Kelly Truelove Kelly Truelove Moderator

What Does it Mean to Be a Scheduler, and How Do I Become One?

Original Post Feb, 13 2011

I read something hilarious today that sums up the frustration and overwhelming feeling that a scheduler often experiences with an enormous amount of spirit and humor. Schedulers, this is for you:

What is it like to Be a Scheduler?

"Go out into your garage and find all the unsafe power tools you can. First try hitting each of your fingers multiple times with a hammer. Then make sure to operate all of your electronic gadgets. Be sure not to follow ANY of the posted safety warnings. Make sure to have your feet submerged in an ice chest filled with water while doing this. If you survive with all fingers and limbs in place, enjoy the pain of electrocution, AND you have an extra 60-80 hours per week with NOTHING to do, please email us. We are always looking for a few good recruits."

On a serious note, schedulers have an enormous responsibility and a difficult job. In a nutshell, this is what it means to be a scheduler:

A scheduler is an integral team member and vital to the success of any assignment or project. A scheduler is paid by the shop, regardless of how many times that particular shop needs to be scheduled and rescheduled in order to achieve completion.

A scheduler is typically paid between $2 and $7 per shop, depending upon degree of difficulty to fill that shop. Factors considered when evaluating how difficult a shop may be to fill include: location of the shop, size of the project, rotation (how often a single shopper can do this shop or shop a specific target or location), demographics and experience requirement for the shop, expectations and time involvement before, during, and after a shop.

Schedulers will often work for multiple companies, and if they work for only one company, they will often work on several projects, as the best way for a scheduler to increase income is with volume. Typically, schedulers are assigning and monitoring hundreds or even thousands of shops per month, which means that they are also communicating with hundreds and thousands of shoppers and potential shoppers every month.

Since schedulers are monitoring a variety of projects and shops that are taking place at varying times during any given 24 hour period and up to 7 days per week, availability is key. A scheduler will check email multiple times per day and may respond to hundreds of telephone calls and emails every single day.

In addition to contacting shoppers already registered and in that company's database, schedulers typically also fill the role of recruiter, requiring posting on multiple forums, groups, job boards and other resources, as well as cold calling to potential new shoppers and continuously locating new resources and utilizing social media venues.

Schedulers locate appropriate candidates, answer shopper questions, help to plan routes for multiple shops, and are the shopper's primary contact before, during, and after a shop.

Schedulers are heavily relied upon, both by companies and shoppers. They're the first ones up in the morning and the last ones to bed. Their phones ring nonstop, and their email accounts are filled to the brim. They're problem solvers, independently driven, resourceful, and responsible. Yet they tend to be the least acknowledged by the greatest number of people.

Today, Market Research Pros would like to send a special, "Thank You!" to all schedulers. We salute you!

-Kelly Truelove

Original Post Feb, 15 2011:

So, How Does One Become A Scheduler?

If the above posts didn't frighten you into a state of perpetual nervous twitches and uncontrolled screaming and you are still interested, or if you are just curious, here's our response to that question.

First of all, learn to be an excellent shopper, a "Go-To" Guy or Gal. When a scheduler calls you, be available. When a company has a need, be available. Don't ask for things like travel, gas, and per diem when it's not necessary or appropriate, take short notice assignments and show that you are a responsible individual who cares about the success of the project and everyone involved.

Understand that failing to complete a shop or failing to follow directions is detrimental to any assignment or project. Respect the time and efforts of every team member involved in the process of making that shop happen and ensuring that it is client-ready.

Then, once you feel that you are experienced enough to take responsibility for a project, contact companies you have worked with and make your interest and availability known. Interact with companies via social media and network at educational events, meet-ups and other group events. Form relationships, continue to express interest, and continue to ask questions and never, never stop learning.

-Kelly Truelove

Kelly Truelove Kelly Truelove Moderator

Original Post Feb, 21 2011

Kelly is correct that scheduling can be frustrating. But, it can be rewarding as well. It is not for everyone as every job is not for everyone. I love my job and I wouldn't want to do anything else. There are ups and downs, but then there are ups and downs in any job. Meeting the shopping through email can very rewarding....then actually meeting the shoppers in person is kind of exciting.

Trying to find the shopper in a remote area can be extremely hard sometimes. It takes a lot of time to find a shopper. Filling one shop can sometimes take hours or days and I still get the same fee for the one shop. Then if a shopper cancels a shop and I have to get another shopper, I have to start over for the same fee that is given. The company does not pay me anymore for the one shop because a shopper does not do a shop. I do not get paid until a shop is filled.

There are shops that are easier to fill and these make up for the harder to fill shops. Getting rich as a scheduler takes a lot of time and a lot of shops. If you want to earn more money, you have to schedule more shops which means more time getting the shops filled.

There really is no time off as an IC scheduler. Most IC schedulers work everyday at least checking emails. I take phone calls, but some schedulers do not. I believe that I want to be accessible as I remember being on a shop, not knowing what to do and having to contact someone anyone and there was no one to contact. There were times the shop was done wrong because I didn't know how to do the shop or other times I just didn't do the shop. I want to try to avoid these situations by being available most of the time, but I would hope shoppers use their heads when calling and not call in the middle of the night, etc. IC shoppers do work out of thier homes and you usually are waking up people when you call.

There are a lot of rewards in scheduling besides the pay as the pay is not that much. I probably earned more money as a shopper than a scheduler, but I can stay at home and work. I can work in the middle of the night or weekends. My schedule is my own for the most part. But when there are shops due and i don't have a shopper, I might have to spend a lot of hours working very long hours....or if a client calls last minute for a shop they want scheduled yesterday....

Scheduling is not for everyone. My best advice is to do every type of mystery shop that you can so that you will have an advantage when you schedule the type of shop. At least one year of mystery shopping is a good rule of thumb to find out if you like the industry, but two or three years is probably much better to find out if you can handle the stress of everything. And last of all, attend the shoppers conferences if you can. This year there are two. I have attended almost everyone since they started. I only missed one in Aneheim which was the second year they were held by MSPA and I had just been to Aneheim a week before and I couldn't justify another trip from WI, it's a big expense.

I will be at both Orlando and Las Vegas this year. I hope to see you there!!

-June Raeder-Mackinnon

Kelly Truelove Kelly Truelove Moderator

Original Post Feb, 21 2011

Thank you so much, June for adding your input to the discussion. You're absolutely right that those who schedule, generally do so out of love for the job and industry and not for the money. Working as an Independent Contractor has great rewards but also great responsibilities and difficulties as well. You don't have a time clock to punch or a supervisor standing over your shoulder, but in this business, we are all accountable to someone, whether it's a client, colleague, or supervisor. I mentioned some of this in an article about "External and Internal Customers" and it's relevant in this situation as well, because none of these types of projects succeed without all parts working well together. One of the best ways to ensure that is by being attentive and supportive to the needs of support staff and team members. By sharing various points of view and challenges faced at different phases of a project, we gain greater insight into those needs and can better support each other. My opinion on this goes back to a discussion I once had about sharing perspectives. When we understand what goes into a project, all the work and personnel involved, and the daily challenges faced by each department or facet of the team, we can work together much more efficiently. Some of the most common challenges that are discussed with me in regards to scheduling and recruiting are resources used, locating shoppers in hard-to-fill areas, time management, and impressing upon others how very important it is to follow directions and shop guidelines. How do some of you handle these challenges, and what others have you faced?

-Kelly Truelove

Kelly Truelove Kelly Truelove Moderator

Original Post Feb, 22 2011

Thanks for sharing your experiences. :>)

-Jeanmarie Willbee

Kelly Truelove Kelly Truelove Moderator

Original Post Feb, 25 2011

A scheduler's job, though most of us love it, is still very frustrating at times. What's really hard is that most times we are not working with shoppers that we've met face to face, and it is unbelievably hard to qualify someone you've never met. Every time we schedule a shop, we're putting our reputations and livelihood on the line and taking responsibility for the actions of others. It's unbelievably stressful and an endless roller coaster ride of deadlines, disappointments, and successes. When we schedule a shop, we're telling our client, and in some cases our client's client, that we trust the shopper to complete it. When that doesn't happen, it can be disastrous. Not all shops and assignments can be rescheduled, and some clients have more flexibility than others. It's extremely important to read directions and shop requirements carefully to make sure the objective is being met per client requirements, and it's imperative that commitments are kept once made. As Independent Contractors, shoppers, demonstrators, merchandisers, and even editors and schedulers, have the right to decline an assignment or project, but once committed, it is bad business for everyone to fail to follow through.

It's unbelievably validating to see the positive feedback on forums and social media and to receive all the personal emails and phone calls of appreciation. We've been very fortunate at Integrity Consultants to work with some fabulous clients, shoppers, demonstrators, and merchandisers. We never take the positive feedback for granted and also try to reciprocate by rewarding those who stand out and do all of the things you mentioned, like taking last minute shops that someone else has failed to complete or submitting superior quality work. Those are some of the qualities that make a "go-to" shopper. I truly wish I saw more of that, and I think that representing the challenges of each team member's job from their perspective, the good and the bad, may help to increase appreciation for all of the hard work that goes into each and every shop.

-Kelly Truelove