If you’ve signed up to be a mystery shopper and have completed a couple of shops, you can probably tell there isn’t much skill or luck involved in getting the best job around – mystery shopping! Shop providers are pretty open about accepting new mystery shoppers into their ranks, provided you’ve shown a general interest in shopping and have basic skills mastered, like reading and writing.
It also doesn’t take too long to figure out that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other shoppers just like you around the country. You like mystery shopping and you want to be taken seriously as a professional mystery shopper. So what can you do to set yourself apart from the rest and stand out as a professional?
Get Certified. The Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MPSA) offers both Silver and Gold level certification courses. At one time, you had to travel to a city where the Gold Certification training was taking place, but the MPSA now offers this training on a DVD so you can take the course at home.
Is it really worth getting certified? You will hear different things on the message boards, but providers will tell you that certified shoppers take their jobs more seriously, are less likely to miss a shop, typically have better reporting skills, and overall have a higher shopper rating. And because of this, in many cases providers will give assignments to certified shoppers over non-certified shoppers, especially for the higher paying and more critical assignments.
While there is cost involved to get certified, keep in mind that you can write the cost off on your taxes as a business expense.
Build Relationships. Like so many other businesses, mystery shopping is very much a relationship business. For the most part you work alone as a mystery shopper. You locate jobs online, go out to the store and perform the shop, and come home and file the paperwork all without really interacting with anyone except the sales associate at the store in most cases. So who are you supposed to build a relationship with?
On all shops except for the self-assign shops, the scheduler is the person who doles out the jobs. If the scheduler knows you through past shops you’ve completed and likes your work, you are more likely to get assigned a shop over someone she has never heard of. So does it pay to get friendly with your scheduler? Absolutely!!
Keep in mind that relationships build slowly over time. When the scheduler contacts you about your report or to ask you to do a shop nobody else has signed up for, be polite and conversational, but at the same time keep it professional. When you speak to that scheduler again or if you exchange emails later on, try to casually remind her that you’ve spoken previously and had a good rapport. Even a comment as simple as “Oh, it’s so good to hear from you again. I hope you’ve been well,” will go a long way.
And of course you always want to do your best work on each shop. You don’t want the scheduler to remember your name as someone NOT to work with!
Experience Counts. As you’re starting out with mystery shopping, keep in mind that experience and shopper rating play a big part in mystery shopping. It may be easy to get signed up with companies as a shopper, but the jobs are doled out to the experienced shoppers over the inexperienced on a regular basis.
So where does that leave the inexperienced shopper? First, as a new shopper, don’t be as picky about which assignment you will do. It only takes a few shops to get established as a good shopper with a company. So take that shop everybody else is passing over. Sure, it may only pay $5 and may have an 80-question report to fill out, but think of that shop as a stepping stone to your ability to get the better shops.
Also keep in mind that doing one grunt assignment at Company A doesn’t give you experience with Company B. So you may have to do several grunt assignments for each provider you’ve signed up with before you start getting some clout as a good shopper. After you’ve got a few assignments completed nicely, you will soon start seeing the benefits and will be selected for some of the better shops you request.
If you want to take your job as a mystery shopper a step forward and see this as being more than just a hobby, show that you take your job seriously by getting professional certifications, establish and nurture professional relationships, and build your experience.