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DALLAS -- Retailers, be on alert: The number of certified mystery shoppers in North America has surpassed 40,000, according to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA), based here, the largest trade association with the mission of enhancing service quality by using mystery shoppers.
The MSPA has been offering a certification program to shoppers since November 2002. The organization began the program as a way to improve the quality of mystery shoppers in North America.
"Mystery shopping providers have noticed a trend among shoppers who have been MSPA-certified in consistently returning quality, accurate and detailed reports," noted MSPA executive director John Swinburn. "Having a continually growing number of certified shoppers helps to strengthen mystery shopping as a valuable and essential customer experience measurement tool."
The certification program encompasses all aspects of mystery shopping, including how to get assignments as a mystery shopper, tips and techniques to employ during mystery shopping evaluations, ways to improve evaluation reports, how much people can realistically expect to earn as mystery shoppers and how mystery shopping ultimately affects business operations.
There are currently two levels of certification, Silver and Gold. A shopper can become Silver-certified by taking the paid online course at the MSPA Web site, http://www.mysteryshop.org/certification.php.
After obtaining Silver certification, mystery shoppers can obtain Gold certification by going to a Gold Certification Workshop, a one-day seminar held in various North American cities throughout the year. After attending the seminar, shoppers must pass a test to earn Gold certification.
According to MSPA, there are about 1 million mystery shoppers in North America and 250,000 in other countries. At the present time there are over 37,000 Silver-certified shoppers and almost 3,000 Gold-certified shoppers. Certification is not required to be a mystery shopper.
The MSPA has more than 180 member companies worldwide, among them marketing research and merchandising companies, private investigation firms, training organizations, and companies that specialize in providing mystery shopping services.