Recruiting capable mystery shoppers is no doubt the key factor for a successful mystery shop, especially in bank shops where the subject matter can be very complicated and levels of customer interaction open-ended. With this in mind, listed below are 10 tips based on 35 years of conducting bank and credit union mystery shops.

Planning Tips

  1. Recruit 25% more shoppers than you require. Rule of thumb is for that every 4 potential shoppers at least one will not meet the requirements.
  1. Tap into multiple sources (e.g., Kijji, colleagues, associations) to ensure you get quality shoppers. I pay $25 for any referral, assuming they work out.
  1. Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA) is an excellent source to find high end shoppers. Most members are self-employed, well versed in interviewing and analysis. And “Find a Consultant” lists consultants according to location, language(s) spoken and market/industry specialty.
  1. Avoid asking field houses for support, unless they give you the ok to brief and debrief the shoppers directly.
  1. Keep an eye out for a shopper to help you recruit. This is especially important for remote location. (Recently, I needed shoppers in Paradise and Heyden located near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. I pulled in one of my Sault Ste. Marie shoppers to recruit for me. Through word of mouth and contacts she was able to find shoppers for these remote towns.)
  1. Whether posting an ad on Kijji or asking contacts for referrals, be very detailed in the requirements the shoppers must meet (e.g., if you are doing a High Net Worth shop, spell out the minimum amount of invest-able assets and investment experience the shoppers needs).

Screening Tips

  1. Start by sending each potential shopper an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement), requesting that they email back a signed copy by next day. Those who don’t are ruled out.
  1. Email each of the remaining prospects a time and day to brief them. Have them confirm availability by next day. Those who take longer than a day to reply are ruled out.
  1. When you brief the shoppers, pay attention to any hesitations they express or conflicting information they provide. You need to be super vigilant, otherwise you risk shoppers tipping off branch staff, and ruining the integrity of the study.
  1. Once you’ve narrowed your list, have your shoppers each do a simple trial shop, such as calling a bank’s or credit union’s contact centre. This way you can get a real handle on the prospect’s ability to follow instructions and complete a survey. You may need to pay them for their time, a small price for the peace of mind it will give.


Mystery shopping requires very delicate handling. Not only are you assessing people in their jobs but the feedback is based on a third source the mystery shopper versus the customer. The importance of being careful and thorough in your recruiting can’t be over emphasized.