What is mystery shopping?
Your role as a mystery shopper is key to our success in helping our clients’ to achieve their goals. We rely on our network of mystery shoppers to provide us with reliable, factual, timely shop evaluations for all our clients. We look for a variety in age, gender, race, background and current work commitments for our shopping network.
Wikipedia offers an excellent description of what mystery shopping is: “Mystery shopping or a mystery consumer is a tool used externally by market research companies or watchdog organizations or internally by companies themselves to measure quality of service or compliance to regulation, or to gather specific information about products and services. The mystery consumer’s specific identity is generally not known by the establishment being evaluated. Mystery shoppers perform specific tasks such as purchasing a product, asking questions, registering complaints or behaving in a certain way, and then provide detailed reports or feedback about their experiences.”
If you’re a curious person with an investigative mindset, mystery shopping may be right for you!
Who is ath Power?
ath Power Consulting is an award-winning leader in Customer Experience Research and Mystery Shopping, particularly in North American financial services sector. We are the all-in-one resource for audit and mystery shop studies, survey research, market analyses, employee development and strategic brand planning. ath Power owns one of the largest panel of field representatives (mystery shoppers) in the nation, and we execute more proprietary banking audits than anyone in the industry. For over two decades, our fully customizable solutions have helped improve customer retention, build brand loyalty, increase profitability, and enhance performance and market share for a wide range of clients including the top banking, credit card, mortgage, insurance, investment, government, healthcare, and retail organizations across North America. ath Power is proud to offer customized solutions that can meet the needs of any client.
Does it cost anything to become a mystery shopper?
ath Power Consulting does not charge shoppers to sign up or to accept projects. Check the MSPA shopper website for information on scams and fraudulent agencies to avoid: http://www.mysteryshop.org/shoppers
There are many ways mystery shoppers go about their shopping routines. Mystery shoppers have varying degrees of involvement – it is all based on the reasoning behind why you’re mystery shopping in the first place! Check out a few of the reasons below why some people mystery shop.
Remember that for whatever reason and with whatever frequency you choose to be a mystery shopper, that you always treat your scenario with professionalism and the audit’s goals in mind.
Where can I view a list of available projects?
Once you have signed up, log into aNET. Next, select the Job Board option at the top of the page.
Within the Job Board, you can search for available projects based on country, state, or zip code. BE SURE you add in the number of miles away from the zip code that you are willing to travel.
The search results will display Map and More Info links beside each available mystery shop in order for you to learn more about the project. By clicking More Info a window will appear explaining the fee paid, how to apply, and more details about the project.
Is ath Power Consulting a member of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA)?
Yes. In fact, ath Power’s Executive Vice President, is the Immediate Past President and current Vice President of the MSPA.
What is an Independent Contractor Agreement?
In order to be considered for our shopper program, our online application and our independent contractor agreement must be completed. All mystery shopping companies require shoppers to sign an Independent Contractor Agreement which explains the terms and conditions of your relationship with the company. To view our Independent Contractor Agreement, click here.
Why do you ask for my SSN and will my information be kept private?
How much do I need to know about the banking industry before I apply?
Not all mystery shops offered by ath are for the financial industry, however it is our specialty. Financial industry mystery shoppers have varying degrees of industry knowledge. If you are new to mystery shopping financial institutions, you may want to consider a Platform or Teller shop as your first project. A Platform shop is when you would go into a bank and sit down with a banker to discuss a product. A Teller shop is when you go into a bank and conduct a transaction at the teller counter. You can learn more about banking by checking out the American Bankers Association website, or if you’re interested in learning more about the basics of banking products, Wikipedia offers a nice selection of terms.
Once I am assigned a shop, where do I find requirements on how to conduct it?
You can find requirements in the “Guidelines” link in your shopper log for any given shop you are assigned. To find your shop’s guidelines:
[See ‘what are shop guidelines’ below.]
What are shop guidelines?
You receive the official shop guidelines after you have accepted the project. Shop guidelines are usually one to two pages and are a means to communicate the parts of the mystery shop project, which may include:
Be mindful of the guidelines. If the guidelines state, “Do not enter the teller line, but instead wait to be greeted,” make sure you wait to be greeted and do not enter the teller line. Following each project’s guidelines without cutting any corners is necessary to provide a comprehensive and accurate evaluation of your experience. On each set of shopper guidelines we include with your shop acceptance email is the name and email address of the Scheduler who is primarily responsible for the program. You can contact them and ask them any questions/concerns you have anytime.
To find your shop’s guidelines after you have accepted a project:
How can I prepare for my first mystery shop?
Please familiarize yourself with the questions on your shop evaluation and what the client is seeking to determine. Read all shopper guidelines carefully prior to conducting your visit. Notify your scheduler with any questions or clarification you might need.
Pay special attention to the guideline’s Scenario and “Do Not” reminders as these are critical for the success of your visit. We cannot accept incomplete shop evaluations or shops conducted incorrectly. Remember to be confident about your scenario: where you live, where you work, and why you are interested in the product or service you are asking about. Be prepared to answer questions relative to your circumstances including family, banking habits and preferences and general financial information.
What do I do if I can’t complete my shop visit?
Remember that when you accept a project to mystery shop, you are committing yourself to the project. If, for any reason, you cannot shop the project, please inform us immediately so we can re-assign the work or possibly extend the due date. On each set of shopper requirements we include with your shop acceptance email is the name and email address of the Scheduler who is primarily responsible for the program. You can contact them and ask them any questions/concerns you have anytime. We urge you to contact us right away in the event of a cancellation. We understand that everyone, including our shoppers, have unexpected events that prevent them from completing their visit. However, recurring cancellations and need for extensions, or leaving a time-sensitive shop incomplete, may reflect on your Shopper Grade.
What do I do if I completed my shop visit but have a question or problem involving filling out the shop form?
Review the shop guidelines for your mystery shop to determine the ath Power contact for the project. You may reach out to the contact with any questions. In addition, the guidelines provide detailed information on your project’s scenario as well as the scheduling contact information for the account. For more information on what guidelines are, check [what are shop guidelines]. If you are having technical problems concerning the shop evaluation form, please check the Technical Information section of this FAQ.
What is a shopper grade/ranking?
The aNET system allows our staff to review shop evaluations, and we pass all evaluations through a quality assurance process. This allows us to record shops conducted on behalf of ath Power and recognize trends. Our system allows for rating shoppers on a 10-point scale by our internal quality assurance staff members. These ratings appear to our scheduling team as they sort through applications for particular shops/locations. In addition, comments (positive or negative based on previous shop experiences) can be added to the shopper’s individual profiles which appear along with the numerical ratings. ath Power staff members recognize trends in biased or improper reporting, in either a positive or negative sense. Once identified, the shopper may be provided additional coaching or removed from the pool of eligible applicants.
When are shop evaluations due?
In many cases, your shop evaluation is due within 8 hours of your visit or phone call to the place of business, however, please reference your specific shop guidelines for each project. You may reach out to your scheduler at ath Power to request an extension, but note that we cannot grant an extension in all cases. Multiple requests for extensions can result in a lower shopper grade, and shops are generally granted to reliable shoppers before unreliable shoppers.
What is the most important thing to remember when reporting on a mystery shop form?
Focus on reporting facts and details, instead of offering suggestions on fixing or improving company policies. As a mystery shopper, you should try to remember and relate as many details and facts of the shop as you can. Companies will use your reports to examine their own internal policies and work systems.
What should I do if I have a payment question?
ath Power greatly values its partnership with our Independent Contractor Mystery Shoppers. All mystery shops that are submitted on time and in compliance with our clients’ needs are paid in accordance with our Shopper Pay Policy reviewed here. Please make sure to read this information as the answer to your question will likely be covered here.
In the rare event that you cannot find the answer to your question here, please submit a shopper support ticket as directed in the QUESTIONS/CONCERNS/ISSUES section. Phone calls and direct emails will not be answered or returned on these issues; only those submitted via our ticket system will be addressed.
What shops will I be paid for?
If all shop requirements have been met as explained in the requirements and the Independent Contractor Agreement, you will be paid on the correct payment cycle. Should an evaluation form be missing, require additional details, or be in need of any further considerations, an ath Power team member will contact you via email or phone call to address the issue(s). The shop will not be considered complete and its record will not be submitted for payment until all issues have been resolved. Payment is made for the total fees of all shops completed in the respective time period as explained in the section on payment timing. Shoppers must keep their information up-to-date to ensure receipt of their payment.
How will I be paid?
After you have registered as an ath Power shopper and completed your first shop assignment, you will receive an email from Checkbook.io. The email will include an image of a digital check containing a secure link for you to select how you would like to receive your funds. You may either choose to accept funds via check deposit through mobile banking app, printable check for your local bank, paper check by mail, or direct deposit. You will receive this email from Checkbook.io either mid-month or at the end of the month, based on the payment cycle listed below for your completed shop. This service is completely free of charge. You will continue to receive future emails from Checkbook.io on a monthly basis after each shop you complete.
The first cycle is between the 1st and the 15th of the month. Once you have completed a shop and submitted the report by the 15th, payment will be made on the 1st of the second month following your submission.
Shop date/report submitted: 1st – 15th of March
Payment made on: May 1st
The second cycle is between the 16th and 31st of the month. Once you have completed a shop and submitted the required report by the 31st payment will be made on the 15th of the second month following your submission.
Shop date/report submitted: 16th – 31st of March
Payment made on: May 15th
*The Paid Date that you will see in aNET will either be on the 1st or the 15th.
Remember that funds are sent by digital check to your email, which then provides the link to select how you would like your check disbursed.
If you elect to receive payment by mailed paper check, please allow 1 business day for processing and 1-5 business days for the check to arrive by mail service.
If you elect ACH, please allow 2 business days for processing.
Direct Deposit will become available at a later date.
Do I have to create an account?
You do not have to create an account with Checkbook.io. Once you receive your digital check by email, there will be a link that will direct you to a landing page where you will select how you would like to receive your funds.
How do I change my payment method?
If you would like to change your payment method, you can do so by creating an account with your email at https://checkbook.io or you can contact Checkbook.io Customer Support at the bottom, right-hand corner of the Checkbook.io website. You’ll be able to chat, send a secure email, including attachments, or give them a call. Checkbook.io’s hours are 8 am EST to 8 pm EST on weekdays. Or, you can browse their knowledge base to find the answers you are looking for.
How will I know when specific shops have been paid?
Log on to your personal shop log in aNET and click on the down arrow on the far right side of each shop under the Expand/Collapse All column. If we have issued payment for your evaluation, it will say “Paid On:” and show a date directly above the shop fees. PLEASE NOTE: This date is not necessarily the date that you will receive the funds, as this will depend on postal delivery times for mailed checks and bank processing time for electronic payment. If the area above the shop fees is blank, then we are still processing your shop or your evaluation is not yet eligible for payment.
To sort your shops chronologically, open your Shop Log page. Make sure to select ANY under the Status/Job ID column to see ALL shops. Under the Shop/Due Date Column, click on the down arrow to turn it Red. Now all shops can be seen from newest to oldest.
Are my payments specified individually?
No. If you conduct more than one evaluation during a pay period, we will combine those into one payment. It is your responsibility to keep detailed records of payments due to you, so that you can reconcile what is sent via Checkbook.io with your records.
What information do I need to keep up-to-date and in which site?
aNET: Profile information including First Name, Middle Initial, Last Name, Email Address, Social Security Number, Telephone Number, Mailing Address
Checkbook.io: Information related to bank account
All profile information must be kept up-to-date within aNET. This information will overwrite any information in Checkbook.io, so it’s very important that you maintain your information to be the most accurate and up to date. Payments made by check will be sent to the address within your profile in our aNET system and NOT within Checkbook.io. Payments made by e-payment will be sent to the bank account that you’ve established within Checkbook.io. All profile information related ONLY to bank and payments must be maintained and kept up-to-date in Checkbook.io.
What is the relationship between ath Power and Checkbook.io?
ath Power and Checkbook.io are not affiliated in any way. Checkbook.io is a vendor hired by ath Power to pay you directly through whichever method of payment you have chosen. ath Power Consulting has no liability regarding payment issues stemming from Checkbook.io’s payment process, which relies solely on accurate data submitted and maintained in your shopper page on aNET. Should any issues arise with ACH payments, they should be directed to Checkbook.io ONLY.
By signing up for e-payments through Checkbook.io you agree to not hold ath Power Consulting responsible for ANY issues regarding failed e-payment delivery and will follow up with Checkbook.io for any problems that may arise. Should you have any questions regarding your e-payment, contact information for Checkbook.io Customer Support at the bottom, right-hand corner of the Checkbook.io website. You’ll be able to chat, send a secure email, including attachments, or give them a call. Checkbook.io’s hours are 8am EST to 8pm EST on weekdays. Or, you can browse their knowledge base to find the answers you are looking for.
What is social security verification?
ath Power complies with all IRS rules and regulations regarding Independent Contractors. All U.S.-based mystery shoppers must provide Social Security Numbers (SSN) or Employer or Tax ID (EIN/TIN) numbers as a part of your application process. Information received through our online portal aNET is encrypted and secured. If you do not yet have an EIN, contact the IRS and request an Employer ID number for your contract business and enter that number instead of your SSN. This is a simple process that can be completed by visiting the website www.irs.gov/businesses and clicking on Employer ID numbers, or by calling the IRS at 1-800-829-4933.
IRS reporting and tax forms?
As required by law, for those shoppers earning more than $599 in a calendar year, ath Power will provide you with a 1099-Misc Income form for use in filing your taxes. Forms are mailed before 1/31 for work completed the previous year.
The fastest way to resolve a pay question is to submit a ticket if still unresolved by Checkbook.io. This allows for the first of any available staff members to research your concern and be in touch.
What qualities and characteristics do our most successful shoppers have?
A good mystery shopper is a reliable and credible mystery shopper. Please always remember you are representing ath Power Consulting each and every time you accept a project with our firm. As importantly remember that you are evaluating a person’s work place and their work habits. The accuracy and credibility of your completed report should be treated as if it was you who were receiving this information on your project. We trust you to act professionally in every step of your interaction from project to completion.
How can I learn more about the banking industry?
While not all mystery shops offered by ath involve banking, the financial industry is our specialty. You can learn more about banking by checking out the American Bankers Association website, or if you’re interested in learning more about the basics of banking products, Wikipedia offers a nice selection of terms.
Complex role-play scenarios: Certain shops may request a more developed role-play; for example, you may be asked to pretend you have just lost your job and seeking a loan to pay for a new car. Complex role-play requires you to create a more thorough back-story to your persona, and may require more banking knowledge to complete.
Loans, Mortgage Inquiries: Shops that require asking about loans and mortgages sometimes involve coordinating with multiple employees and recalling all steps in the process. If you are someone truly seeking a loan or new mortgage, these shops are excellent for you–take the opportunity to shop for a loan or mortgage!
Security clearance/airports: We do post some mystery shop projects which require you to have security clearance at airports or another authority. These shops require a very specific demographic.
How can I remain anonymous during my mystery shop?
Anonymity is imperative at all times during a mystery shop. Do not take any forms or papers with you (especially the shop form you will be filling in for us). Try not to take any notes or do anything that would divulge your identity. Pretend that you are just an ordinary customer, just as you would if you were shopping for yourself. When you write notes for your experience, you’ll feel compelled the first time to write your notes in the bank parking lot – don’t! Find a parking lot nearby that won’t be visible from the bank. Many shoppers have been discovered by taking their notes from the bank parking lot. Additionally, if you are shopping the same location you have been to in the past, MAKE SURE you use a different scenario; i.e., if you asked about a checking account for the first visit, ask about savings accounts in the second. Employees become familiar with faces!
What if I had a great/unpleasant customer service experience, any advice on reporting?
Most evaluation questions will ask you to provide a clear explanation if you answered the question in the negative. So, be sure to include examples or evidence to back up your thoughts, stay away from personal reaction, and maintain objectivity by focusing on observations. If you explain a negative rating with a comment like, “The greeter could have been more friendly,” consider adding an observable example to explain why you feel that way, such as: “The greeter could have been more friendly by shaking my hand and asking me how I was doing.” The example allows the client to turn your suggestion into something that is coachable to the banker. Even in a perfect visit, there may be some constructive suggestions to make – please simply make sure you include an example or two.
Accuracy: To our clients, the most important aspect of a quality research program is the accuracy of the data. Review your shop evaluation form ahead of time so you can be accurate with what observations the client is requesting you make.
Objectivity: Report factual details of your experience. Stay away from your personal reaction, unless specifically instructed and provide detailed commentary about what the employee said and the materials they provided you with.
Style: Writing in complete sentences, being clear with examples, maintaining your anonymity, and using a considerate tone of voice.
Use the following steps to determine if your account is set to NOT receive emails from us and how to remedy:
- Log into aNET by clicking on Shopper Login at http://www.athpoweronline.com.
- Where it says Account Status, to the right of that click “Change.”
- Make sure “Do not email shop offers” is unchecked.
Use the following steps to determine if your email address is not valid in our system:
- Log into aNET by clicking on Shopper Login at http://www.athpoweronline.com.
- Click “My Profile” at the top.
- Click the link to “Verify My Email Address.”
- Check your email for the verification message. Click on the link in that email message to verify your email address.
Don’t see the email address that you want to protect? Click the green plus sign (+) to add additional email addresses.
By having your email address on our Protected List, you should receive our emails going forward
If none of these methods work there is a possibility that you are not receiving shopper emails due to a suspension in relationship with ath Power due to shop availability, shopper rotation considerations, or poor shopper grade.