What's it take to be a mystery shopper? Apparently, very little.

Bill Shapard Jr., PRC
December 7, 2020

Recently, I ran across a research firm who engages in mystery shopping for its clients that posted this rather desperate description of its requirements to become one of it's mystery shoppers:

What are the requirements for being a mystery shopper? You must be at least 20 years old and have a minimum of a high school education. You need excellent observational skills and must be very detail oriented. Most shops require a digital watch that displays seconds or a stopwatch for timing the store’s service. Access to a computer is required and high-speed access is highly recommended. A digital camera is necessary for higher paying audit-type assignments.

And that's it?

This research firm has truly just lowered the bar so low that practically anyone can get over it.  And, is that good for the research that's being conducted?  Is it good for the client who's, not only paying for the service, but basing employment, staffing levels, and other major corporate decisions on it?

Having more than a heartbeat should be required to conduct mystery shopping.

Sure, we all are consumers with opinions and capable of performing the task as serving as a mystery shopper.  But, training is required by experienced instructors in learning how to observe customer service delivery in comparison to levels of expectation and communicate those observations into actionable results for the client.Baseball is great example.  All Americans are familiar with our nation's pastime and probably seen a game or two.  But, just understanding how the game is played doesn't make anyone an expert.  Knowing when to bunt or steal, or hit a sacrifice fly comes with training, cognitive learning and experience.Here at ShapardResearch, our shoppers go through extensive in-person training with an experienced instructor, a process that the independent contractor model of mystery shopping just can't do.  The goal is not just to know what good customer service looks like, but:

  • Was the client's operational standards in compliance?
  • Was the client's employees engaged and effective in their sales efforts?
  • Was the client's standards for cleanliness and store organization being kept?
  • Was the client's products stocked and displayed correctly according to set standards?
  • Was the client's employees executing their training, for example, asking for the business today or exercising up-selling techniques?

So why do researchers dive to the bottom to find their shoppers?  Because, in today's realities, recruiting  qualified candidates has become very difficult.  These research firms who rely on the independent contractor model of mystery shopping have had to loosen their standards to just get the work done.  And, who is the loser in this situation?  The client, of course.These same research firms will also say that its mystery shoppers are 'highly trained', but the ability to highly train anyone starts with effective recruitment.  Not every baseball fan can be trained to coach first base.At ShapardResearch, we do things differently.  We do not use the independent contractor model or recruit from the client's customers which has its own problems.  We use only our employees who are recruited, trained and supervised by us.  Here is a great comparison of the three methods.Are we executing a mystery shop program for companies in Paducah?  No.  We know Oklahoma and focus our attention on performing great research for Oklahoma companies right here in Oklahoma.We believe that in order to collect good business insights and actionable data, it has always and will always starts with good recruitment.  If you recruit or pick your shoppers from the bottom, that's exactly what you'll get.

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Bill Shapard Jr., PRC
Founder & CEO

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