One of the trickiest aspects of mystery shopping is getting the time aspect of your reporting correct. Almost every assignment has a different way of verifying the time on your report. So unless you pay particular attention to how the assignment wants you to report the time, you could end up being very frustrated when you sit down to complete your paperwork and find you didn’t keep proper track of the time when you were on-site.
Know Before You Go. First and foremost, to avoid any surprises at the assignment location, read the assignment requirements very carefully before you “go shopping.” Pay very close attention to the timing requirements. Some assignments merely ask for the time you entered and left the location. Others want to know how long you waited in line, how long it took one staff member (or multiple staff members) to help you, how long it took for your food to be served to you, and so on. So there may be multiple events you need to know the time of.
To make matters more complicated, some assignments ask you to keep track of the start and end times, and some assignments simply ask for the cumulative number of minutes you were in the store, waiting in line, and so forth. Perhaps one of the most frustrating requests for mystery shoppers is to keep track of time down to the exact second. With so many other things shoppers need to be paying attention to, it can be almost ridiculous to very inconspicuously determine the number of seconds you were waiting in line. Your event of waiting in line inevitably “stops” at the point the salesperson is helping you, which isn’t really a good time to add up the seconds or make a mental note to yourself! However, if you know the requirements before you go, you will be able to prepare for this event mentally and plan out your strategy.
Bring The Right Equipment. The different timing requirements can be satisfied most easily with different equipment. For instance, an assignment that merely wants you to make note of the hour and minute of entrance and exit can be handled quite easily and very inconspicuously with a simple cell phone or wrist watch.
If, however, you need to keep track of seconds – and most especially for the time down to the second of multiple events during one assignment, it may be best to get a stop watch. Many stop watches are designed for runners to keep split times, or their time for each lap they run around the track for instance. You can keep a stop watch with a split time feature tucked away in your purse or pocket and simple click on the split-time button at the appropriate points. Just be sure you are pressing the right button, as you most likely will not be able to physically look at it while you are on-site.
Keep Notes. There are points throughout many assignments when you can take notes on a paper or in a PDA without the staff becoming aware of what you are doing. For instance, if you need to check the bathrooms or the dressing room, simply break out a pen and paper when you are tucked away unseen for a minute or two. You can write down any notes you need to, including the time you entered the store, the number of minutes it took for someone to greet you, and so on. Then, when you emerge from the dressing room, restroom, or so on, you will be able to complete your shop with a blank slate to keep mental notes of the other items you need to remember.
While it may be more suspicious to break out the paper and pen in front of staff, you can certainly break out the PDA or even cell phone and start typing your notes away at almost any location in the store. Just be sure to act like you are texting a friend, or checking off items on your PDA shopping list, or some other activity that would otherwise be normal in a store or restaurant.
Timing on assignments can be tricky. But if you know the requirements before you go and plan ahead to strategically keep track of the time, you will be able to keep track of the time without any stress!