How to become a mystery shopper for the first time and what happens when your application is accepted
Many bloggers promote mystery shopping as an easy way to earn money. Something Mums and Dads can do whilst being a stay at home parent. A way of earning money that is flexible enough to fit in with your commitments and lifestyle. I have not written about how to become a mystery shopper previously as I had no experience of it.
My full time job takes up too many hours and leaves me with little energy to think about side hustles. I have concentrated my money making time on maximising our savings and the income we receive from them. This involves moving money around between high interest bank accounts, ISAs, Self Invested Personal Pensions. And of course taking advantage of bank sign up bonuses
A change of plan
In the spirit of not encouraging anyone to do something I haven’t I decided to become a mystery shopper and signed up to one of the better paying offers. It is offering £50 for an hour’s work! By putting myself through this I can report back to you in real time how it works, what you can expect and how it went.
I have never undertaken mystery shopping before as I thought it was mainly eating out which meant needing a babysitter. And I presumed because we live in a provincial town not a city that these things would be very adhoc and involve too much travel. Indeed if that is the case then I didn’t want to be handing over my private information to a bunch of market researchers never to hear from them again.
I found out about this mystery shopper opportunity via emmadrew.info She wrote about it as part of her Money Making Course and this opportunity was on lesson 5 – thank you Emma!
You need to have a reasonable credit record as it involves mystery shopping on behalf of a bank/building society. I think it is a one off so if I don’t enjoy the experience I don’t expect to be inundated with requests for further events.
How to become a mystery shopper 1st stage
The process started by clicking on the link Emma provided in her free Money Making email Course. I had to answer a series of financial questions as well as providing my personal details. You need to be comfortable in offering up the information they ask for otherwise you are unlikely to get screened in. The questions include:
- Which banks and building societies you bank with
- Whether you have credit cards
- Your annual household income
It did not ask for any bank details, just who you had accounts with. I felt this was fairly harmless information as anyone looking at my credit record would be able to see the footprints left by my accounts.
Having filled out the survey and submitted it I promptly forgot all about it. I received a call out of the blue 2 weeks later from the research company. They asked me a few more questions and then offered me the opportunity to carry out a mystery shopper event for a bank/building society I already bank with.
- Confirming whether I had an account with X
- What type of account it was (joint or single)
- If I had an overdraft on the account
- Whether I had a credit card with them
Then they explained what the mystery shopping gig was about. I had to apply for a product with this bank/building society in person. It had to be a product that will involve leaving a footprint on my credit file (this will be removed later).
Customer service levels
The bank/building society are looking to find out about the services/products I am offered and how I am dealt with. I guess as with most service companies there is probably a script staff must follow. So they are likely to be looking to see how this is adhered to. The company will also have customer service standards no doubt. This is where customers should be provided with a certain level of service, not easily checked on a 1 to 1 basis.
I know when I shop in Asda the underneath of the till lids often have a check-list on there. Have you ever seen this? If you read fast enough it shows you what they are supposed to cover with every customer. It’s called their Happy to Help criteria. It includes:
- Friendly greeting
- Asking if you need any bags,
- Asking if are you ok packing or would you like some help?
- A friendly parting comment (have a nice day etc!)
If I was doing a mystery shopper gig in Asda then I reckon I’d be checking against that list!
It seems I passed this round of questioning because the researcher then explained in more detail what the bank/building society wanted, what I needed to do and when they wanted it to happen.
My first step after agreeing to become a mystery shopper for them was to make an appointment via the call centre. I was given prompts in advance by the researcher as to what to say to ensure I was given a face to face appointment. These days you can do an awful lot of banking activities online and I needed a face to face appointment.
Once I had booked the appointment I immediately phoned the researcher back. They confirmed they would send out the information pack to ensure it arrived 2 days before my appointment. This gives me a chance to look through what is being asked and be comfortable with the scenario. The researcher will also phone me the morning of the appointment to run through some easy do’s and don’ts.
So far this gig has taken up 20 minutes of my time. The appointment is expected to last up to an hour. Then you need to factor in travel to and from the branch. Luckily it’s only a couple of miles and I can park for free. Indeed if it’s not raining I will probably walk. Get some fresh air, exercise and do my bit for the environment by not using my car for a 30 minute walk.
Although the researcher said it was basically £50 for an hours work, realistically its more likely going to be 2 or more hours work. There are 3 phonecalls, completing the survey paperwork and getting to and from the appointment. Then you have the appointment itself.
On the plus side, I booked the appointment to suit my availability and I took the calls at home at my convenience. So I will be making money during time that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to monetize.
So far, this has felt like a very easy way to earn £50. Even if it takes me 2 hours total to complete the mystery shopping event I will earn more than my hourly salary and it is in addition to my job. I get to experience it on behalf of you, so you can decide if it’s something you would be interested in.
Next steps are:
- receive the survey paperwork
- speak to the researcher on the morning of my appointment
- attend my appointment and stick to the script I’ve been given
- complete any paperwork afterwards
Once I have completed the mystery shopping event all traces of the product I applied for will be removed from my credit file. The bank/building society will return it to the same state it was before I started this process. The researcher was very clear about this both in the initial telephone call and the follow up call so I am feeling reassured about this.
About to apply for a mortgage or financial product?
I wouldn’t suggest undertaking this type of mystery shopping if you are shortly to apply for a mortgage or banking product for yourself. Your credit record probably takes a couple of weeks to be updated. You just don’t need the hassle for £50.
I don’t intend to apply for any new bank accounts, credit cards or mortgages in the foreseeable future. I’m not worried about an extra search noted on my credit file. It’s only for a short while.
I am feeling slightly awkward with the mystery shopper meeting with the bank/building society staff member . I feel I will basically be meeting them under false pretenses. If they don’t stick to their training and script then in this instance their senior management will find out.
I hope that the person undertaking the event is not identified or reprimanded if they fail to cover all that they should. The point of mystery shopping should not be to catch out employees. It should be about ensuring a good level of customer service across the company. Hopefully the staff member does a great job. I will know more about what to expect when I receive the information pack.
So that’s the first part of how to become a mystery shopper. I shall let you know how it goes!
Have you undertaken a mystery shopping event like this before? How did you feel?
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