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Mystery shopping is a market research tool used to assess and measure a business or premises on findings such as cleanliness and tidiness, politeness, efficiency and general customer service. A mystery shopper will be selected for a task from the panel of a market research company who specialises in mystery shopping, based on the profile they have provided and other criteria. As a mystery shopper, you could be evaluating the performance of a number of businesses such as retailers, fast food restaurants, cinemas and hotels, as well as providing some much needed insight on behalf of businesses who wish to ensure that their staff are providing a consistent service.
Mystery shopping is fast becoming one of the most exciting challenges of market research - and just about anyone can do it. As the title of mystery shopper suggests, the job requires you to operate on a covert basis and you must not draw attention to yourself as being anything other than a regular customer - i.e. you must never reveal that you are a mystery shopper. Candidates for a mystery shopping job will vary broadly, but there are a few skills required that are paramount to being able to make a well rounded assessment:
1. You must follow the instructions provided accurately - failure to do so may result in potential improvements not being picked up.
2. You must be discreet. Act normally, as if it were any other day when you're out shopping/visiting the cinema etc.
3. You need a keen and observant eye, as well as the ability to form and write a constructive report on the business you're evaluating.
If you're a keen shopper, and someone who enjoys eating out, going to the cinema and staying the occasional night in a hotel, then you're in a great position to be earning whilst doing what you enjoy the most. There are many different mystery shopping panels operating online and some that specialise in one area and/or another. The good news is that signing up with one panel does not prevent you from signing up with more. With this in mind, it's worthwhile looking into several different panels in order to maximise your chances of making as much money as you can. For example, you might enjoy fast food, and staying in hotels on short breaks but you might not be the most frequent of shoppers, nor go to the cinema very often. Registering with several different panels whose mystery shopping focuses on your preferences will save you the hassle of wading through lists of potential jobs that don't interest you and leave you free to pursue the ones that you know you will enjoy.
When signing up with a mystery shopping panel, you will be asked to fill out some profile information, e.g. name, address, date of birth etc. What you provide after this point is very important as it will help you to provide the panel with as broad a picture of you (your lifestyle, interests, and shopping habits) as possible. This, in turn, will increase your chances of being selected for jobs that not only interest you, but jobs that you will enjoy and be able to evaluate with ease.
Mystery shopping is dependent on the assessor having some interest and knowledge in the retail area they are evaluating as the feedback report will need to be much more than a mere opinion of how good or bad an experience you feel you've had. For instance, if you're a vegetarian, you're highly unlikely to be a good match for evaluating a burger bar! The more you know about the field in which you are making your assessment, the keener an eye you will have on the experience as a whole - and the more insightful your report will be. Therefore, the feedback to the people at the top will be the most useful it can be, providing a clear and accurate picture of what can be improved.
Once you've signed up and registered your interest in mystery shopping, you will be offered tasks according to your profile and the information you have provided. You will need to keep a close check on your email inbox as, in most cases, invitations to jobs will be sent to the email address you provided on signing up. It would also be a good idea to sign into the panel website regularly to keep your profile information up to date - and to ensure you don't miss out on the most exciting and well paying opportunities.