Get Paid To Shop and Eat - Mystery Shoping Jobs (Earn $10-$50 Pr/Hr) - Become Mystery Shopper Today!!

"Customer Satisfaction: 'Mystery Shopper' Provides A Trained Eye For Local Businesses"

By JOHN FITZGERALD Of The Gazette Staff

Service, cleanliness, product quality, all are the angels of the service world. And when those angels turn to devils, they need to be exorcised quickly and cleanly.

To do this, a business needs a trained eye to survey the store and report back. That's what Kurt Hughes provides - a trained eye.

Hughes runs Quality Service Assurance, but his job has a cooler name - mystery shopper. Businesses hire Hughes to buy their product, then report back about his experience.

"How often has a waitress asked you 'How was your meal?' " Hughes asked. "You always answer 'Fine.' It's a rhetorical question. Even if you did give her an honest answer, it doesn't get back to the cook or the manager. My response goes straight to the boss."

Many large corporations employ mystery shoppers, "but they're large companies to look after other large companies. I asked myself, who's going to look out for the little businesses? The answer was, nobody."

So, after working for a major mystery shopper company, Hughes started his business six months ago. This came after previous stints running a program for the handicapped, working as an outfitter, running a convenience store and promoting international hunting trips.

Hughes offers his service to many types of businesses, including retail stores, restaurants, convenience stores and motels. He employs six other mystery shoppers, two adult males, two adult females, one male teen and one female teen. He uses them for return visits, or when the store he's been hired to canvass isn't appropriate for a middle-aged male like himself.

Hughes offers three services:

  • Mystery shopping evaluations. Everything from cleanliness and service to the state of the parking lot is described in a form. While the mystery shopper will rank the services from one to 10, the key to the form is the narrative section, Hughes said.

    "Each business is different, and each shopping experience is different, so trying to make that conform to a form is difficult," he said. "That's why I meet with the owner or manager and customize a form to meet their needs."

  • Customer satisfaction and loyalty surveys. "These are done after the purchase," he said.

    Most common is a form sent to the buyer in the mail, but most effective is having a male and a female standing outside the door of the store. They ask if the store had what they were looking for, if it had what they weren't looking for, and if the service was good.

    "If you catch them when the experience is fresh in their mind, you'll get the lowdown," Hughes said.

  • Competitor evaluations. "A lot of times it's not kosher for the manager and owner to go into a competitor's shop to check things out. First of all, it's like spying, and second, if someone notices them in their competitor's shop they'll say 'Hey, they're eating the other guy's food and not their own'."

But it doesn't stop there. One company hired Hughes because the owner had heard a competitor was badmouthing his store to customers. Hughes checked it out. He found that the rumors were false, which gave the owner peace of mind.

Peace of mind is a common reason he is hired, Hughes said. Many owners and managers want to know what's going on when they're not there. This is one way to keep tabs on the employees.

The process of examining the store begins when he gets out of the car, he said. Is there sufficient parking? Is the lot and building clean? Is there appropriate signage? At night, is the sign lighted?

Once inside, he looks at the floors, tables and windows to see if they're clean.

If it's a restaurant, he'll look closely at the menus. "Are they clean? How many times have you gone into a restaurant, opened the menu and there's a big blob of ketchup stuck in the middle?" He'll look to see if there are enough items on the menu and if they're fairly priced.

Hughes will check the bathrooms to see if they're clean and well-stocked.

If he's checking a hotel, the experience starts on the phone with a reservation. Is the clerk well-spoken, friendly, knowledgeable and organized? When he checks into the hotel, is he given the price quoted to him on the phone?

He checks the rooms for cleanliness. "Often I see that quarter-inch of dust running around the edge of the carpet where the vacuum cleaner won't go," he said. "Don't you just hate that?"

At all stores, he checks the service. Are the employees on task? Are they doing what they should be doing?

Do they seem happy or surly? "How many surly people have you seen waiting at restaurants lately," he said. "It drives me nuts."

And there's upselling. "That just goes to the bottom line," he said of the practice where a waitress will ask you if you want a drink before dinner or a dessert after.

How is the product quality? Is the food good? Are the shelves well-stocked? Are the prices legible?

The last page of Hughes' evaluation form is a blank page that he and the owner can use to add items specific to that store.

If the owner asks, Hughes will target his evaluation toward a specific employee or shift. "One owner was concerned about his Sunday shift because he doesn't go in on Sundays."

One thing he won't do is check the company for theft. There are other companies that will do that, he said.

One of Hughes' customers is Scott Prociv, the owner of Hotspring Portable Spas.

"It helps us to have fresh eyes," Prociv said. "It's a way to see what it's like for the customer to buy a product when there's so many 'me too' product out there, like coffee, pizza, whatever. You need somebody with a new, fresh look to come in and gain data on our product and what they see and what they experience when they shop."

It's not one thing, it's a lot of little things, Hughes said. "It's a smile, bringing a drink to the table, having the manager greeting customers, a phone call after the purchase of a big-ticket item. It's all these things."


DAVID GRUBBS/Gazette Staff

Kurt Hughes, left, gets a smile from Brian Thompson at the Rocket Burrito restaurant in Downtown Billings. Smiles are important to Hughes, who runs Quality Service Assurance, a “mystery shopper” company. Merchants hire Hughes to visit their businesses, posing as a regular customer, and then report back on his experience.

BBB Online Reliability Program Trust Guard Security Verified Trust Guard Privacy Verified Trust Guard Business Verified Trust Guard Certified Hacker Safe

Mystery Shopper Jobs - Sample Questionnaire - Testimonials - FAQ - Order Now - Affilate Program
About Sarah - Terms of Use - Earnings Disclaimer - Privacy Notice - Contact Us

Copyright Mystery Shopping Jobs. All rights reserved.