You see them popping up here and there, companies that investigate the customer service of other companies on assignment. They send out a mystery shopper who provides them with the much-needed information. How is the system structured?
What is a mystery shopper?
A mystery shopper is a person who is hired by a customer service company to make a purchase in a store, restaurant or other type of business and reports their experiences using a questionnaire and a personal report. Since he is a freelance employee, he is paid per assignment. With a few assignments per month he can earn a nice amount of money.
Who does he work for?
Some companies would like to find out whether the quality and service in their business is up to standard or to what extent customer satisfaction plays a role in turnover. To this end, they contact a company that specializes in investigating commercial matters. They record exactly what needs to be investigated and then a mystery shopper is sent to test the requested points as an anonymous customer and without the knowledge of the staff. All types of businesses can be visited by a mystery shopper: clothing stores, garages, telecom stores, restaurants, gas stations, fitness chains, and so on. Sometimes the mystery shopper is asked to play the difficult customer or have a telephone conversation with customer service to test the friendliness of the staff.
How do you become a mystery shopper?
There are a number of companies in Belgium and the Netherlands that hire mystery shoppers. You can easily find them on the net. When you visit their website you must complete a form to submit your application and provide some information about yourself, after which you will receive a message in your mailbox to confirm your registration. Depending on the company, you will either receive an assignment based on the information you have provided or you can consult a database where you can choose an assignment yourself. You will be provided with an extensive list of points to pay attention to and questions to which you must answer within a certain period. The compensation will be paid after submitting your findings and depends on the type of project. Some companies pay you in kind: Kinepolis, for example, provides free tickets. If you have to visit a hotel, the stay is free. Sometimes a purchase is refunded or you receive discount vouchers in exchange.
While this form of vetting a case by a customer is not so often used in our region, it is much more established in the United States and the United Kingdom, where the system was already used in the 1940s to ensure the reliability of to check on the staff. In the United Kingdom, even public companies and non-profit associations are vetted in this way, such as public housing organizations or church factories. In the United States, mystery shoppers are sometimes asked to take photos or run videos or to record the speed of service with the stopwatch in hand. In some states it is even necessary to have a license as a private investigator to carry out certain assignments. The customer service company extensively analyzes the results of the research and puts everything into a report with quantitative and qualitative statistics so that the client can draw the appropriate conclusions.
Some find the mystery shopping system unfair because the staff cannot defend themselves against a possible negative judgment and may regard it as a form of distrust. It is the opinion of one particular person based on one visit on a particular day so that one can question its objectivity.