When getting on the highway the other day, all my husband and I saw were 2 lanes of red lights stretching for miles. We quickly calculated whether or not we could still get to the exit ramp to take a different route, but no – we were just past it.
Our initial assumption was that traffic was jammed and stopped. We assumed it would take us more than double the time to get home that evening.
Quite to our surprise, the traffic was actually rolling along at an acceptable pace. Whatever the issue might have been earlier, it was no longer causing traffic to be stopped – just a steady, heavy stream of cars.
Observation vs. Inference
Observation is using one or more of your 5 senses to know something.
Inference is drawing a conclusion based on your observation.
In the story above, it was observed that the cars stretched on for miles. We inferred that the traffic we observed would cause major delays.
You see stream rising from a cup of coffee. (observation)
The coffee is hot. (inference)
When writing your mystery shopping reports, you are to observe and determine if something is or is not happening according to the company expectations (which is why we ask the questions we do on your report form).
For instance, you tell us the company representative smiled, shook your hand and greeted you. That is what you observed.
Telling us that the company representative is a nice guy (based on what you saw) is an inference – a conclusion you came to based on your observation.
When conducting your shops, make sure you are making the observations and reporting them correctly. Use this fun activity to help you improve your distinction between the two.
Then the next time you do a shop, make sure you tell us what you observed, not what you inferred!