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Mystery Shop Methods Comparison.

The ShapardResearch Difference.

There are three methods used by research firms to perform mystery shops:  Research Firm’s Employees, Independent Contractors, and Recruited Customers.  Each method has advantages and disadvantages, some with more disadvantages than others.

Recruitment, training and supervision are the three most important attributes to a quality mystery shopping program.  Below is a side-by-side comparison of these attributes, broken down by the three most commonly used mystery shopping methods.

Research Firm’s Employees Independent Contractors Recruited Customers
Personally interviewed, evaluated, and selected for shopper work requirements.  Greatest control and flexibility in finding the right candidates of the three methods. Identified thru want-ads or other internet methods; typically few candidates for selection and harder method to find quality candidates; no personal interview process since research firm is in another location. Recruited from list of client’s customers; higher recruitment costs due to lower acceptance rate; customers who do accept are driven more by incentive alone with less motivation for quality work.
Research Firm’s Employees Independent Contractors Recruited Customers
In-person training, with more in-depth ability than other two methods; only method with cognitive learning ability; evaluation by instructor possible prior to work assignment. More reliance on former experience or on-the-job training; reading or other non-instructional forms of training are only training methods available due to remote recruitment. No ability for instructor evaluation prior to work assignment. Typically the least training of the three methods, yet similar in delivery to Independent Contractor.  Shoppers pursue or retain little training since assignment is not their main employment.  Little ability to verify or re-enforce training since shopper is client’s customer.
Research Firm’s Employees Independent Contractors Recruited Customers
Most supervision of the three methods; research firm can be held accountable for shopper’s work and performance since firm has termination leverage with employee. Research firm has termination leverage, although less supervision due to nature of Independent Contractor relationship and distance between research firm’s location and shopper’s location. Least supervision or termination leverage of three methods since shopper is one of client’s customers; little to no accountability of shopper’s work or performance, if any.
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