How do you write your "Detailed narratives"?

Sometimes I feel like I put way too much time and info into my narratives. Other times I feel like I don't put enough. I had one that asked for a "detailed narrative: tell us about your shop from the moment you entered until you departed as though it was a video". A lot of the shops ask for detailed narratives and they do NOT pay enough to justify spending 30-40 minutes writing up a full detailed report. What do you include in your narratives? I'd like to do multiple shops a day, but sometimes with the amount of work it takes to write the dang reports, it's just not worth it. Lesson learned on some of these shops, but sometimes what they state in the guidelines doesn't necessarily line up with the actual report. I wish we could see the reports before commiting to a shop :/

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It seems to me pretty inevitable that the ones that want a detailed narrative 'at the bottom' also want 'detailed' with all the little subsections throughout the report. I tend to answer 'no' questions at the subsection, keeping it short and to the point, The detailed narrative then tends to cover virtually every question in the report. I try to dispose of 2-3 questions per sentence, more if possible as I sequence through the location. Indeed many are NOT worth the pay so I just don't do them without a bonus that DOES make them worth the pay.
ohh going through the report as a guideline is a good idea. I have one tomorrow that I would rather cancel and take the hit than complete. It was listed as a "quick and easy shop" for $14. Those usually are quick and easy and the reports just usually have a small subsection to comment on the "no"s.. but at the bottom they ask for "very detailed narrative regarding your shopping experience. Include SPECIFICS regarding your interaction with the associate, how were you greeted, what exactly was discussed, etc. Explain all 'No' responses to all questions on the evaluation. " that is annoying too, because I've already explained my no answers.. -.-
I understand. Make sure you don't conflict between the 'no' at the top and the 'no' at the bottom. Those narratives I always write in Word so that I can toggle between screens to discover what questions I need to 'deal with' next. And then if the flow and sequencing of your Word document is "off" you can tidy it up before a copy/paste into the report itself. Plus make absolutely sure that you save your report before starting to write your narrative so it doesn't inadvertently get lost in a 'time out'.
I usually skip the 'detailed narrative" shops, lol.

There are reasons that a body stays in motion
At the moment only demons come to mind
Typically what I do is I just write things in chronological order- I typically do high end dining so I'll start with what time my guest and I were seated, when the waiter came to the table, when we ordered, when the food was served and what happened with the check. That's usually 3-6 paragraphs or so depending on the courses and if anything out of the ordinary happened. I usually write this up in a word doc.

Then I go into the form and I look at the checklist questionnaire. As I'm answering it, I'll start another paragraph and state the questions directly. Like if it asks "Did your server offer a specific cocktail on their first visit?" I'll write out "John did not mention any specific cocktails."
I just let the story flow from the beginning to the end with exact quotes and in some cases a reiteration of timing between phases when appropriate. I used to be a journalist so I just kick into it and let 'er rip.

Her Serene Majesty, Cettie - Goat Queen of Zoltar, Sublime Empress of Her Caprine Domain


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/15/2015 09:15PM by Cettie.
Most of the time, I get too involved in letting them know what happened that I forget that usually there is a maximum word count or character and I have to edit my narratives and make them less detailed.
Most of the shops I do require detailed narratives, and I spend a long time doing them. That's why I usually won't do a shop without a bonus, and why I don't do as many shops as most other people here. But, as a copywriter by trade, I enjoy the writing.

In my narratives, I basically just "tell the story" of my visit, making sure that I include mention of every area covered by the survey, even though I've already addressed them in my short-form answers. When I "think" I'm finished, I verify that my narrative comments agree with my responses and that I've covered all areas.

It's frustrating when the narrative boxes allow for a limited number of characters, and that's not stated anywhere! I once spent 15 minutes trying to edit down an answer that made sense and fit into the limit. Too much time. I won't do that particular shop ever again (not just for that reason, but the whole thing is way too time intensive for the pay--and it was bonused to boot!).

I've been told that the end clients want to read your narrative and feel as if they were there with you. So, that's what I give 'em!

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.
I too thought I spent too much time on them and that is why I stopped the airport shops, what I did was to go thru the questions I had just answered and used them for the outline in Word, kind of like a Mad Lib.

I approached the ____ and noticed it was _____ and ____, when I entered the store i noticed there were XXX People in line with XXX cashiers. The shelves were ___ and all the items were ____. I could see price tags on the ____ or _____. I asked the clerk what medications they had for a headache and they _____.
The Clerk then took the item and rang me up at the register, asked me if i wanted anything else and suggested a water. The clerk was ____ and ____ , the nametag was visible but the airport badge was ___.

and so on ........................
I give them the play by play and just go through what happened from entry to exit. I do combine things when appropriate. When I'm done, I go back and look for the 'no' responses in the questionnaire since those answers always need to be acknowledged or explained. The rest depends on what the instructions/guidelines state. Some say to cover every question, so if that's the case, I just make sure I've acknowledged each of those in my writing. Some provide sample narratives and I always take note of how much info those samples actually note, like how important my responses to associate questions are versus just knowing what the associate said or asked. That also helps me to know how much detail is needed.
What I detest (and I just did one) are the ones which ask for a detailed narrative from start to finish. I easily write 4000 characters, and when I submit it, find out that the narrative is limited to 750 characters. I hate that. Why can't they tell me the word or character limit in advance?

Shopping Southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware above the canal, and southwestern NJ since 2008
YESSSSS!!! lol I have done some that ask for that and do exactly what you said. It's like, huh? For gosh sakes, if you are limiting the characters say so, and if you don't really want detailed, don't waste my time by asking for it!!
@Orrymain wrote:

YESSSSS!!! lol I have done some that ask for that and do exactly what you said. It's like, huh? For gosh sakes, if you are limiting the characters say so, and if you don't really want detailed, don't waste my time by asking for it!!

Exactly! If there's a character limit, then just say that next to the question! I.e., "(Max. 500 characters)" Would that really be so time consuming for the MSC to write? It's such a waste of time to give them the "detailed" response they ask for, only to find out that you're so limited by character count the best you can do is summarize.

It must be a game the MSC's play to amuse themselves: "Let's see how frustrated we can get the shoppers! Let's limit the character count in the narrative boxes, but let's not tell them that."

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.


Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 12/15/2015 06:24PM by BirdyC.
@Cettie wrote:

I just let the story frow from the beginning to the end with exact quotes and in some cases a reiteration of timing between phases when appropriate. I used to be a journalist so I just kick into it and let 'er rip.

This. Journalism background. I tend to write too much as opposed to too little, so I don't worry about leaving stuff out. I just tell the story as it happened. If the editor wants more info I'll give it as asked.

I don't think there are any Russians / And there ain't no Yanks
Just corporate criminals\ / Playin' with tanks
I generally record my shops (IN AREAS WHERE IT IS LEGAL) and then write out the narrative as I hear it on the recording. It then makes all of the other questions easy to answer after the fact....
OMG I do so much less. Cover the "no" answers for sure. Combine many comments in one sentence. Hit save and ften the word count minimum comes up when you reopen. I use this as a guideline.
I do the detailed report shops. It is legal to record in my state, so I record as a backup for anything I can't quite remember.

I used to write a lot of detail and got suggestions from editors. Then I put myself in the mindset of the client. What do they want to know? They usually want to know how their employees handled me as a customer. So I write from that standpoint. I make sure to include references to all "no" answers, i.e. I waited for the credit card offer, but Jane never mentioned it. If appropriate I include stories the employee gave. You should be able to tell from the questionaire if the client is interested in this, i.e. John told me how he had purchased the bed for himself. It was so comfortable that now he is in the procees of getting each family member to purchase one. The main thing is to take your clue from the client. Some clients/shops require more timing input, so I give them that i.e. The entree was served at 6:50. Our server returned at 6:56 to check on our meal.

But all in all, do what you are comfortable with, making sure to always hit highlights. What would you want to know?

When you learn, teach, when you get, give. Maya Angelou
I have never recorded a shop. I do not use word. I make brief notes of times, names and descriptions only. I have been shopping for 9 years. I do lots of long narratives. Just answer each question in order. I receive 10s from most MSC. I always use spell check and review my work. I have gotten a 7 once on the longest narrative I have ever given. I am not great at grammar, but what I do works. I answer all yes and no answers.
I pour a nice strong vodka drink and scan my receipts, copy the shop instructions into a directory with all my photos, recordings, video and everything else from my various devices and backup devices that I took to the job. I then go through the photo's and pick out the submitted ones from the extras and set those in a sub folder. Then I go down the entire form and click all the No boxes while everything is super fresh in my mind.

Then I open all the video, photos, and scanned receipts on my second monitor and write my narratives in word and paste them into the report on the main screen flipping between the two and just grind out all the details. Then I read the whole report checking to be certain every no question is described in detail so there will be no questions from the editor.

Then I reward myself with another drink only when done with the report. smileys with beer Of course this last part probably would not work too well with a complex multi part hotel shop with many sub reports.
Hi Kgoetz2256,

My advice to you is to contact the scheduler as you apply. You need to state that you would like to see what is required before committing to the job. When I have done this they assign the shop but let me cancel without penalty if I do not want it for that reason. After time you get to know who requires what and how much.

I do wish you the best of luck. I do have a comment to myst4au below you may be interested in.


@myst4au wrote:

What I detest (and I just did one) are the ones which ask for a detailed narrative from start to finish. I easily write 4000 characters, and when I submit it, find out that the narrative is limited to 750 characters. I hate that. Why can't they tell me the word or character limit in advance?

Hi myst4au,

Most shops I do require detailed narratives. There is only one company I write for that this happens. What I have learned to do is type a couple of sentences and then save my form (with this company). It then will tell me the character limit when I come back. From that I write a narrative but rarely will it be detailed due to this limit. With them I only cover the "no" answers in the form. They are on the Sassie system.

If you do this for a company where this happens with only some shops I can offer no advice. It would be way too annoying to do this for individual shops from one or two clients of the many you mystery shop.

Sandra P. Dunne
Phone Mystery Shopper
www.linkedin.com/in/sandrapdunne


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/19/2015 12:09AM by sandrapdunne.
Is there anyone else that thinks that it's going a little overboard to record shops? You're evaluating people, and they do have some right to privacy. I can only see recording when you need to do an extremely detailed narrative with exact quotes. But can't you just take notes on your phone for other shops? I suppose it would be good to have a recording if you ever got sued by someone who was fired because of your report, though.
Whatever you do is different strokes for different folks. Some schedulers love the detail, some comment it is too much and others say "not enough" Welcome to the golden rule. He who pays the gold makes the rules.

You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want ..Zig Zigler
@Evalu8this wrote:

I can only see recording when you need to do an extremely detailed narrative with exact quotes. But can't you just take notes on your phone for other shops? I suppose it would be good to have a recording if you ever got sued by someone who was fired because of your report, though.

Ninety-five percent of the shops I do require extremely detailed narratives with exact quotes, so I record most of my shops. In the case of bank shops, for example, I found that banks will challenge the shopper if the CSR doesn't do everything right. So, even though the bank shops aren't as detailed as many, I record them so that I'm 100% certain of my responses, in case I should be questioned.

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.
How many ways can you say "he greeted me with a friendly smile, introduced himself, and shook my hand". I recently did an assignment in the paint department of a home improvement stores. The paint brand rep wasn't there when I got there, but arrived shortly afterwards. I had a great interview with the store associate before the paint rep showed up and "greeted me with a friendly smile, introduced himself, and shook my hand". I did a very detailed account of every single thing that happened with both the store associate and the paint brand rep, practically word for word, but still had the MSC come back and ask me about how I was greeted by the paint brand rep! There was really nothing more to say! I described him, his greeting, his demeanor, his smile, his descriptions of each type of paint ..... ad nauseum! And although I gave them everything I could in every section of the survey, I still only got a 7/10. I got full pay, so I just let it go. But really ..... who are these people, and what do they want??? Too much details, not enough details, there's never a happy medium.
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