Mystery Shopper Characteristics

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Characteristics and Skills of a Successful Mystery Shopper

A mystery shopper is an objective, detail oriented and professional third party appraiser assigned to evaluate specific aspects of a business, associate or customer experience.

Companies that choose to mystery shop, want an unbiased inspection of their customer interactions, employee conduct, and overall operations.

New shoppers often think that companies want an opinion based customer review, like what can be found on reviewer sites like Yelp. In reality, companies that utilize mystery shopping want an unbiased and factually accurate inspection of their processes, customer interactions, and employee conduct.

In most cases, mystery shopping clients do not want opinions, unless specifically asked. They want an analytical and fact based review of what their employees are doing and how they are interacting with customers. They want to know what you see and hear, versus what your personal opinion might be. Imagine that you are the Human Resources manager tasked with an employee performance review. Would you rather use a subjective report that is filled with opinions or an objective report that documents the employee’s actual behavior, both good and bad?

Mystery Shopper Skills and Characteristics

Observant – A good mystery shopper is keenly observant and notices the details surrounding their interactions.

Objective – A good mystery shopper remains objective and reports on the facts, rather than relies on opinions or assumptions. Instead of stating that “The cashier was texting with her friends” a more objective and accurate approach is to say “The cashier was staring down at her phone while smiling and typing.”

Detailed and Critical – Very good mystery shoppers have a discerning eye and notice both the good and the bad in terms of customer interactions. “The hostess greeted us nicely,” is not as helpful as “Upon approaching the host stand, the host made eye contact with me and my husband and said with a smile, ‘Good evening, welcome to Fred’s! Do you have a reservation?'” Likewise, “The restroom needed attention,” does not provide the level of insight that “There were paper towels on the counter and the toilet paper was low in the middle stall.”

Thorough – A thorough mystery shopper will review all instructions before attending their shop assignment as well as read through the survey questions so that they are aware of what to look for while on site.

Good Memory – There are a lot of details to capture during a mystery shop. Modern technology has many tools to aid memory, such as the ability to take photos, capture notes, and in some cases, conduct a voice recording. Good mystery shoppers use technology aids to assist them with remembering the details of each shop.

Good Writing and Communication Skills – If you do not consider yourself a strong writer/communicator, preparing a report may take too much of your time to make the shop worthwhile for you and/or your finished report may lack the proper level/quality of observations.  If you have difficulty composing your thoughts via the written word, traditional mystery shopping (written reports) may not be a good fit for you. Communicating proactively with your scheduler if you are experiencing any issues that might affect your shop, is also very important.

Good Organization and Planning – Good organization and planning are integral to being a successful mystery shopper. This can include mapping your location so that you know how long it will take to arrive, being aware of weather complications (weather is very relevant to car wash assignments), re-reading instructions before attending so that the shop requirements are in the forefront of your mind, etc.

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