks) later you can be asked to provide the photos again because something has gone wrong so make sure you don’t delete anything from your phone until you’ve been fully paid for the job!
Check the address!
This might sound crazy but I’ve personally done it a few times. You get sent to do a mystery shop at a national chain such as Greggs or Subway and there are 3 or 4 of them on a very long road in the city centre and you end up doing the whole mystery shop at the wrong location! One thing I used to do after making this mistake was put the FULL address into Google Maps and hit streetview so that I know what the outside of the shop should look like and I don’t keep making the same mistake!
Confidence is KEY!
Nerves will show! Nerves will also make you forget what you need to cover when you go into the shop to do you task. Try and stay cool as a cucumber (which I know is easier said than done!) and with practice even asking the most random of questions to sales assistants will become second nature. Approach the shop as if you were in there normally and going about your business and not like some secret covert mission and you will find things click into place a lot easier for you!
So there you have it, if you fancy giving mystery shopping a go I would recommend starting with Market Force who I would say give you the simplest of briefs to follow in the biggest of well known UK brands so you should feel very comfortable from the get go! I’ve even seem them offer FULLY PAID weekends away to Spain for 2 adults for a large UK holiday provider so they are well worth investigating!
How has Mystery Shopping in the UK changed over the years?
The changes in mystery shopping are clearly as a result of new technology. We no longer have to scan receipts as phones now have cameras with high spec so we can take a picture and upload from the phone straight onto the report. As time has gone on more and more companies are using the same reporting systems such as Sassie and Prophet.
More companies are interested in video work and there are different clients jumping on that bandwagon. On the other hand a lot of the industry has stayed the same. The same old clients just moving to different mystery shopping companies. Most shoppers care little whose name is on the cheque as long as ours is there. Sadly another fact to point out is that there has been very little change in fees in the last ten years which is a result of there being more of a supply of people willing to do mystery shopping than ever.
What qualities do you need to become a mystery shopper?
Honesty – if a visit goes wrong or you mess up just confess and take it on the chin. We’re none of us perfect!
Reliability and keeping to deadlines – It can cause all sorts of problems if you don’t do the visit when you say you will. Mystery shopping companies have made promises to clients to get visits done and may even lose the contract with the client if they don’t fulfil their part of the deal.
Flexibility – Visits crop up in the same area that you hadn’t planned and also clients and companies change the time frame and briefs occasionally so you need to be prepared. It doesn’t happen often but you’ll be respected more if you can be as flexible as you can.
Good command of the English language and good grammar and spelling – You won’t be offered repeat visits if you really don’t care about your grammar and spelling. The odd mistake doesn’t matter (that’s what proofreaders are paid for) but taking care before you push that submit button is important.
Good memory – I don’t think that needs too much explanation does it?
Quick thinking – Crucial as there are so many instances where unexpected things happen in particular when the staff member doesn’t follow their brief! I find a really good back story is essential even for simple visits. The staff member might ask what your job is and if you say I’m a teacher be prepared to chat about your work! I was once an Ofsted Inspector and it just so happened that the staff member’s wife was a teacher and so I was asked a lot of questions about the profession. Although it’s easy to say I can’t discuss it you do need to be able to chat generally about anything that you might have made up.
The top 5 mystery shopping companies to work for in the UK
Simply apply with companies such as Market Force who are a good one to start with as their reports are simple, as are the instructions so they are a great place for anyone new to Mystery Shopping to start.
The pay varies per mystery shopping task. It can be as little as £5 with your meal expenses covered or as much as £50, every client is different in terms of what they pay.
Beyond a computer to write up the report afterwards and your smartphone to take a few photos that’s all you will need to get started.
Mystery Shopping is legitimate. Customer service is more important than ever and with a lot of shops is the only thing that differs from store to store so companies want to make sure that standards are being uphold no matter what.