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As far back as the 1940s, mystery shopping was being used to measure performance and efficiency of employees. Nowadays it is, of course, far more sophisticated and may be used either internally by a company to gauge quality of service or product knowledge, or by an external company such as a watchdog organisation or a market research firm.
The identity of the mystery shopper is not known to the establishment being investigated so the expectation is that they will be treated just as any member of the general public would be. They will have a specific task to perform which may range from asking details about a particular service, checking the tidiness of the store or merely making a purchase to comment on the ease of transaction. Mystery shopping can also involve going to hotels, eating in restaurants, visiting leisure centres or even just having a pizza delivered.
Market Force Europe is a large mystery shopping company. In September 2011, it acquired its smaller rival, Retail Eyes and is now thought to be one of the largest customer intelligence businesses in the world. Most of the jobs they offer are within the retail and hospitality sectors and the mystery shopper has a specific scenario to enact.
The assignment will often be to assess staff performance, customer service and tidiness and cleanliness of the store, although it can also be to assess a product or perform an audit of some kind. Payments for jobs are usually between £5 and £10, although expenses are reimbursed and any items purchased can be kept.
This company wants enthusiastic and flexible people who have a good memory and observational skills. They must also be good at report writing and meeting deadlines as reports have to be sent within 24 hours of the assignment being carried out.
IMS is a field marketing agency with a mystery shopping service entitled Mystery Shop My Business aimed at small or independent businesses. They provide a bespoke mystery shopping service for businesses looking to investigate their own company and also provide an individually tailored programme aimed at assessing a company's needs.
The people they recruit need to be objective, flexible and good at report writing. They also recruit people between the ages of 18 and 25 under the 'Challenge 25 Mystery Shopping' incentive which is tailored to establishments offering goods that should only be purchased by adults, i.e. alcohol and cigarettes.
The mystery shoppers are instructed where to go and what to purchase. They then have to report as to whether they were asked for identification or not. They get paid for carrying out the assignment, usually around £5, reimbursed for any parking fees or travelling expenses and for the item they purchased. They also get to keep the item.
GFK Mystery Shopping has 15 years of experience in the field and specialises in retail mystery shopping, though they also work in the areas of telecom, finance, public sector and transport. Their mystery shoppers operate in a variety of ways; by telephone, email or visits to retail centres. Straightforward jobs pay between £6 and £10, more complicated ones upwards of £10. They recruit reliable, honest and objective people with a good command of the English language, both spoken and written.
Mystery Shoppers Ltd, founded in 1991, have offices in London, Leeds and Devon. Their assignments can range from a quick survey to a weekend stay and their rates of pay will vary according to whether the assignment requires specific expertise in a certain area or not. Details of the assignment to be carried out are sent via email to the shopper and payment rates are detailed then.
Whilst no actual qualifications are required to become a mystery shopper, Mystery Shoppers Ltd want committed, enthusiastic people who have a good memory, good observational skills and good writing skills. They, too require that employees are able to work to tight deadlines.
Retail Rapport is a mystery shopping company specialising in measuring customer care standards and service. They also carry out telephone surveys. Based in Kent, they require three references which are verified for anyone wishing to be a member of their team and their work is mainly concentrated on assessing and reporting on customer care.
Retail Rapport require trustworthy and honest individuals who will not disclose any information to others regarding assignments carried out. All items purchased during the course of an assignment are reimbursed on production of receipts and payment is advised when the details of the assignment are given.
Whilst becoming a mystery shopper is never going to make anybody rich, the pay is not terrible and it can be used to supplement another income. It is also a good way of getting everyday items for free as items purchased when doing a mystery shop are paid for by the company. There are many other mystery shopping companies. A quick search on the internet will provides details of these.