Perhaps one of the biggest headaches for mystery shoppers everywhere is the timing requirement on mystery shopping assignments. After all, you have a lot of details to keep track of and remember from the time you walk into a shop location until the time you leave, and watching the clock at various points during your site visit can be a big annoyance. Yet timing is a critical element in how the retailers and providers analyze a mystery shop as well as the store’s staff, so it is very important to get the timing aspect of your assignments right. Not to mention the fact that your entire mystery shopping report may be discarded if your timing is shown to be inaccurate, which may result in loss of pay for you! Here’s what you need to know about timed mystery shopping assignments:
Each Assignment Is Different. Some mystery shopping assignments just need to know what time you entered the store and what time you left. Other mystery shopping assignments require far more detail, and may ask how long you were in the store before being approached by a salesperson, how long you were in the fitting rooms, how long you waited in line to check out, how long you waited to receive your food at a restaurant, and so on. Matters become even more complicated when the requirements want to known the time down to the second for each of these events that occur. You may be tempted to fudge the minutes or seconds, but in many cases the information you put in your report is verified by on-site security cameras. Fudging your report by even a few seconds may result in the nullification of your report.
Before you enter your mystery shopping assignment site, double check your assignment requirements and make sure you understand everything you need to time while you are there, and also how the timing should be done (by minutes, seconds, and so on.)
Make Your Life Easier With The Right Equipment. Whether your assignment requires the most basic timing information or the most detailed, your job will be infinitely easier if you invest in a simple wrist watch with a split timer feature. A split timer is designed for runners to keep track of the time on each lap around the track. It is designed to be easy, so the runner can start tracking the time on another lap with a quick touch of a button. Likewise, a split timer can easily be used for mystery shopping, giving the watch a quick tap during each separate section of your site visit, such as when you enter the store, when you are approached by the salesperson, and so on. Using a watch with a split timer feature can make your mystery shopping assignments much easier, especially those assignments with multiple time requirements.
Learn The Art of Note Taking. Mystery shopping is of course a job where you have to lie low and be incognito. You need to blend in with the other customers and not stand out from the crowd. But this does not mean that you cannot write things down during your assignment. How many times have you fiddled with your cell phone and sent text messages while you’ve been in a store? How many times have you entered a store with a shopping list? Shoppers are always writing things down, and mystery shoppers can, too. You can write down any number of things while you are mystery shopping, from names of store associates to all your timing details. The trick is to learn to make whatever you are writing down appear as though it fits in with the normal activities of a shopper. You can walk through a store and send yourself a text message that reads “2 min 10 seconds to greet,” followed by “3 min 28 seconds in fitting room.” The good thing about texting notes to yourself is that your cell phone will ring to notify you when you receive the message you just sent to yourself. So it will actually seem to others as though you are sending and receiving messages to someone else.
If you are taking notes with the old stand-by of pen and paper, make sure you are inconspicuous about it. Avoid being blatant about your actions by looking at your watch and then scribbling furiously on a notepad. Instead, look at your watch and make a mental note to yourself of the time, and then a minute or so later act like you are checking your shopping list for something.
Perhaps the timing of mystery shopping assignments will always be a headache, but you can make your job a little easier with the right equipment, skills, and strategy.