Mystery Shopper Magazine is pleased to present the fifth in a series of mystery shopping scheduler interviews. In this issue, we bring you the scheduler, who is well known for his humorous email titles, such as, “I’m Going To Learn Spanish and Assign All The $5 Spanish Phone Shops For Monday To Myself! Apply While You Still Can!”, “Oh, Hello There Friday $4 Phone Shops! Didn’t See You Come In!” and “Tuesday is Billy Zane’s Birthday! Forgot To Get Him A Present? I Heard He Likes $4 Phone Shops!”.
MSM talks with JoelF, Scheduler for Shoppers’ View:
MSM: Could you please give us an overview of your life before you entered the world of mystery shopping?
JoelF: I was born and lived in Muskegon, Michigan for the majority of my life, living a relatively unnotable existence until high school, where I won the Math Achievement Award (which is, admittedly, rather mundane, but it leads into my next point). As a result of my academic achievement, I received a scholarship to Michigan Technological University in Michigan’s sunny Upper Peninsula, where I pursued a degree in technical communications.
After earning a bachelor’s degree, I opted, of my own free will, to be unemployed for a considerable amount of time. It was during this fully voluntary downturn that I met my extraordinary and very wonderful girlfriend. She had applied for a position at a mystery shopping company, Shoppers’ View, which we were worried might be a scam (as we had never heard of mystery shopping before), but turned out to be a fully legitimate enterprise. During this time, I began to bore of the carefree life of abject poverty and started doing on-site mystery shops to grocery stores and the like. One thing led to another, as they say, and here I am today.
MSM: What led you to the job of scheduler for Shoppers’ View, why did the job appeal to you and how long have you been in the position?
JoelF: I initially got a job at Shoppers’ View as one of the evaluators for the funeral home shops that we all know and love. After about a year, the position for scheduler opened up and I was offered the job, since I knew the ins and outs of the client. Also, because I had a good deal of technical ability, I was able to improve the efficacy of the scheduling process considerably. I’ve been scheduling since about mid-2013, so it’s coming up on two years.
The job is appealing for a number of reasons, including that it’s rather challenging and has a great deal of variety in the work required. As another plus, when a series of locations get their overall score high enough, I get to put a little gold star next to their name in our system, which is surprisingly rewarding; it’s nice to see how much the associates can improve their scores after a few months of being shopped. I’d like to think that we’re making things easier on grieving families by bettering the customer service standards for the industry, so that’s what I try to take home at the end of the day. Also, money.
MSM: Shoppers’ View has a wide range of clients, which includes auto dealerships, restaurants, grocery and convenience stores and cash advance shops as well as the $4.00 notorious Spanish-speaking, recorded funeral home phone calls. We cannot help but wonder how you became the designated $4.00 Spanish funeral shop scheduler. Why and how long has this been your sole assignment and what are your biggest obstacles to overcome, por favor?
JoelF: Firstly, to clarify, actually only a very small portion of our $4.00 funeral phone shops are conducted in Spanish; the largest majority are done in plain ol’ Queen’s English. Secondly, I wouldn’t want to take sole credit for the exploits of the sizeable funeral shop team here at Shoppers’ View; while you may see my name on the emails, we have a team of skilled evaluators that review the shops, multiple assistant schedulers that help with some of the side tasks, and supportive managers that keep the behind-the-scenes aspects in check.
This client can sometimes be difficult to schedule for, given the funeral home associates’ propensity to service multiple locations, (not all of which we’re familiar with). Usually these “groupings” are pretty obvious though, when you run into, “Hey, didn’t I just talk to you five minutes ago, and it was your uncle that died, not your cousin?” Besides the groupings, the biggest obstacle to scheduling for this client is the fact that we do multiple shops for the same location per month, every month. So, for example, there are a finite number of mystery shoppers that live in Snoqualmie, WA and once they’ve all called the locations, we have to widen the net, so to speak, to get the shops filled. Thankfully, we have so many skilled shoppers who do their homework before calling, that we can usually send people a couple states away without anyone raising an eyebrow (or at least, I can’t tell if their eyebrows are raised, as these are phone shops).
MSM: Last September, you were nominated for the “Scheduler of the Year” contest on the Mystery Shop Forum. The nominator described you as “a laid back, easy going guy”, adding how much they enjoyed the humorous titles of your emails. More recently, a thread was started on the forum, which quoted members’ favorite “Joel F” titles. http://www.mysteryshopforum.com/read/2/399591/399591#msg-399591 How do you come up with these fun titles and how effective are they in getting the shops scheduled?
JoelF: Most people say I have a pretty good sense of humor, which I suppose is true. It’s usually pretty easy to come up with the email titles, although I’ve really only been doing them consistently for the last couple months (on and off before then). Occasionally, someone will take offense, so I might ease off for a few days, but lately I think even some of the nay-sayers have come around.
As far as how effective they are in getting people to apply, I wouldn’t know for sure. I do get plenty of emails from shoppers, thanking me for livening up their inbox, but most of these include the caveat of, “I have no intention of doing these shops, but…”, preceding their praise. Either way, considering the subject matter of these shops, I think it’s worth it, if only to lighten the mood.
MSM: What things do shoppers do that propel you from being “a laid back, easy going guy” into becoming “a raving manic scheduler”?
JoelF: Realistically, most of the things that shoppers do on these shops aren’t a big deal to me. Last year, a shopper botched a shop so badly that it kind of set the bar for what I consider a “bad” shop. The shopper had implied that someone would soon be dying at their house, then got nervous and hung up; the director, justifiably concerned that someone was in danger, notified the authorities. Thankfully we were able to clarify that it was just a big misunderstanding, and no one ended up in jail or on the news or anything. After this whole debacle, whenever an issue comes up, I just ask myself, “Are the police involved?” and if the answer is “No”, then I don’t worry about it too much.
The one thing that bugs me is shoppers, who get deactivated, then create alias accounts. Like we wouldn’t notice you sound exactly the same as that other person and have the same password and IP address. I even once had a fraudulent shopper use, as his fake name on a shop, his real name from his original deactivated account. Give us a little credit, at least.
MSM: What are the positive aspects of being a scheduler that outweigh the frustration and stress inherent in the job?
JoelF: The most positive aspect of being a scheduler is that I get to interact with so many interesting people. So many of our shoppers are down-to-earth, hard-working people, who are either unable to work full-time or just need a way to supplement their incomes. I know some schedulers are justifiably a little jaded with some of the shoppers out there, as indeed, there are the flakes, complainers, and scam artists. The reality is though, 99% of shoppers are just trying their best, even the aforementioned shopper who ended up having an unscheduled chat with the constable.
Whenever I get frustrated or stressed out, I take a minute to remember that these shops are keeping a lot of people employed here at Shoppers’ View, and is helping a lot of shoppers bring home the bacon (or your nearest equivalent kosher/halal foodstuff of choice). That, paired with improving the customer service that the bereaved receive, is good enough for me.
MSM: Okay, once and for all, for the members of the Mystery Shop Forum, could you please clarify, are you Joel F or Jo Elf?
JoelF: Rumors of my being an elf have been greatly exaggerated, I’m afraid; it’s “Joel F”. Although, I do get quite a few variations from shoppers, including but not limited to: Jeff, Jo, Joe, Joelf, Jelf, Jolf, Rolf (which is especially concerning, since there is no ‘R’ anywhere in my name), and Allen.
MSM: Joel, it has been such a pleasure to interview you and we wish you the best y esperamos que esto le trae un montón de candidatos. Muchas gracias!