Mystery Shoppers look like regular customers
May 1, 2024

Everything you need to know about becoming a Mystery Shopper

Occasionally one of the news programs will run a story on Mystery Shoppers, saying how it’s easy money, quoting three-figure payments and generally making us wonder why Gina Reinhardt bothers with mining when you can get paid to shop. So if it’s not free overseas trips and a salary that will land you in Forbes magazine, what is Mystery Shopping, really?

The first result in a Google search says “Mystery shopping is a tool used externally by market research companies…” On the Above Benchmark application to join our Mystery Shopping team we ask people “In your own words, what is mystery shopping?” Responses that begin with the Google answer are trashed. It’s not just that they’ve copied and pasted the answer, it’s that they haven’t read the question correctly in the first place and that is a huge part of being a Mystery Shopper. We want the answer to be in the applicant’s own words. If they missed the very first instructions we gave them, they are bound to miss more. 


So what is Mystery Shopping really?

Mystery Shopping is a professional measurement of the actual customer experience against the client’s expectations. We have a varied list of clients and, according to the client-determined timeline, we send our Mystery Shoppers to their stores/restaurants/businesses to assess their service levels. 


Mystery Shopping is not an opinionated review of your shopping experience. It’s not the time for you to be a difficult customer or use emotive phrasing in the survey form. While regular shopping is fun, carefree, and led by impulse or need, Mystery Shopping is purposeful and led by the client-chosen guidelines. 


Why do people become Mystery Shoppers?

The flexible nature of Mystery Shopping means people from all walks of life are drawn to it and their reasons are varied. It may sound cliche, but most long-term Mystery Shoppers do it because they like helping to improve customer service. Some do it because they like an unstructured work environment where they can choose their own hours, fitting it in around family and work commitments. A lot do it because of the extra money it provides, which is just as valid a reason. However, the most successful Mystery Shoppers do it for all of the above reasons. 


Why do companies do Mystery Shopping? 

There are many reasons a company may wish to begin a Mystery Shopping program. Some may have specific issues they wish to explore, such as a restaurant receiving poor reviews on their dinner service. While others may just want a better understanding of their customers’ experiences. Whatever the motive, Mystery Shopping enables companies to view their business through the eyes of a typical customer. 


Why do companies outsource their Mystery Shopping? 

Business-to-business services exist because clients realise they need expert assistance. Why struggle to design your own survey? We can do it for you, drawing on our vast experience and resources. Our reporting platform is second-to-none and delivers real-time results. We have thousands of Mystery Shoppers on our database and, between them, they visit hundreds of stores every month.  

Before coming to us, many clients have attempted to conduct their own Mystery Shops, setting out questions in a Word doc and using friends and family to assess their business. The results are always unusable because the questions aren’t designed correctly, they soon run out of people to use, and the results are skewed because the friends and family have little incentive to be thorough and objective. Outsourcing Mystery Shopping to a reputable provider means the program will run smoothly and accurately, with little input necessary from the business. 


What’s involved in Mystery Shopping?

A Mystery Shopper will visit their assigned store, make a specific enquiry, and assess the level of customer service based on the criteria we provide. When the visit is complete, the Mystery Shopper fills out their survey form. The same general pattern can also be applied to restaurant visits, phone and website enquiries. 

How does Mystery Shopping work? 

At the start of the month, we list the surveys we have available and our Mystery Shoppers apply for whichever ones they would like to do. We then assign the surveys and our Mystery Shoppers read the guidelines, instructions and survey form so they know how to conduct their Mystery Shop. Once they have completed their visit and submitted their survey on our reporting platform, our Quality Assurance Team checks the survey and processes it for our clients. At the end of the month, we collate and analyse the results for our clients and they discuss these results with their team. 


What tech do you need to be a Mystery Shopper?

Mystery Shopping has come a long way since shoppers had to fill out hard copies of survey forms and post them back to the companies. Now, all you really need is your smartphone and wifi. Here’s a list of tech you need to successfully complete your Mystery Shop: 


  1. A smartphone. You can access the guidelines, instructions and survey form on our mobile-friendly reporting platform. There are so many smartphone apps that make Mystery Shopping easier. You can take written notes in your Memo app or voice notes in your voice recorder app. You can take a photo as proof of your visit, which many Mystery Shopping assignments require. 
  2. Your phone is also how we will contact you with urgent Mystery Shops or questions about your submitted surveys. 
  3. A computer. While not a necessity anymore, it sure does help to have a proper computer on which to comfortably view your instructions and fill out your survey form.  
  4. A printer. It used to be a requirement to print the survey form and take it with you to fill out as soon as you were away from the location you were assessing. With the advent of smartphones, it’s not as pressing to print out the survey form; however, we still find it the easiest and best way to record everything.


What skills do you need to be a Mystery Shopper?

  1. Discretion: Don’t take the “mystery” out of it and tell everyone you know about your new hobby. If you tell Sally from playgroup you can guarantee she’ll be in the next store you assess and will say loudly “Are you mystery shopping?”
  2. Good report writing skills: You should have a strong grasp of the basics, such as sentence structure, grammar, etc. However, we can help you develop this as our Quality Assurance team provides feedback on every submitted survey. 
  3. Objectivity: A Mystery Shop is completely separate to you and your opinion and emotions; it has no impact on you and it’s not personal. Therefore, the comments on your survey form should be factual and correct.  
  4. Good interpersonal skills: Interaction with staff is a key aspect of Mystery Shopping. You need to communicate well, and also use manners and common courtesy. This goes for every interaction you have with our company. The way you interact with our admin team is a good indication to us of what you’ll be like during a Mystery Shop. 
  5. The ability to read and follow instructions. Seriously, we’re not joking. If you skim and make assumptions, this is definitely not the job for you.
  6. Patience: A lot of Mystery Shopping is waiting: waiting for job releases, waiting to be assigned, waiting for paperwork, waiting for service, waiting at the register, etc. It’s important that you have patience. If you’re easily annoyed, please don’t pursue Mystery Shopping. A real red flag on reports is “I can’t believe I had to wait 5 minutes for service!” 

What does Mystery Shopping mean for you, the Shopper? 

  1. It’s pocket money. You will get paid between $15 to $50 per job, with the standard payment being around $20. In most cases, you will be responsible for working out the tax and declaring your income. You don’t need an ABN to do assignments, as long as you complete a Statement by Supplier form from the ATO.
  2. There’s effort involved. If you want to get the best jobs and work frequently, you will join every company out there and check their websites on a daily, if not hourly basis, constantly refreshing in the hopes of seeing new work. Some companies (like Above Benchmark) list all of their assignments at the start of the month and assign in bulk, but a lot of other companies will release jobs seemingly at random.
  3. It’s fun! Come on, what other job pays you to shop? On any given day a Mystery shopper can have lunch comped, buy something nice for themselves in a homewares store, pick up something at the pharmacy they need, try on some nice shoes and get paid for it all.
  4. BUT, here’s point two again: when you get home you will have to enter the results of the surveys, which can take between 5 and 30 minutes, depending on the company and type of assessment. If you’re good at writing and typing, it will be a breeze!
  5. It’s important. Sure, the shoppers find it fun, but it’s serious business. Companies rely on these results to understand what’s happening in their stores, which is why we are so insistent on the importance of following all of our instructions.
  6. Which leads us to our fifth point, it can’t be faked. You are being trusted to follow instructions, conduct the survey, and submit an objective report. Real people will read the report and be impacted by it, so be fair and honest.


What does Mystery Shopping mean for our Clients?

A Mystery Shopping program can be invaluable for any business that depends on customers as it provides an unparalleled understanding across their tiered service levels.  

It’s a detailed tour of the customer’s experience in the business, through the objective view of a trained Mystery Shopper. 

It’s data-gathering guided by custom instructions and questions. A regular Mystery Shopping program will provide the answers to specific questions about the business. 

It’s a great way to identify what’s wrong with your customer service, but also what’s right with it. Our Mystery Shopping programs focus on the positives, so our clients Team Members embrace their Mystery Shopping Program. 

It’s flexible. We customise monthly Mystery Shopping programs to what’s happening in our clients businesses. If they have a promotion or need to collect new data to help decision making, we build it into the program.  A good Mystery Shopping Program should be able to change with the business and remain fresh. 

It can be used for training purposes. Mystery Shopping results are perfect for training new staff and even franchises. 


And what does it mean for us, Above Benchmark?

Mystery Shopping is the core offering of our business and has been for the last two decades.  

Mystery Shopping Providers have two groups of people to satisfy: our clients and our Mystery Shoppers. At Above Benchmark, we acknowledge that equal attention and value should be attributed to both.

We’re the experts. Both our clients and our Mystery Shoppers should trust that our experience in this industry will get them the results they need.

For clients, this transpires into real-time results, increased customer advocacy, and sales growth. 

For mystery shoppers, this is seen in our smooth systems, clear instructions, and quick payments. 

Improving the experience of customers will lead to more in-person retail and dining. We are shifting towards more online purchases and at-home dining, and risk losing the art of customer interaction. To us, Mystery Shopping is the way to improve the experiences of customers and to provide a critical point of difference between online and on location service. 


Is Mystery Shopping a legitimate thing?

Heck yes! Every industry conducts Mystery Shopping all over the world. We have a professional association that reputable Mystery Shopping Providers are invited to join. Above Benchmark is a long-standing member of the Mystery Shopping Professionals Association in the Asia-Pacific region. 

How to tell if you’d be a good Mystery Shopper: 

  1. You enjoy shopping
  2. Meeting new people is a highlight of your day
  3. You give people the benefit of the doubt
  4. People have said you have an eye for detail
  5. You manage your own time and can work to a deadline
  6. Customer service is important to you
  7. You have posted a Google or Facebook review to acknowledge good service
  8. Constructive feedback is a good thing 
  9. ‘Grammar’ is not your relative and punctuation is your friend
  10. You realise Mystery Shopping is a hobby and don’t expect it to be a full-time or regular job


Here’s how to apply for a Mystery Shopping role with Above Benchmark: 

Please click on the application tab. If we accept your application, you will move on to the next step, which is a quick and informal phone interview. 


What we’re looking for on applications:

We receive thousands of applications from potential Mystery Shoppers and can’t read every single one. Therefore, we look for potential shoppers in the areas where we already have clients. Some applicants are an immediate no, where it’s obvious we’re just a ticked box on a Centrelink requirement. While others may go in the “trash” pile if they’re ridiculously brief, lack basic sentence structure, or we identify a deal-breaking character fault (it happens). 

  1. A good rule of thumb is to make it your own; we ask for your answers to our questions on the application form so we can get an idea of who you are. We’ll not only know if you copy off Google, but we’ll also know that you can’t think for yourself and prefer shortcuts. 
  2. If you think our application form is too long… please don’t continue. The same team who brought you our survey forms also designed the application form, so it provides a good example of what to expect.
  3. Likewise, we chose every question for a reason, the same as our survey forms. If you question the validity of what we are asking, then please hit the x. 
  4. Please take the time to write well. Read over your comments to ensure you can understand them and if there’s any other detail you can add. If there are mistakes in your application, or it’s too brief, we will assume your submitted survey forms will be of the same poor quality and will not accept your application. A one-word answer on your application form gives us insight into the effort you’ll put into your Mystery Shopping reports. Thanks, but no thanks. 

How to help get us to notice your application: 

We love honest application forms where your personality shines through. Above Benchmark values our shoppers as people, not numbers like other Mystery Shopping Providers. We want to hear your local paper featured a story about you saving a koala. We also want to hear about your hobbies or love of camping with your family. 

Also, if you have Mystery Shopping experience, be sure to provide examples, while maintaining company and client confidentiality of course! Listing the types of businesses you’ve assessed is great, but actual comments about those visits is what will make you stand out. 


When will you hear from us?

Our shoppers are hired only when we have work available in their local area, so submitting an application does not guarantee work. We often contact applicants weeks or even months after they submit their original application. For that reason, we keep applications on file for several months. In the event that we do have work available, we find potential shoppers in the area we are looking to fill, and carefully review their application to ensure they are a good fit for the clients we have in their area. It’s essential that your application shows that you have the ability to write reports well. 


What if you’re already a Mystery Shopper, but want more assignments? 

  1. Ask for more work (we can’t always make it happen, but an email doesn’t hurt)
  2. Ask for feedback on how you can improve   
  3. Submit within the deadline (and if you really want to impress us, submit early in the allowed timeframe. Our Quality Assurance Team love it when shoppers don’t leave everything to the last day)
  4. Submit within 24 hours of conducting your survey
  5. Follow all of our instructions about how to conduct surveys
  6. Write concise reports that convey what happened without making us feel we’re reading Moby Dick 2.0
  7. Communicate! If something happens, email us to let us know. We’re not mind-readers and always welcome the opportunity to correspond with one of our shoppers
  8. Stand out to us: reply to our newsletters, comment on our social media posts, send us a nice text or email in response to one of ours 
  9. Reply to us using the same method we reached out to you. If we send an email, respond by email, a text for a text, and so on. We often communicate via email so we have a written response that we can refer to down the track, if necessary 
  10. Realise your submitted surveys affect real people. You can’t describe the Team Member as “dumpy” or that they “didn’t even know anything about the product.” A person is going to read this report and we need to be factual and fair, not personal and critical. 


There are thousands of Mystery Shoppers working on a regular basis for Above Benchmark and, in general, they seem like a happy bunch, so the fun must outweigh the effort. Well, for our Mystery Shoppers anyway!



Take action and apply to be a Mystery Shopper

If you’re still here reading and we’ve sparked your interest, then head to our application form and start telling us about yourself. Remember, it’s an application, not instant access to all of the Mystery Shopping jobs! Start here


Take action and implement a Mystery Shopping Program into your business

If you’ve stumbled upon this article and you’re looking for a Mystery Shopping program for your Australian business, we’d love to hear from you. Here at Above Benchmark, we make Mystery Shopping simple. We help our clients design their ideal customer service experience. Then we have our professional Mystery Shoppers evaluate their customer service so we can compare it to their benchmark.

We live and breathe customer service and have been designing unique Mystery Shopping programs for almost 2 decades.

If you want to grow your business through better service and experiences, contact us today.

Simply call 1300 400 716 and let us help you achieve above your benchmark.


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