Mystery shopping may seem like a black-and-white job. As a mystery shopper, you are given clear and precise instructions from your provider, and you are expected to report back to the provider exactly what you observed during your site visit. Yet for many mystery shoppers, there is a gray area where human compassion makes the clear line between black and white a bit fuzzy. Mystery shoppers sometimes feel the need to throw the store staff a bone and give them extra opportunities to succeed. The question remains, though, should you do this?
The Effect of a Negative Report. Mystery shoppers are often concerned that their report will have negative consequences for the store staff, and that answering negatively to the questions on the report may even result in someone getting fired. In the vast majority of cases, a report alone will not be the cause of a staff member getting fired. If someone gets fired over your report, either there were circumstances that occurred with that employee before your report and your report was the straw that broke the camel’s back, or your observations of that employee’s behavior was so negative that you should not be surprised that they would get fired.
In most cases, your report is used to improve customer service and overall experience rather than to serve as the basis for disciplinary action. Keep in mind that most customers will not give a “bad” salesperson a second chance, so giving that person a second chance in your report is not doing anyone any good. When you report your observations honestly and accurately, regardless of what they may be, you will find that you are usually helping the store AND the staff out, giving them positive ways they can improve for future customers.
When A Bleeding Heart Is Warranted. There are times in every mystery shopper’s activities that we come across a staff member who is just having a bad day. You may overhear the staff member talking to co-workers about their dog dying, a family member being in the hospital, or any number of other issues that can simply cause that person to not be acting up to par. If you honestly feel as though you would have had a better overall experience with your staff member if you had simply “shopped” them on another day, there is a tactful way to approach this in the report that will minimize the consequences to the staff member and management on duty.
First, answer all questions as honestly as possibly. While you are doing this, find a way to carefully include the fact that you are aware this person was not having the best of days. While you truthfully could not comment on how the person would service you on “normal” days without observing them firsthand, you can make note that you became aware of the distractions that person was facing. You can also play up the positive aspects of your experience while downplaying the negative aspects while still remaining truthful if you are especially concerned.
No matter how many assignments you complete in your profession as a mystery shopper, the fact remains that every assignment will be different. As always, use your best judgment in how to deal with each assignment, keeping in mind that your main role is not to explain why staff members are not doing their job right, but rather to report what you actually observed during your visit.