Posted By Jacob Jans, Editor

How Mystery Shopping Taught Me My New Job

Written by dspeakes

After running the wheels off my car for two years as a mystery shopper, I finally decided I needed to find a “real” job – I was spending too much time in the search for work, planning routes, doing the routes, doing the reports, and then being wiped out with exhaustion the next day. So I started applying for part time jobs that would provide some steady income, but also leave open the possibility of doing some mystery shops when I felt like it. I needed to take some of the “frantic-ness” out of the process.

So I got a part-time job at the local auto parts store. I have never worked retail before. I’m an accountant. I’ve been a desk jockey for 40 years. I knew nothing about working retail. And I am an introvert. I worried I would want to hide in the back when customers came in.

I hadn’t reckoned on what mystery shopping has done for me.

It has forced me to look people in the eye – so I could see if they were making eye contact or not.

It has forced me to accept offers for help, instead of looking for things myself – so I could see if the clerks were seeking me out and offering help.

It has forced me to be glad to hear “Welcome to Widgets R Us” as I came through the door – because I knew I could give a clerk credit for greeting me within 3 or 30 seconds of entering, whichever was their standard. It has forced me to endure the cheerfulness of others – so I could give them credit for being cheerful in their greeting.

It has forced me to count “one ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingies” when I call a store – so I can report that the phone was, indeed, answered within three rings.

It has forced me to pay attention to how extroverts interact with customers.
It has forced me to notice if the floor is clean, the window ledges dusted, the doors and windows clean of fingerprints, the restroom is stocked and clean.

It has taught me how to be a good sales clerk.

I started this job just four weeks ago. I have learned that my chain does not hire mystery shoppers – they send members of management out to mystery shop the stores, both in person and on the phone. But I work as if any customer could be a mystery shopper.

Because they could be. I have no idea what the managers look like who might come in to shop my store, while my DM or manager shops theirs. The only people I’m pretty sure are not mystery shoppers are the ones who come in with a cell phone glued to their ear – because mystery shoppers don’t use cell phones on a shop.

Our greeting standard is to drop what we are doing and greet each customer within 30 seconds or 30 feet of entry. Our phone standard is to answer in three rings. Our service standard is to ask each customer what they are working on, and proactively help them find what they need.
And I nail it. If a customer slips past me because I was occupied with another, I go hunt them down in the aisles when I finish and ask, “Can I help you find something?” I listen to their descriptions — sometimes not very technical descriptions — of whatever is ailing their auto that day and look up the parts, and make suggestions, and (more often than not in these early days of the job) get someone with more knowledge to help — while I listen attentively so that maybe next time I won’t need to ask for help.

If I see dust, I clean it. Now. Without being told. Without waiting to see if someone else might do it first. I just do it. I take pride in the appearance of that store. I am constantly facing and fronting shelves, making sure the displays are stocked, that items are in the correct place, that shelf tags are visible. When the phone rings, I break out in a sweat if I can’t get to it within 3 rings (sometimes I’m just too far away).

My boss and co-workers didn’t have to teach me to do these things. Mystery shopping did.

And this week, I have four days in a row off and I am going to go do a route for the first time in a month, because I’m going through withdrawal and because I want to keep those skills sharp. Because being a good mystery shopper has made me a good customer service representative for my store and I want to stay that way.

I’m loving that job at the auto parts store, because mystery shopping has made me confident in my interactions with customers by forcing me to really see things from the customer’s point of view AND management’s point of view, simultaneously. I still have a lot to learn about what makes a car go, but the customer service part of this job? I own it.

Oh, and the employee discount will help pay for those wheels I’ve been running off the car doing mystery shops!

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