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After completing an assignment, mystery shoppers are generally required to fill in an online questionnaire. This will often include a series of simple YES/NO answers as well as a full written report and various other detailed observations relating to their visit. The questionnaire will normally have to be completed within 24 hours, but extra time may be given depending on the length and nature of the assignment. However, it's advisable to ensure you set sufficient time aside in order to complete the questionnaire to the best of your ability as this can often prove to be quite a lengthy process.
Companies are usually looking for information which can be easily quantified, such as timings of service. They are also keen to note any general observations, for example was the store clean and tidy. There is usually a mix of these questions as well as open response text boxes where shoppers can go into more detail with their observations. There may also be multiple choice questions where shoppers must choose the most appropriate response.
Some mystery shopping companies make the questionnaire available to shoppers before beginning a job, which is very useful as it give shoppers guidance on what to look out for. Even those companies which do not provide the actual questionnaire will give shoppers notes detailing the scenario that they need to follow. Make sure that you carry out the shop within the times detailed in the notes. You may also need to look out for name badges to identify staff or supply a description of them in your report. These descriptions should include information such as gender, approximate height, hair colour and style and whether or not the person was wearing glasses. Potentially discriminatory details such as weight, ethnicity or age should not be used when describing staff members to avoid causing offence.
It is very important to understand that when completing a mystery shopping questionnaire, the company are looking for observations and facts about your visit rather than opinions. Responses must be on topic and cover all aspects of the question. The report may include closed questions, for example, 'were the toilets clean and tidy?' and choosing the 'no' response would trigger a dialogue box where the shopper could specify what the problem was. It is important to be specific and to use neutral, non-offensive language as the company uses the report as a training tool for staff.
Service times are important in many scenarios, especially in restaurants and stores, so the mystery shopper needs to make sure that they know what timing points the client wishes them to report on before the visit. For example, the visit might be to an electrical store where the scenario involves browsing digital cameras - how long did it take for a sales adviser to approach? Usually, the client provides a time that mystery shoppers must allow before taking the initiative and asking for assistance. Many assignments also specify how long a shopper must spend in a location.
You will need some kind of proof of your visit, so make sure that you keep receipts. If you are not given a receipt automatically - for example, on a pub visit - make sure that you ask for one as you will need to upload an image of the receipt with your report. Sometimes you may be asked to take a photograph of the venue of the visit. It is best to do this after your visit so as not to show yourself as a mystery shopper. It is not acceptable to upload pictures from the internet. The photograph must be of the actual store on the day of the visit.
Some mystery shops are carried out over the phone, which allows the shopper to complete the questionnaire at the same time and also refer to their notes. Some phone calls are also recorded so that the client can monitor the service that customers are getting.
There will usually be a section on initial impressions, where the mystery shopper must comment on the condition of the venue from the outside and upon first entering the premises. This may be in the form of an open ended dialogue box, or the questions may be more specific, such as, "was the entrance to the store free of obstructions and litter?" with more prompts appearing in the case of a negative response.
Customer service is very important to clients, so there will usually be a section where you are invited to comment on whether the welcome you received was genuinely warm and friendly, or if you felt that staff were just going through the motions.
You will usually be asked to comment on the quality of the goods and services that you purchased. Were you given any assistance, for example, if you asked a question about the food in a restaurant? Did the server seem knowledgeable and able to make recommendations? Some scenarios have a particular question that they wish shoppers to pose to staff and make a note of the response.
Many questionnaires also have an open ended text box where the shopper is requested to describe the whole visit from start to finish. There is usually a minimum number of words required for this section to ensure that sufficient detail is included. It is also useful for the client to check that there are no contradictions in the report.
Sometimes the client is interested to know what their competition is in a particular area, so there may be questions about alternative providers of similar goods and services in the local area and how the shopper would compare these to the location visited.
There is also a section on customer satisfaction where the client is interested in how the shopper feels the visit went. This is usually multiple choice or you may be required to give a mark out of ten. If the mystery shopper selects a low rating, they will have to complete a dialogue box specifying what exactly did not meet their expectations and how that could be improved.
There are variations on the sort of questions that mystery shoppers may be asked but the most important thing when carrying out a mystery shop is to read the notes carefully beforehand and be confident that you are looking out for all the details the client wishes you to report on.