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The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Mystery Shopping

March 20th, 2024

Ever dreamt of getting paid to shop? Mystery shopping may be the perfect fit! As a beginner, you might wonder where to start. This guide answers all your frequently asked questions, from what mystery shopping is to how to land your first shop. So if you’re looking for extra money and a fun way to contribute to better customer service, mystery shopping helps you break into the field!

Uncover the world of mystery shopping with this comprehensive beginner’s guide to becoming a Mystery Shopper. Learn how mystery shopping can revolutionise customer experience and service quality, and gain valuable insights into this powerful tool for companies.

Is being a Secret Shopper a good side hustle?

While it’s not a full-time career, mystery shopper jobs can be a great way to earn extra cash. Mystery shopping jobs are an ideal side hustle and are perfect for shoppers looking to explore the exciting world of mystery shopping and its impact on businesses.

 

Do you really get paid to shop?

Yes, our mystery shopping assignments take you undercover as a regular customer at stores, restaurants, or hotels. You’ll be presented with a specific scenario to follow, allowing you to evaluate areas like staff performance, customer service, and store cleanliness. Some assignments might involve checking product displays (merchandising) or conducting a more in-depth store audit. Remember, variety is key – each shop is unique and caters to the client’s specific needs.

The golden rule? Secrecy is paramount! You’ll always pose as a real customer, so keep your undercover identity under wraps.

Whether the assignment requires a purchase to assess checkout efficiency, or a return to test the refund policy, be prepared to adapt and shine!

What is Mystery Shopping?

Mystery shopping, also known as secret shopping, is a market research tool to help businesses evaluate the quality of their products and services. It involves hiring individuals, known as mystery shoppers or secret shoppers, to pose as regular customers and assess various aspects of the customer experience.

Mystery shopping provides businesses with valuable insights into their customer experience performance, employee behaviour, product quality, product knowledge, and adherence to company standards such as cleanliness.

The concept of mystery shopping dates back to the 1940s when it was first introduced as a technique to measure employee integrity. Over the years, mystery shopping has evolved into a comprehensive method for businesses to gain an understanding of their customers’ perspectives and improve their overall quality of customer service.

The primary purpose of mystery shopping is to identify areas for improvement within a business. By uncovering strengths and weaknesses, companies can make informed decisions to improve the quality and enhance the overall customer experience. Mystery shopping also helps monitor and maintain service standards across multiple locations or branches of a business.

How do I become a secret shopper in Australia?

Becoming a mystery shopper requires certain qualifications and characteristics. Individuals interested in becoming a mystery shopper should possess excellent observational and writing skills, attention to detail, and the ability to remain discreet while conducting undercover evaluations. Additionally, having access to transportation and being available to work flexible hours are often necessary for completing assignments.

Finding legitimate mystery shopping companies is crucial to avoid falling victim to scams. Reputable mystery shopping providers such as Mystery Customer can be found through thorough research online, industry forums, or by seeking recommendations from experienced mystery shoppers. It’s important to verify the legitimacy of a mystery shopping program by checking for reviews, ratings, and any associated costs or requirements. They should also ideally be members of the Mystery Shopping Professionals Association (MSPA) which is the only professional trade association representing the Mystery Shopping industry, verified members such as Mystery Customer will have the MSPA on their website.

Once employed in mystery shopping, individuals need to understand their responsibilities and expectations. This includes adhering to specific guidelines for each assignment, accurately documenting their observations, and submitting detailed feedback within the designated timeframe.

 

Do I need an ABN to be a mystery shopper?

Some of our shoppers undertake mystery shopping as a business (and provide an ABN). However, the majority do it as a hobby. All our shoppers are engaged as contractors, never as our employees. You will need to understand the difference between acting as a contractor and an employee because it has tax and insurance implications.  If you are not confident that you know what this means, we suggest you gain some independent advice.

The Mystery Shopping Experience

Conducting a mystery shopping assignment involves several stages, that start with receiving detailed instructions and specific evaluation criteria from the mystery shopping company. During the evaluation, mystery shoppers must discreetly observe and interact with employees while assessing predetermined aspects of the customer experience.

Effective observation and evaluation during mystery shopping require keen attention to detail and the ability to remain unbiased. It’s important for mystery shoppers to accurately document their experiences and provide constructive feedback based on their observations.

After completing a mystery shopping assignment, the submission of a comprehensive report is crucial. This report typically includes a detailed account of the shopper’s experience, observations, and any specific issues encountered during the evaluation.

The Impact of Mystery Shopping on Businesses

Mystery shopping plays a pivotal role in helping businesses improve their customer experience. By gaining insights from the perspective of a regular customer, companies can identify areas for improvement and implement targeted strategies to enhance their service quality. This can include everything from employee greetings and product knowledge to store cleanliness and checkout efficiency.

This feedback helps businesses identify improvement areas, ensure staff adhere to company policies, and ultimately boost customer satisfaction and loyalty – leading to increased sales and a stronger brand reputation.

Successful customer service enhancements through mystery shopping can be seen in various industries, including automotive, retail, hospitality, and healthcare. Companies have utilised feedback from mystery shopping to implement training programs, refine employee interactions, and streamline operational processes to meet customer needs better.

Maintaining service quality standards is another significant impact of mystery shopping on retail businesses. Through regular evaluations and feedback, retail companies can ensure that their customer service standards are consistently met across all locations, leading to enhanced brand reputation and customer satisfaction.

Exploring the mystery shopping world offers shoppers a unique opportunity to engage in a dynamic and impactful role. While the challenges of being a mystery shopper are present, the rewards of contributing to the improvement of customer experiences are equally fulfilling. As mystery shopping continues to evolve, its relevance in the business world remains significant, making it an exciting avenue for shoppers to explore and contribute to the enhancement of customer service and satisfaction.

Become A Secret Shopper

Hello 2024!

January 29th, 2024

We all hope you had a relaxing and safe holiday season with family and friends. We certainly did!

2024 is looking to be a very big year for Mystery Customer with a few new clients and lots more assignments to be completed and we couldn’t be more excited to be working with you. Before we
begin – please note the following processes:

Applying for Assignments

Each client has a specific profile requirement for their projects. For example, some projects have specific upper and lower age limits, some want you to bring children and others do not. When allocating assignments, the Mystery Customer team reviews these requirements against the applications received.

We also take into consideration if you can complete the assignment earlier in the project period as well as your current grading. A higher grade opens more sophisticated opportunities for you. At
the start of the month, most of our jobs are released so there will be multiple jobs for 20-30 clients and it could take a few days for us to review all the applications received. If the start of the month falls on a weekend or a public holiday, they will not be reviewed until the next working day as we only assign jobs during business hours. Please keep this in mind when awaiting news on whether a job has been assigned to you or not but if you need to know urgently as you can only complete a job on a certain day, email operations@mysterycustomer.com.au and we can view your application ASAP.

When applying for assignments, remember the following:

Planned Date – If the project asks you for a planned date, please enter the date you intend to commence the assignment. If you need to change this date, for whatever reason, then please advise operations@mysterycustomer.com.au

 

Brief Note Supporting Application

If you can add a quick note as to why you want to do this assignment in this section, that would be appreciated. We do read these comments when reviewing applications. Before you apply for an assignment, always read the shopper notes to see if we require any additional information (such as what car you drive, and what is your current occupation), this can make you more likely to be considered successful.

Registering your interest in assignments does not guarantee work. We try to ensure that we fairly spread the workload throughout our active shopper database. You will be sent an automated email advising you that a Mystery Shop assignment has been awarded to you. However, we always suggest that if you have applied for assignments, that you check your “My Jobs” list each day. If, for whatever reason, you can no longer do a mystery shop, please either decline this online or advise operations@mysterycustomer.com.au. An assignment that becomes overdue, with no communication from you, will be automatically unassigned and will affect your grading.

 

Web & Phone Jobs

Do you love the idea of some extra cash but don’t always have the time to visit a store?

Every month, we have many web and phone shops that don’t require you to leave home! To access these, you select “Web & Phone Jobs” from the main menu of your Mystery Customer account.

These assignments are quick and easy to do. To be successful at these, you will need to:
– Have a laptop for the web assignments (we need to see the date and time of your inquiries to
prove when they were sent)
– Be able to take a screenshot of your laptop and phone
– Be available to make and receive phone calls during the working day
– Have a pleasant phone manner
– Be prepared before making the call

 

How to Take a Screenshot
Taking a clear screenshot is a minimum requirement for some of our assignments. When you take the screenshot, the date and time should also be shown.

Windows:
1. Use a Snipping Tool – Press the Windows logo key + Shift + S
2. Press and hold the PrtSc key. Your complete Windows 11 screen will be captured.
PrtSc will just grab the image and save it to the clipboard.
Mac:
1. Press and hold these three keys together: Shift + Command + 3
Screenshots will be saved to your downloads and/or desktop

Payment Cycles
We have a lot of questions regarding when payment occurs. This is listed on your Mystery Customer portal under the heading of “Shopper Invoicing and Payments”. We have listed it here for your
convenience.

The first pay period includes all submitted surveys that are passed for approval by the survey validators between the first day of the month and 11 pm on the 15th of the month. These amounts will be paid into your account on the 20th of the current month. The second pay period includes all submitted surveys that are passed for approval by the survey validators between 11 pm on the 15th of the month and 11 pm on the last day of the month. These amounts will be paid into your account on the 10th to 12th of the following month.

FAQ:
• If the payment date falls on a weekend the payment will be made on the next working day after that date

Shopper pay statements are generated by the system automatically and reflect what has been approved for payment for the pay period, this does not mean you will be paid on the 1st or 16th of the month
• Only validated surveys are on the payment schedule. If you submit a survey close to the cut-off for a particular pay period it may not be validated in time. Also, if you submit a substandard survey, it may get held up in survey validation checks. To help make sure that you get paid promptly submit acceptable quality work as soon as possible after your visit.
• Occasionally we may need to make a manual payment (bonus / travel expense/venue closed), which may not show on your payslip but will be processed with your normal pay.
• Where work completed has required a store receipt to be attached / uploaded to your survey, please ensure this has been done. Expenses may not be reimbursed if appropriate supporting documentation is not provided.
• Missing a payment on a validated survey? The main reason why payments do not get processed to this schedule is that bank BSB and account details are not correctly recorded or up to date. Check these details by going to the orange man icon on the top right of your some page > my profile > more.
• Payments are always made from our account on the above dates but when they appear in your account will depend upon your bank’s clearance protocols. It can be up to 2 days after that date.
• If you believe you are missing a pay, email accounts@mysterycustomer.com.au. Also, copy in operations@mysterycustomer.com.au. But check your bank details and paystatements first.

Unmasking the Impact of the Pandemic on Customer Service

January 29th, 2024

Pandemic conditions since early 2020 have cast a transformative shadow over businesses and industries worldwide, with a notable consequence being the shifting landscape of customer experience (CX) and service quality.

Crunching our own data and analysing CX performance pre, during and post-COVID shows large variations across industries, and across clients within industries in terms of their ability to recover.

We explore some key industry case studies and learnings below.

Restaurants/Food Hospitality

We found some interesting differences across food and hospitality clients. Of note, a high-end restaurant where we saw their scores drop, and a slower recovery time. In our assessment of the scores and customer feedback, it would seem staffing issues are at play here.

The hospitality sector, particularly the fine dining segment, relies heavily on students and backpackers to fill casual front-of-house positions around small teams of full-time
employees. When these casual workers disappeared, this sector experienced serious understaffing and declining service outcomes. This sector had not returned to pre- pandemic levels, – as Restaurant and Hospitality Industry Association chief executive

Belinda Clarke said – “We’re missing over 100,000 workers in hospitality and a huge proportion of those roles are taken up by backpackers in seasonal areas.” Sydney Morning Herald, end 2022.

 

Our assessment? Lack of available stock meant car dealers did not need to try and sell until recently – salespeople did not necessarily have to ‘work’ for a sale for some time, as they sold all stock. Combined with staff turnover and lack of real-world sales practice and skill development for some time leads to poorer sales performance.

 

From our analysis, it would seem luxury car sales organisations have more in-depth training programs, more experienced staff, and stronger processes, and were better able to recover from this.

Many industries we work with were barely affected throughout the pandemic, registering only a short-term shift in customer service levels. Telcos, department stores, supermarkets/foodstuff retailers, gyms, and healthcare professionals only had a very minor impact customer service wise, despite many of these industries facing more specific effects of COVID (e.g., healthcare still wearing masks till recently, gyms requiring more obvious rigorous cleaning regime, the same supply chain issues as other industries, etc).

 

Others, like serviced offices for example, suffered badly from a true shift in consumer behaviour in their space but recovered well and now scoring in excess of their pre-COVID numbers.

We found the least impacted clients generally have the following characteristics:

1. A continuing focus on CX. This includes ongoing measurement of service levels, processes, and people – a keen example of the truism of “What gets measured is worked on,”

2. Strong sales and customer service processes. Processes are well thought out, well documented, clear, and well tested.

3. Strong training processes which coped ably with both the shift in staff during COVID, and difficulties attracting and retaining staff post-pandemic.

 

Those that bounced back quickly realised the following and acted upon it:

• Customer expectations evolved: The pandemic shifted customer expectations – health and safety concerns took precedence for example, influencing shopping behaviour and service preferences, and this shift in expectation remains.

Businesses had to quickly meet these changing expectations, revisiting their offerings, communication strategies, and support mechanisms to align with the “new normal.” Those who adapted succeeded in recovering quickly.

• There were limited training opportunities: Traditional in-person training sessions were difficult to conduct during the pandemic, with many industries still finding it hard to catch up on their training schedule. Remote training might not have been as effective in conveying all aspects of customer service, leading to a decrease in overall performance. Those who mastered remote training, maintained strong processes, and got back into regular training programs – these organisations are succeeding.

• Recognising employee stress levels and turnover: During the height of the pandemic, frontline employees encountered unprecedented stress levels, leading to fatigue and a higher turnover rate, leading to disrupted team dynamics and inconsistencies in service quality. Despite lockdowns ending, pandemic conditions easing, and a return to “normal” in many ways, stressors remain – many industries, retail, and hospitality in particular, are suffering ongoing staff shortages, and supply chain issues still impact business operations.

Leaders who work with their staff to manage negative impacts will succeed. With continuing disruptions, rolling supply chain issues, and changed customer expectations still in play, it would seem the pandemic hangover remains for many organisations.

How Mystery Customer Can Help

Happily, we believe mystery shopping can be a powerful tool in soothing the pandemic hangover. We can help in delivering the following:

Data-driven decision making: Mystery Customers shopper survey program provides businesses with objective data that can drive informed decision-making. The feedback collected serves as a reliable basis for identifying trends, setting improvement goals, and fine-tuning customer service strategies.

Unfiltered insights: Mystery Customer data presents businesses with an external, unfiltered perspective on their customer experience. By experiencing the business through the eyes of a customer, companies can identify pain points, strengths, and areas for improvement that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Enhanced employee performance: Frontline employees play a pivotal role in shaping the customer experience. Mystery Customers’ program allows businesses to evaluate employee performance objectively. With feedback based on real interactions, businesses can identify training needs, reinforce positive behaviours, and address areas of concern. This leads to a more motivated and customer-centric workforce, translating into improved customer satisfaction.

Identify process gaps: It is essential to identify and address process gaps that can hinder a smooth customer experience. By pinpointing bottlenecks and inefficiencies, businesses can streamline operations – creating a more seamless customer journey.

Brand consistency: Consistency is key to building a strong brand identity and customer loyalty. Whether it is adhering to specific service measures, maintaining cleanliness,
delivering a consistent tone of voice, or other key brand measures, it can play a crucial role in aligning touchpoints with the intended brand image.

Staying ahead of the curve: In a competitive marketplace, Mystery Customers’ shopper program allows businesses to benchmark their performance against industry standards and competitors. This information equips companies with the knowledge needed to identify areas where there may be gaps, and where they can excel and stand out.

Turning insights into action: Mystery shopping campaigns often deliver surprises. Some are pleasant and some are downright worrying. Knowing you have a problem is an important first step but driving change based on this knowledge is perhaps more difficult. There is a limited period in which to address any required modification of the sales process with sales and service teams, and often no way of assisting your teams in monitoring and redressing these issues.

The implementation of Action Plan reports that are triggered by mystery shopper visits has helped clients to reinforce key components of their sales process, increasing adherence to best practice policies, and resulting in a positive effect on sales. The addition of an Action Plan process to your Mystery Customer service will increase accountability, and conformity to best practices, highlight areas where more support and training are required, and will result in improved service experiences for your customers.

Mystery Customer can help construct a specialised mystery shopper program that suits your business and budget. Contact John today at0414 553 596.

Exciting New Merger Of Two Premium Mystery Shopping Companies

December 12th, 2023

Mystery Customer is Now Prime Too!

On the 01/01/2023 two of our industries premium providers of quality mystery shopping decided to join forces. Both companies have a combined 40 years’ experience in mystery shopping. The integration of our shopper networks means we now have more than 40,000 registered shoppers in Australia and New Zealand. This provides us with superior reach and unique capabilities to run and manage complex campaigns in Australia and New Zealand. Through our international collaboration network, we have also run successful campaigns in USA, Canada, Brazil, India, and Korea.

What Prime Mystery Shopping Brings 

Mystery Customer’s traditional area of expertise is in the food and beverage, retail, travel, hospitality, local government, and telecommunication industries. We have also completed complex price check, quality control and service compliance audits. Prime Mystery Shopping is a market leader in the complex world of automotive sales and service evaluation.

Mystery Customer and Prime are also part of the Lonergan Research group. https://lonergan.team. Lonergan Research is an independent strategic research consultancy that combines a wide range of discipline and approaches to solve complex business challenges. Lonergan Research combine the speed, agility, and technology-oriented mindset of a start-up with robust, evidence-based insights.