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Mystery Shopping New Year’s Resolutions December 31, 2012

Posted by Ann Michaels & Associates in Uncategorized.
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With 2012 winding down, it’s a good time to reflect on the year and plan for the upcoming year. Hopefully your mystery shopping work was successful in 2012. Maybe you just started in the industry and 2012 was a year of learning. Whichever category you fall into, now is a great time to get ready for 2013.

Here is your end of the year “to do” list to make yourself 2013-ready:

1. Update profiles: now is a good time to take a look at your profiles you’ve set up with mystery shopping companies. Are they current with the correct address, phone number, and email address? If you work with Sassie companies, is your profile set correctly to receive email notifications when shops are available? Due to issues with ISP’s in the last year or so, some shoppers have reported that the “do not email” option is checked on their profiles, yet they DO want to receive emails. Take a look to make sure you’re not missing out on any opportunities.

2. Reassess: take a look at which companies you currently do shops for. Which are the most profitable or consistent? Are there others that haven’t had work in a long time in your area? Shop availability changes on a regular basis – while you have a few minutes of down time, take a look at JobSlinger or your favorite message boards to see which companies have work in your area that you didn’t know about before. JobSlinger is a great tool to use for this purpose – search by zip code and mileage radius to find companies with shops in your area. If you’re not registered, take a few minutes to do so! New work means more opportunity in 2013.

3. Find ways to increase your workload: many shoppers say that they don’t get enough shops to make it worthwhile. Sometimes they’d be willing to do shops, but they’re a bit father than they usually travel so financially it’s not worth it. Spend some time learning about route shopping and how it can work for you. It does take some elbow grease, especially in the beginning when you’re establishing routes and stronger relationships with schedulers, but it can be well worth it.

One key tip to remember is that if you’re interested in grouping shops together, and you see a shop that may fall outside of the date range you’ll be shopping in, it doesn’t hurt to send a quick email to the scheduler to explain that you’re creating a route and wanted to see if other dates are available. While this isn’t always flexible, sometimes shop dates can be adjusted. This is a benefit to both you as a shopper (you can get more shops) and schedulers (they are getting a shop filled, and research shows that typically shoppers who schedule route work are more likely to complete shops and be more reliable). Read Facebook, message boards, and forums to learn how others successfully route shop.

4. Get immersed in the industry: there’s a lot to learn in the mystery shopping industry, whether you’re new or been shopping for years. Here are some places to get more information and learn about ways to make your work life better:

* Volition: one of the oldest and most popular forums for mystery shoppers. These shoppers provide a wealth of information on how to conduct shops, which companies are great to work for, and other tips and tricks.

* Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA): offers a forum for shoppers and helpful information on the industry. Certification is provided through this association.

* IMSC: this coaltion was started with the goal of educating mystery shoppers throughout the country while providing a network system for those who  mystery shop. The IMSC offers educational conferences three times per year – if you haven’t attended a conference, you may want to make this a goal for 2013. We have attended several conferences and have thoroughly enjoyed meeting shoppers! I have heard of several shoppers who, through careful planning, conduct shops during their travels to and from conferences, making it even more worthwhile!

What are YOUR goals for 2013? All of us at Ann Michaels & Associates would like to THANK YOU all for your hard work and dedication to our industry this year – we certainly could not do it without you! We wish you health, happiness, and success in the New Year!

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The Anatomy of a Shop Rating December 26, 2012

Posted by Ann Michaels & Associates in Uncategorized.
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Written by: Kristin Garvey, Independent Account Manager at Ann Michaels & Associates

When you submit a report, the editing process begins. An Account Manager reviews your report answers against your essay and reads through your essay to catch any writing mistakes or information that contradicts the report information. After the shop is sent to the client, you are emailed a score and comments for your report. While mystery shopping companies differ in regards to the score range, we score reports from 1 to 10. 10 is the highest rating you can get. Your report doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be excellent and contain all required information. A score of 1 is the lowest score you can get. This score is generally only given when a report cannot be used for various reasons. So, how do Account Managers determine your score?

Was your report on time?

If you report was late, and you did not email your Account Manager to request an extension or reschedule, your report will be docked. Account Managers certainly understand that things happen in everyone’s life and the due time cannot always be met. However, it takes seconds to send an email letting the Account Manager know that you need more time to submit a shop. Doing so ensures that the Account Manager will not dock your score because the shop was late. If we have to email you for status, or you simply submit hours after the due time without notification, your score will be docked. Report due times are listed in several areas of shop offers, shop instructions, and report documentation.

Did you run a spell check?

If there are spelling mistakes in your essay, your score may reflect the problem. One spelling mistake isn’t a big deal; however, if your essay is littered with errors that need to be corrected, that is a problem. Even if you run a spell check, you should always read your essay out loud. You would be surprised at what you will find. Sometimes, spell check does not catch words that are real words but are not appropriate for the sentence. You can catch those types of errors by reading the essay before submitting. Also, if you use Firefox instead of Internet Explorer, spelling mistakes are automatically underlined in red. Very handy!

Did you include all required aspects of your visit?

The shop guidelines, shop comments, and accepted email all explain what is required in the essay. If you do not follow the instructions, and there are missing aspects regarding your visit, more than likely, your score will be docked. For instance, for one of my clients, I actually have a bullet point type list in the accepted email and shop comments regarding all of the information that is required to be in the essay. If the shopper does not provide all aspects of the information, the rating is lowered for not providing the required information. If a large number of items are missing from the essay, more than one point may be subtracted.

Are you being specific enough?

If your report information is vague, your score will be lowered. For instance, if you write, “I asked to try on a pair of boots. The employee returned with the boot, and I tried it on. I asked questions, and the employee answered them.” That is very vague. In order for me to send specific information to the client, I would need to email the shopper to ask for more information. Since the shopper was at the store, only the shopper knows what actually happened.  The above information tells me nothing of what really happened during the visit. A better way to write the above would be, “I asked Sally if I could try on the ACME waterproof boots in black. Three minutes and two seconds later, Sally returned with the boots. I asked Sally about the material in the boots. She explained that the boots had a durable rubber sole and that the rest of the boot was made with Gore-Tex, which would keep my feet dry and comfortable.” As you can see, that information is detailed and tells the story of the interaction.

Did you explain your negative ratings?

This is a biggie. If you rate anything with “no” or a rating that is less than “excellent,” that rating is a negative rating. That means that you MUST explain what was wrong with the item in the essay. You have to justify that rating. If there was nothing wrong, even if you weren’t overly impressed, the rating should be “excellent.” If there was something wrong, rate the question according the ratings guidelines and then explain the situation in the essay. Even if your rating is only “no” and you assume that the issue is self explanatory, it’s not. You MUST explain your ratings. For instance, if you need to answer a question regarding if the employee answered a phone call with the correct greeting, and you answer no, you need to explain that rating. You could say something like, “John answered the phone by providing the store name and location and his name. However, he did not offer his assistance.” If you were not upsold an item after ordering, you would write in the essay, “After I placed my order, Sue did not offer any additional items or ask if I wanted a larger size.” If you do not explain your negative ratings, your score will be docked, and more than likely, you will be emailed for follow up.

Do your ratings match your essay information?

There are so many times when shoppers simply do not double check their ratings against their essay information. I recently edited a report where the shopper wrote extensively about all of the alternative styles that the employee recommended during the visit; however, she rated the question regarding if alternative styles were suggested with “no.” That mistake could have easily been avoided. If there are issues where your report answers or timings say one thing and your essay provides contradicting information or a different timing, your score will be docked. Your Account Manager may also ask for follow up to confirm timings or answers.  If we have to question which version of your visit is correct, that calls into question the validity of all of your observations and/or report information. We cannot take the chance of sending the client inaccurate information, so the report may be excluded.
Is your writing of good quality?

We don’t expect shoppers to write novel worthy essays. However, we do expect shoppers to write in complete sentences, using professional language with proper punctuation and capitalization.  Here is an example of poor writing: “I didn’t evan get thru the door before this lady came up to me and said hey how ya doin and asked for me order. I ask hur if I could have a sammich but she wouldn’t give me no extra stuff on it like I ask she was meen. the srvce sux at this place and I not comin back.” You may think that’s an exaggeration, but sadly, it’s not.

What it really comes down to is the less we have to touch your report, the higher your score will be. If we have to send you emails because your report was late, you did not provide specific information, your ratings did not match your essay, or there were missing explanations for negative ratings, we will have to dock your score. If we have to rewrite portions of your essay due to poor writing, your score will be lowered. However, if you provide an essay that contains acceptable writing and all required information regarding your experience, and you submit on time, you can expect to see a higher score. A higher score means more future work! Also, shoppers that score 10’s are often entered into a drawing for a gift card prize!

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