How to Become a Mystery Shopper
Hey there. You found this page, so something’s obviously sparked your interest in mystery shopping. Maybe it’s that friend who’s constantly showing off her “free” goodies on Instagram. Or maybe you’ve been exploring options for bringing in some extra income and you came across our article. Or perhaps you’re a growing business in the hospitality industry, and you’re considering mystery shopping as a way to up your game in customer service.
With the wealth of information and resources on mystery shopping available on the internet and elsewhere, and with more and more companies discovering the benefits of mystery shopping for their brands, becoming a mystery shopper has never been easier; but sometimes, knowing where to look and how to get started can be a challenge. We would like to set you on your way with a few pointers and some clear steps to beginning your mystery shopping adventure.
First, a quick overview of what mystery shopping is . Mystery shopping is a method used by companies to covertly (secretly) evaluate the performance of their businesses by hiring people (called mystery shoppers or evaluators) to visit their stores or experience their products and services, disguised as regular shoppers or customers. Mystery shoppers are expected to make observations, ask questions and gather valuable customer service intel during the “shop”. Afterward, they provide feedback to the company that hired them through a detailed report. In exchange for providing this service, mystery shoppers get to enjoy the experience or product free of charge, and in most cases, also earn some revenue in the process.
While mystery shopping is a relatively straightforward process, it takes careful planning and preparation to get the most out of it.
Do Some Basic Research
Before getting started, set yourself on the right track with some useful research. To ensure you cover all your bases and so you don’t get overwhelmed by all the information available, it might help to focus your research with a few questions:
- What does your ideal mystery shopping job look like? Are you open to all types of mystery shopping opportunities or do you want to limit your shopping to specific industries? Do you want to stay within a certain geographic location or are you willing to pan out? (Most companies will assign you jobs within proximity of your home base to minimize the reimbursable transportation expense). How much time are you willing to commit to your job as an evaluator or mystery shopper?
- How much would you like to earn from mystery shopping? This is closely related to the prior series of questions. Are you looking to make this a mainstay or is it just a supplemental source of income to fund your hobby? You’ll find that most mystery shopping opportunities pay within the same general range (about $5 – $20 per job – apart from reimbursements), which is not a whole lot of money but may be worthwhile if you get the right mix of shopping opportunities.
- Do you want to work independently, delivering your services directly to businesses as a certified evaluator or mystery shopper? Or would you prefer to work through a trusted Mystery Shopping Provider? The latter is probably the better option if you are new to the game, have minimal retail experience or you’re not looking to make a career out of this. Some basic online research will yield a pretty robust list of providers. If you prefer to strike out on your own, you probably need to do more in-depth research on getting certified, developing the skills and acquiring the tools necessary to become a professional evaluator.
Having in mind the answers to these questions will provide guidelines as you research different mystery shopping providers, allowing you to narrow down your list of prospective opportunities based on what works for you.
Create Your Master List
As you browse leads online, create a list of mystery shopping providers that seem to fit the parameters you’ve set for yourself; but as you do so, keep in mind that the more flexible you are and the more opportunities you’re open to, the more jobs you’re likely to get.
To help you properly track your opportunities, it may be useful to have your list in a table format with columns for tracking the status, outcome, and other points you may find important. For example, you may want to track which opportunities on your list you’ve applied to, how much each opportunity is paying, your order of preference for each job, etc.
Appy, Apply, Apply
In many cases, you will receive immediate approval from mystery shopping providers after you sign up with them. Once you’ve been approved, you will have the opportunity to view and apply for available jobs.
Apply to as many service providers and for as many opportunities as possible, particularly if you are looking to make a consistent income from mystery shopping.
As you apply, remember to make a note on your master list so you can keep track of all your applications. Also pay careful attention to the instructions provided for each application, as poorly or incorrectly filled applications may be rejected.
Don’t fall for scams. Be wary of sites or mystery shopping services that ask you to put down any money upfront or provide sensitive personal information. If anything seems even remotely suspicious, it is best that you first verify as best you can the validity of the shopping provider or the job on offer. One way to do that is to check with the MSPA, which provides a list of verified service providers and also offers an avenue to report scams.
Wait for those opportunities to start rolling in
Once you’ve applied for jobs or enrolled for notifications, all you have to do is wait for those job alerts to come in. Usually, you will have to respond fairly quickly to offers that come your way, so you’ll want to be on the lookout. It might be helpful to have a dedicated email account you use for your mystery shopping communication, so you’ll reduce the likelihood of missing an email.
Would You Like to Start with Us?
Coyle Hospitality has made the process of becoming a mystery shopper easy as and straightforward. You can sign up here for free. The process only takes about 5-10 minutes. Once you sign up, approval is automatic and immediate. After you’ve been approved, you may jump right in and start to browse and apply for opportunities that interest you.
Coyle clients are in 70+ countries and growing. We likely have opportunities in your city or nearby. And, if you are traveling, there are opportunities to evaluate while you are on the road.
Once you score that first gig, you’re officially a mystery shopper.