10 things to avoid when entering your mystery guest survey

10 things to avoid when entering your mystery guest survey

danger thin ice

You’ve applied for and been awarded the job, and you’ve gone and completed your super-sleuth work (having taken meticulous notes).  Now it’s time to enter the results.

Piece of cake?  Should be, but often this is the point where mystery guests (also known as mystery shoppers, or phantom shoppers) can come unstuck.  Here are 10 things to avoid when entering your survey.

1. Write in full sentences. 

I’ve seen a lot of mystery guest companies refer to writing in full sentences in their training material.  What I glean from that is this is quite a common problem.  Bear in mind that the final client may not always get to see the questions but just your answers.  Hence, the emphasis on full sentences.

If the survey question asks something like “How would you describe your interaction with the sales assistant?”,  it can be tempting to put your answer as: “friendly and helpful, discussed the options”.  What mystery guest companies want to see, however, is more like “I found the sales assistant to be friendly and helpful.  I asked for assistance with x product and they took me to the relevant part of the shop and showed me the different options”.

2. Check the naming protocol and be consistent         

By ‘naming protocol’ I mean the way you refer to the person you were dealing with.  Some companies are happy for you to name the individual others prefer the person’s title such as ‘staff member’, ‘sales assistant’.  “Fred showed me three options” versus “the staff member showed me three options”.

3. Do not refer to a previous experience or another store

Each report needs to be stand-alone.  Avoid referring to your previous experience if you’ve been a mystery guest with that business previously on a different job, eg. “like last time, they were slow to serve me”.  Similarly, comparisons with another store are not helpful.

4. Check spelling and grammar

In all things, imagine that you are completing the report to submit to your English teacher rather than your ‘m8s’.  Avoid abbreviations and SMS-inspired content. It’ll make your life gr8  ; )


Unless you’re using capitals for a well-known acronym, it’s best to avoid them.  OTHERWISE THEY MAY THINK YOU ARE SHOUTING.

6. Don’t assume the reader knows what you’re experiencing

The whole purpose of a mystery guest survey is to get your perspective on the customer experience with a particular business.  As you complete the survey, try to join all the dots and fill in the gaps.

Don’t make assumptions about the reader – rather just give a detailed account of you found the experience.  It may be, for example, that the reader has never visited the particular store and/or may not know the staff.

7. Write in the past tense

To borrow our text from point one, avoid writing in the present tense: “I find the sales assistant to be friendly and helpful.  I ask for assistance with x product and they take me to the relevant part of the shop and show me the different options”.  Your mystery guest visit happened in the past, so make the text express that.

8. Try to avoid “see above”

I have to admit, there are various mystery guest surveys I’ve filled in where I found the questions incredibly repetitive.  If you find yourself in this situation, read the questions again.  There is usually a subtle different between the two questions.  Whatever you do, avoid writing “see above”.  If you really think the questions are identical (can happen), copy and paste the text from the duplicate question, rather than putting “see above”.

9. When you give an answer of “no” (or “yes”), explain it

Because client service experience can be open to interpretation, you need to explain what you mean when you’ve indicated that something did or didn’t happen.  For example, if the survey says “did the sales assistant greet you in a friendly manner?”, you need more than a “yes” or a “no”.

Explain what they did that made you feel they were friendly.  Did they smile or make eye contact, what did they say to you?

10. No speculation, no apologies for circumstances, just descriptions

Occasionally as a mystery guest, you’re going to come across a business performing badly for whatever reason.  Particularly in Australia, we’re not always inclined to lay the boot in if someone appears to having a bad day.

While mystery guest companies definitely want you to be objective and not overly critical, avoid the temptation to rationalise why performance was good or bad.  “They didn’t serve me for 10 minutes but that’s because the boss was difficult to work for”.


If you’ve done the hard work of attending the mystery guest job, don’t let yourself down with how you complete the survey – this is often the only thing mystery guest companies have to judge you on.  Avoid the 10 mistakes above and you’ll be well on your way to completing good reports and being offered mystery guest jobs again and again and again.


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