How to Start a Mystery Shopper Business

How do business owners make sure that their employees are creating a wonderful experience for customers? Through the use of mystery shoppers. A mystery shopper will engage a business, purchase products, and be compensated for their time and expenses in return for a full experience report. If you want to know how to start a mystery shopper business, then you must be willing to do undercover surveillance in conditions that may not always be favorable.

What’s the advantage of starting a mystery shopper business? The capital that is required to start it. Most mystery shopping businesses can be started for less than $2,000. Because this is your own business, you can set up your own appointments, work your preferred hours, and keep work at part-time levels.

Why Are Mystery Shoppers So Important?

Many business owners, especially retail and restaurant owners, are concerned about the wrong kind of theft. Security personnel are hired to stop shoplifting or people who eat and then leave without paying the check, but nothing is done to keep an eye out on employees. When it comes to retail loss, $20 out of every $30 lost is caused by employees and not shoppers.

A second consideration is the overall experience that a customer receives. The average customer doesn’t put a negative review online or make a complaint to the manager. They’ll vote with their money and spend it elsewhere if they have a negative experience. Mystery shoppers can engage employees in a natural way to determine how positive or negative the customer experience happens to be.

Every business can take advantage of the reports that a mystery shopper can provide. This means that as long as you have a talent for observing things and be able to provide accurate reports that are based on facts instead of opinions, you’ll be ready to take on a business opportunity to provide mystery shopping services.

What Is Needed to Start a Mystery Shopping Business?

Some jurisdictions see a mystery shopper as being a private investigator. In this instance, you’ll need to become licensed and certified. This could be an extensive process that may include certification in a number of different fields, including self-defense. Most jurisdictions don’t have any restrictions in place. As long as you have filed for your business license and have a trained eye, then you’re ready to begin working.

Mystery shoppers will also need a computer or a tablet PC that will help them compose reports. Some businesses will hire mystery shoppers and have a specific set of online fields that they’ll want filled out. Having software to compose documents is also helpful and some customers may wish to have spreadsheets filled out with specific observations that were made about certain employees. Some businesses accept oral reports, but putting all reports in writing will help you to secure payments that may not have been paid upfront.

Some companies may wish to hire you to take pictures or video of your experience as well. This will provide them with visual evidence of what is actually happening when they are away. You will receive specific tasks to complete from someone wishing to hire your business to provide services. If you don’t have a camera, video recorder, or other data collection devices available, then you won’t get the work when it comes in.

What If You Hire Employees?

Some mystery shoppers may try to hire independent contractors to get around the hassle of paperwork that is associated with employee hiring, but ICs aren’t really feasible in this environment. An independent contractor cannot specifically be told how to complete a task, so giving instructions to fulfill for a mystery shopping client could violate that rule and have the taxing authority view you as an employer anyway. You will want to file for a taxing ID if you think you’ll need to hire people.

Many mystery shopping businesses can be run out of a home office, but you’ve got to be careful about doing this. Many neighborhoods and communities have rules about who can stop by a home during the day. Having regular appointments may be against the zoning code and would require you to have a commercial location. Check with your local clerk’s office to check on specific zoning codes that may apply to you.

You’ll also need to hire people that are very good at blending into the background. A successful mystery shopping business is able to visit the same company multiple times without really being noticed or remembered. This is especially important because you’ll often be required to ask employees some specific questions on every visit.

Quality Feedback Provides Quality Results

The #1 priority of a mystery shopping business is to provide companies with the quality feedback that they need in order to respond to potential issues that are happening. Without precise feedback, a company won’t have precise results that can be utilized. Modern business mandates that not a single customer can be lost to bad service, so your ability to observe behaviors will provide the quality results that are needed.

It is important to remember that mystery shoppers are not being hired to change behaviors. They are being hired to observe behaviors and turn that into usable data. This means you must also be able to provide reports that are grammatically correct, precise in language, and punctuated accurately. One misspelled word or misstated item [like say “is” instead of “isn't”] could change the entire report and cause a business to inaccurately respond.

Businesses can’t compete on price 100% of the time. Customer service is a contributing factor to the modern shopping experience. By knowing how to start a mystery shopping business, you’ll be able to provide a company with the services and supports that are needed to respond to an ever-changing environment. Every industry can use mystery shoppers, so use this information to get your business started and then enjoy the chance to work outside of your office all day.