The confession of a one-time Secret Shopper

February 27, 2019

My name is Deb and I was a Secret Shopper

At a time when my main job (and hardest job) was a stay-at-home Mom, I scoured the internet for ways to make a little extra money. I filled out countless surveys, only to learn at the end they were no longer looking for anyone in my “age bracket.” I entered a ton of contests, writing endless testimonials. Later on, I studied up on my coupon skills hoping to become TLC’s next Extreme Couponing guru. Ultimately, my biggest success was as a Secret Shopper.

What is a Secret Shopper?

A Secret Shopper is someone sent “undercover” to pose as a potential customer. As an undercover shopper, one has to painstakingly provide detailed notes. In fact, I would run to my car afterwards and start writing down as much as I could for fear I’d forget. The questions ranged from the time it took to greet me to the friendliness of the sales rep. I described their appearance, their tone of voice and even our eye contact.

What can you expect to learn?

Bob Negen from Whizbang Retail Training wrote, “Using a secret shopper program is our favorite way to find out what kind of experience your customers are REALLY having…even when you’re not around.” He suggests hiring one to get information on the following:

  • Store appearance, inside and out.
  • Daily housekeeping standards.
  • How soon (or if!!) your employees greet the shopper.
  • Your employee’s general appearance and attitude.
  • How well your employee matched the customer’s need with your products.
  • If you had the products in stock that your customer wanted to purchase.
  • If your employee attempted to add on to the sale.
  • Whether the sale was properly completed and correct change given.
  • If the employee invited the customer to join your loyalty club.
  • If the employee said, “thank you.”
  • The shopper’s overall opinion about the shopping experience.
  • ANY OTHER standard that you expect your employees to keep.

Are they effective?

Yes! Just knowing there could be a potential shopping spy wandering about is enough to keep your sales team on point. Likewise, make sure you have the “shopper” visit on a day you’re not in the store so you’ll get the best representation of your employees.

To tell the truth, I never felt completely comfortable. I am a lousy faker. I wear all of my emotions on my sleeve for all to see. One time I even took my kids along to look a bit more believable. The bottom line, if you want specific information about the effectiveness of your sales team, hire a Secret Shopper. It was a great study in sales techniques. As an undercover shopper, I learned so much about what to do and definitely what not to do. Because I was required to answer a lot of questions, I paid really close attention. After all, no details meant no paycheck. If I’m gonna lie (pretend), I at least wanna get paid for it!

Deb McGonagle

I have been a writer for various forms of marketing for over 40 years. I've written my share of radio and TV scripts, magazine and newspaper ads as well as direct mail brochures and newsletters. Currently, as the Marketing Coordinator for Traxia, home of SimpleConsign software, I've moved into blog posts, eBooks and website text. It's been an ever changing and ever challenging journey but I've loved it all along the way.