What is Mystery Shopping?
It’s a method of research that’s used by a wide range of organisations whereby someone poses as a real customer, and then follows up by preparing a report about their experience – this person is the “Mystery Shopper”.
What is it used for?
The information in the report is used by organisations to help them better understand the customer experience and monitor their performance. Information provided in the report is objective and balanced highly accurate and often very detailed. The information can then be used to help the organisation to see where it needs to improve, for example through staff training, or through better systems and processes.
How much can I get paid, and can I do this for a main income?
Mystery Shoppers are paid for each report that they prepare. Our rates of pay are far above average and among the highest in the country (£15-£40 per report comprised of cash and/ or goods to that value – depending on the particular assignment). However, Mystery Shopping is realistically only able to supplement a person’s income. The availability of work can be very changeable.
What skills or qualifications are needed?
There are no mandatory formal qualifications required. However there are specific attributes that are essential, and that are not very common. As well as being highly literate (in the English language), shoppers must have all of these attributes:
- Reliability, honesty and diligence (always completing any assignment you accept and doing so on time and to the highest standard possible)
- Organisational skills and punctuality. You must be able to plan ahead, make commitments and be able to keep them
- Presence of mind, clarity of thought and concentration
- Self-confidence in every day face-to-face dealings with people.
- Ability to keep a cool head and remain objective and professional even when under pressure
- Attention to detail
- A very good memory – for detail.
- Basic computer literacy
- Access to a computer or tablet and regular internet access.
Indeed, Mystery Shopping is something that’s appropriate for people of all ages (18 and over) and backgrounds, but it is really only suitable for those who possess the attributes above “in spades”.
What does each job involve?
Each assignment will be different. In each setting, you will “act” like a normal customer, ask questions to staff, and probably choose and order some relevant goods or services. In some cases, the assignment will require you to act out a very specific scenario (e.g. ask a particular question or present a particular problem). Each assignment will present a new challenge, and this is both exciting and rewarding (and often slightly nerve-wracking). As the “shopper”, you need to remember, and act upon the precise instructions you’re provided with, and yet make sure that you’re not revealed as a Mystery Shopper. This can be quite a challenge! – especially when you start out.. but it quickly gets easier.
What are the best things about mystery shopping?
Mystery Shopping is stimulating, rewarding and exciting. If you are a diligent, organised person who’s passionate about good service, this is a way for you to help improve standards in businesses in your local area. It can provide a real sense of satisfaction, both when you spot things that are being done well, and when you know you’ve identified something that a business manager or owner is probably going to want fixed. It is also surprisingly mentally challenging, in terms of observation skills, memory, and the ability to multi-task, and it also helps you to develop (or tune up) your commercial awareness.
What are the worst things, or any “catches” that I should know?
Really, the answer here is.. the flip side of the best things about Mystery Shopping. There can be a lot to remember, and the requirements for how each visit is carried out can be extremely specific – but instructions must be strictly adhered to.
Also the reporting that follows straight after each visit must be completed fully, clearly and accurately, without mistakes, and without inconsistencies. This can take significant amounts of time and requires real concentration.
It is essential that clients are not let down in terms of speed of delivery or the standard of reports. Mystery Shopping (with Customerwise) is an activity that’s only suitable for those who are fixated on quality and accuracy.
Do I have to spend my money on products I don’t want?
No. You will not be required to spend your money on goods that you don’t want, unless with specific assignments this is reflected in an allowance for reimbursement of your expenses, or a suitable amount being added to your fee.
Every assignment is different, with different compensation as well as instructions. You’re able to see the details of each job (and ask any questions if you need to) before you choose which you accept and which you don’t.
In some cases you may need to make purchases as part of the assignment. Where the transaction is fairly low cost there may be a specific allowance (where you’ll be reimbursed based on your receipt up to a specific value), or your “fee” will be set higher to allow for an amount for you to spend within the store as you choose. In other cases (especially higher value transactions) you will be required to make a purchase (and you must have the available funds to do this if you accept the assignment) but you are given the ability to return the goods for a full and immediate refund.
Who chooses which assignments I carry out?
You do. You will be offered assignments via the online Shopper interface. The assignment descriptions will clearly explain what is required, where, when, and the fee and any allowances on offer for each assignment.
You will be offered assignments based on the information we hold on file for you. The more relevant information we have about you, the more able we will be to offer you suitable assignments. The choice is always yours though to accept or reject each assignment that is offered to you. We do ask that (once you are registered as a Shopper) if any assignment is offered but is not of interest to you, you should reject it at the earliest opportunity, so that it can be offered to other Mystery Shoppers.
Do I need to have my own transport?
Not necessarily, but if you do have we may be able to offer you more assignments. When you register as a shopper we’ll ask you how far you are able to travel from your home (as well as usual days and times of availability).
Do I get paid travel expenses like mileage and parking?
Depending on the assignment there may be a mileage-based travel and possibly a parking allowance available. This will be made clear on the details for each assignment, before you decide whether to accept or reject the assignment. The details about your availability and range will be used to consider whether you will be suitable for new assignments in your area as they come up.
Will this become my “job”, and what about tax and national insurance?
No, this is not employment. Mystery Shopping is an activity that is carried out on a self-employed basis. When you register with us you are agreeing that if you carry out assignments for us, it will be as a self-employed contractor (and once registered, you will then choose whether to take on each piece of work individually).
As a self-employed contractor, invoices are generated monthly in accordance with the assignments that have been carried out (the fees for these together with any relevant allowances) and you are paid in accordance with these invoices. You are responsible for accounting for your income to HM Revenue and Customs, and for paying any income tax that may be due. We recommend that you obtain advice from a qualified accountant if you are at all unsure of the processes and relevant requirements. Customerwise cannot provide assistance with the preparation of accounts or any HMRC paperwork.
I’ve heard about scams involving mystery shopping: reassure me!
The scams usually involve potential shoppers paying a fee in order to be given preferential access to lucrative or high value shopping assignments. We would recommend that you never pay a fee to anyone to register for Mystery Shopping jobs and we certainly would never ask for one.
Why am I asked to give personal information, and if I provide it, what is this used for?
We ask for shoppers to provide as much relevant personal information as they are willing to provide when they register. This is stored securely using the world-renowned Prophet online Mystery Shopping system. It is not shared by us with any other organisation and clients have no access to your information.
We ask for the information purely and simply to help us to offer you the most suitable assignments.
How do I start the process?
You go here and begin the process by providing us with some of your information, and confirming your agreement to the simple contractor agreement.
Can I take other people (adults or children) with me on assignments?
This again may be possible (or even required) on a case by case basis. For a visit to an attraction, it may be a requirement for the shopper to have a family and take young children. For other assignments, it will be a requirement that you go alone.
What if I need to cancel an assignment?
If you are not able to fulfil an assignment after you’ve agreed to do so, we ask that you inform us directly at the earliest opportunity. This can be done within the system, and we ask that you also email us at email@example.com
What is the process for being paid?
At the end of each month, an invoice will be created (this is an invoice from you to us, but we prepare this for ease and send it to you to check) for the work that has been carried out in the previous month. After you check that this invoice is correct, you will receive payment covering all fees and any allowed expenses in accordance with receipts that have been provided with each report. Our preferred method is Paypal, but we can also offer payment directly via BACS, into your bank account.
What equipment do I need?
You need to have regular access to a computer and the internet including email. A mobile phone with the ability to take photographs of reasonable quality might also come in handy. Other features on a smartphone might also come in handy for recording notes during assignments, but these should be used discreetly.
I have another question!
If you have any other questions, please feel free to get in contact with us directly using firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll come back to you as soon as we can with an answer.
Are you a bona fide company? Why should I trust you?
Yes, we’re a bona fide limited company. Our UK company number is 234523908 and our VAT number is 2342309. The company is run and owned by experienced company directors with a solid track record of profitable trading and no history of insolvency. We reliably pay our Mystery Shoppers and otherwise operate with honesty, openness and integrity.