What do Mystery Shopping Companies do?

Mary McMahon

Mystery shopping companies are companies which specialize in providing mystery shopping services to their clients. These companies may focus on a particular industry or area of interest, or they may provide mystery shopping services for a wide variety of industries and companies. Such companies are often members of trade organizations which promote standards across the industry to ensure that services are kept at a high level.

Secret shoppers may fill out online forms and surveys in relation to a store's service quality.
Secret shoppers may fill out online forms and surveys in relation to a store's service quality.

Mystery shopping services revolve around sending out a person to act as a “secret shopper.” This person enters a business, posing as a regular customer, and makes a number of purchases. The secret shopper uses this experience to evaluate the company, providing feedback about the quality of the customer service, the layout of the store, and so forth. The idea is that the secret shopper will be treated like a regular customer, giving him or her a good idea of how the company treats real customers, in contrast with someone who is obviously entering a company to evaluate it, in which case he or she will generally be shown the best side of the employees.

Mystery shoppers might be tasked with evaluating product availability in stores.
Mystery shoppers might be tasked with evaluating product availability in stores.

Companies contract with mystery shopping companies to provide ongoing services, or for a specific job. These companies are either concerned about their customer service, or wanting to keep customer service standards high. They pay the mystery shopping company to send out secret shoppers and return detailed evaluations of their companies, customer service, and products. Typically multiple shoppers are sent out to get a wide spectrum of evaluations.

Many people find the idea of being a mystery shopper appealing, because they get paid to shop and they get to keep the items they buy. Unfortunately, a number of scammers have taken advantage of this, charging people to “register” as mystery shoppers, or telling people that they will be reimbursed for purchases and then never cutting a reimbursement check. People who want to work as mystery shoppers should look to listings of mystery shopping companies to find legitimate companies with a good reputation.

Mystery shopping companies post job opportunities in a variety of settings. They usually hire people for each new job, rather than maintaining a staff of shoppers, although dependable mystery shoppers may be contacted first when a new job comes up. There are no special job requirements to work for mystery shopping companies, although it helps to have good communication skills and the ability to generate a detailed evaluation of an experience.

Mystery shoppers are hired to covertly evaluate a retail company.
Mystery shoppers are hired to covertly evaluate a retail company.

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