Overview: Sales Quality Research Group (SQG) is a privately owned company, headquartered in Tempe, Arizona. It was founded in 1993 and incorporated in 1997 by Jim Rensel, the principal owner and President, and Dr. Kenneth Kehrer, a part owner. SQG provides research services for banks, thrifts and credit unions, as well as their brokerage firm and insurance company partners.
Payment is via PayPal or paper check, whichever is the shopper’s preference. As long as a
W-9 is on file, payments are made twice per month, approximately 30 days following report approval. SQG offers assignments throughout the US, sporadically. Currently they have shops available in AZ, CA, FL, HI, ID, OR, WA and UT. They expect to post a large project in the Midwest in 2015.
To register with Sales Quality Research Group: http://shoppers.salesqualitygroup.com.
To visit the SQG website: http://www.salesqualitygroup.com.
MSM talks with Suzette Drake, Field Research Director:
MSM: You entered the mystery shopping industry as a shopper and then eventually progressed to an editor and a scheduler. How did you happen to start mystery shopping and what led to this progression? If you will, please comment on what you considered to be the most difficult position and please explain why.
Suzette: I had been working in retail management for many years, when a good friend told me about something new she had tried — mystery shopping. She said she did not like writing reports and the “secret” aspect made her nervous, but, based on my background in journalism, she said she knew I would love it. When I agreed, she introduced me to a locally owned, San Diego-based mystery shopping company.
I worked full-time in retail management and also worked for the MSC at least one day per week. They did things a little differently; they had a base of local clients, in a variety of industries, and would set up routes for their shoppers to complete. In the morning, I would go into their office, pick up my route and review the instructions with the manager. I would then conduct the route, writing reports by hand after each stop, and return to the office to type up and submit reports. I also started working for a few traditional MSCs (via the internet, which was still relatively new at the time) to get a good understanding of the industry on a larger scale.
I had two young children, one of which had special needs, and was looking for a way out of the corporate environment. The idea of being able to work from home and have a flexible schedule appealed to me, but I could not replace my corporate income with solely mystery shopping earnings. I made a decision to create my own MSC.
Each position has its unique benefits and challenges. For example, scheduling is challenging since a scheduler’s performance is entirely dependent on the follow-through of the mystery shopper. For me personally, I found it difficult to maintain a long-term passion for being a mystery shopper. I loved the work (observing and writing reports, interacting with people), but being on the road for long hours, then coming home to write reports, was exhausting. In addition, the pace required to meet my financial commitments was tough to sustain, day-after-day.
MSM: In 2000, you started Extra Eyes Nationwide, Inc. with the vision of becoming a mystery shopping company. It appears your company gradually drifted from mystery shopping into the direction of servicing and supporting other MSCs, primarily Sales Quality Research Group. How did this happen?
Suzette: I actually started Extra Eyes Nationwide in 1998, under another name, while I was still working full-time in retail management. It took me two years to build a database of shoppers and garner enough clientele to make the business viable. In 2000, I incorporated Extra Eyes Nationwide and quit my traditional job to work the business full-time.
I marketed mystery shopping services to local companies, in southern California, by performing “sample shops” to demonstrate the service we could provide. By presenting those findings to the business owners, I was able to secure contracts in the retail, food service and hospitality industries.
In addition, when I had time, I continued to do mystery shops for other companies and that was how I was introduced to Sales Quality Group. I did a few shops for SQG and created a relationship with the Director. Because SQG works exclusively in the financial industry, (banks, credit unions, investment companies) there was no conflict of interest and we formed a mutually beneficial relationship.
When SQG needed help, they contacted me to staff projects and over the course of the next couple of years, as I proved my ability to meet their needs, they offered more and more work. Eventually, the work we were doing for SQG made up about 80% of our business and became our primary focus.
MSM: Ten years later, you closed Extra Eyes Nationwide and took a short hiatus before joining Sales Quality Research Group as Field Research Director. What are the responsibilities and challenges of your current position?
Suzette: My awesome colleagues, Bill, Valentina, Judy and I are responsible for facilitating projects from start to finish. That means working with the client during the inception phase (understanding their business and developing shopper protocols) and then taking the project to the field to recruit and schedule shoppers. I work with shoppers to help them complete the shops (instructions, etc.) and sometimes edit shops when they come in. Depending on our workload, we sometimes do all of this in-house or we bring on partners to help us with recruiting and scheduling. We currently work with Private Eyes Scheduling on some of our projects and we also have independent schedulers we can call on as needed.
MSM: Going back several years and researching SQG, on the Mystery Shop Forum as well as on other resources, it was pretty impressive to see how shoppers have consistently held the company in high regard. To what would you attribute this?
Suzette: At SQG, we have a sincere desire to create relationships with shoppers. We want our shoppers to like working for us and to keep working for us. We never forget that we can’t do what we do without our shoppers who are our “feet on the ground”. Personally, I am available to any shopper who might want or need to communicate with me, not just about a particular job they might be doing for SQG, but if they need help with any other aspect of the industry. We work very hard to ensure that shoppers can always reach a “live” person should they have any questions and are offered appropriate and timely compensation for the work they perform.
MSM: Obtaining MSPA certification is a hotly debated topic among shoppers. Many uncertified shoppers feel a long history of reliable shopping with an MSC should make certification unnecessary. What are your thoughts on this subject?
Suzette: While SQG does not require that shoppers be certified to work with us, there is no doubt that certification opportunities, such as MSPA, IMSC and Shadow Shopper, provide valuable information and tools to shoppers – especially shoppers new to the industry. Personally, I agree that actual experience should be accepted “in lieu of” certification. Practical application is valuable, as it is in any industry; a person who has been working in a particular field for four years would be just as valuable to a potential employer as someone who just graduated from college with a degree in the same field, but has no practical experience.
MSM: Suzette, we are not surprised to see why so many shoppers post comments such as, “Love working with Suzette Drake” and “Suzette is a delight to work with.” You and SQG seem like a perfect match!