One of the most common questions seen on www.mysteryshopforum.com is, “Can someone tell me the best companies to sign up with?” That question is very much akin to “Which do you like better, vanilla or strawberry ice cream?” It’s a subjective question and therefore, what is best for me will not necessarily be best for you.
As an analogy, in a previous life, I was an assistant manager at a bookstore. Someone would ask for a book on Microsoft Office. I would take them to the section and, invariably they would ask, “Why are there so many books on the same thing?” It’s because different people have different preferences in how material is presented. Being a photographer, I preferred the books that presented graphical images of the material. Others prefer text with minimal images. Still other people prefer some combination or another of both.
Here are some general guidelines that will help you discover your mystery shopping preferences, and put you on the path to achieving your goals. It’s not all inclusive, but will give the beginning shopper a good set of guidelines to get started.
- Give each kind of shop one or two tries before deciding not to do them. Also, just because you may not like a fast food shop for MSC “A” doesn’t mean that you won’t line the same kind of shop for MSC “B”.
- Be aware of the pay rate. Some shops are reimbursement only. Others pay a fee. Still others offer a fee and a bonus.
- Be aware of the kind of reporting you will need to do. Some reports are simple yes/no with little to no narrative. Others require lengthy narrative, often with sections for the “Department of Redundancy”. Generally speaking, the longer the report, the greater the pay, although this is not always true.
- The “best” companies are…completely subjective. It will depend on what kind of shops you like. I would recommend CORI, Market Force, Bestmark, and Sinclair Customer Metrics. I would like to reiterate the standard advice regarding CORI—don’t grab the shops as soon as they are listed. Give them a chance to sit on the board and let the fee increase.
- Sign up with as many companies as possible. Often a shopper will ask, “Who shops Taco Bell?” It’s a question we can’t answer because our Independent Contractor Agreements [ICA’s] prohibit disclosing the clients. Another reason is that often the same company is shopped by different MSC’s on different parts of the country.
- Don’t write off any MSC because they don’t have any shops in your area right now. Clients change and the MSC that has no shops in your city this year might have your favorite restaurant next year.
- Start slow. This is perhaps the best advice you can get. Don’t try to overload yourself in the beginning; give yourself the time needed to do good reports and get the information right. Good performance is one of the keys to being successful in this industry.
- Persevere. You have to want to succeed if you expect to succeed in this business. And don’t be misled, it is a business. If you treat it as a game, or as something “fun” to do, you will fail. This can be a fun occupation, but it needs to be treated as a business for you to succeed.
Good luck and happy shopping!