Mystery Shopping Program Gauges Employees’ Ability To Cross Sell, Make Referrals And Close Sales

“Night Away” Vouchers And iPod Shuffles Awarded For 100-Plus Scores

When Merchants Bank ($1 billion, Burlington, Vermont) updated its mystery shopping program three years ago, it had two main goals:

Goal #1: The bank wanted to find a mystery shopping provider whose shoppers “blended in” with real customers.

Goal #2: The bank wanted to gauge employees’ ability to offer top-quality service.

In order to fulfill these two goals, Tom Leavitt, the bank’s Senior VP of Marketing, worked with marketing and public relations firm PostScript, Inc., to hire a new mystery shopping provider.

“The mystery shopping provider that the bank had hired previously used the same person to do the mystery shopping year after year,” says Sara Blum, VP and Managing Partner of PostScript, Inc. “Everybody knew who the shopper was,” she says.

The hunt for a new provider was a straightforward process, says Blum.

After an Internet search narrowed the possibilities down to two local mystery shopping companies, one based in New Hampshire and the other in Boston, Blum asked each of the companies to send the bank more information about their programs.

PostScript then called a few of the companies’ financial industry clients to ask about their services.

After researching both companies, the bank decided to hire mystery shopping provider Customer Perspectives TM, based in Hooksett, New Hampshire.

Not only was the company local, says Blum, but it promised to rotate new shoppers through the bank’s branches from month to month.

In addition, the company’s style seemed to more closely match the personality of the bank, and it was willing to tailor its program to fit the bank’s specific needs, says Blum.

“Customer Perspectives was small enough that we felt like we’d get the attention we needed, and they were really willing to customize their mystery shopping form for us,” says Blum.

Mystery shopping reports used for employee evaluations

“The bank uses mystery shopping reports to a huge extent for employee evaluations,” she adds, so it was important that the program evaluate the exact skills that the bank’s leadership felt were important.

These skills included the ability to be hospitable toward customers, convey accurate information about the bank’s financial products, and make efficient transactions, says Blum.

The bank also wanted to gauge its employees’ ability to cross-sell certain financial products, she says.

After meeting with Customer Perspectives, the bank decided to perform a baseline evaluation of its customer service levels.

From this evaluation, the bank learned that its employees did not consistently use customers’ names, a practice that bank leadership felt was important in order to provide top-notch customer service.

To address this issue, the bank instituted training that helped employees identify ways that they could learn and remember customers’ names-through a friendly introductory greeting or by glancing at the customer’s check, for instance, says Blum.

Managers coach employees on closing the sale

During follow-up mystery shops, the bank also began to focus on employees’ cross-selling techniques and their ability to close sales, says Blum.

“The first sales issue we started to address with the program was cross-selling, but then we realized that employees were not asking for the sale,” she says.

To tackle these sales concerns, the marketing department held meetings with front-line personnel in order to help branch managers and personnel improve their technique, says Blum.

Employees were taught how to cross-sell appropriate products by exploring customers’ needs through simple question-asking, says Blum.

Managers also coached employees on how to close the sale with a customer without feeling too pushy, she says.

The bank conducts a varying number of shops each month, but averages about two to three in-branch shops for each of three areas-free checking, commercial accounts and mortgages-and one telephone shop per branch each year, says Blum.

The bank has 35 branches. This year, the bank’s mystery shopping budget is approximately $32,000, she says.

Employees can earn “Night Away” vouchers for excellent shops

In order to keep employees involved in the program, the bank offers awards such as “Night Away” vouchers and Apple iPod Shuffles to those who earn scores of 100 percent on a shop and also secure bonus points, which are explained in the box above.

Last year, 20 employees earned vouchers to a hotel in a scenic part of Vermont and approximately five employees received iPod shuffles, she says. Two flyers used two recognize employees with perfect shops are shown on the following page.

Employees Can Earn Bonus Points For Their Follow-Up Efforts

Employees at Merchants Bank (Burlington, Vermont) have the opportunity to earn bonus points when they are mystery shopped.

Employees rewarded for sending follow up e-mails

Bonus points are earned when an employee uses specific marketing materials and/or sends a follow-up e-mail to the shopper after a meeting or telephone call, says Sara Blum, VP and Managing Partner of PostScript, Inc.

The e-mails contain a thank-you note from the employee, as well as more information about the product or service that was discussed during the employees’ meeting with the shopper.

E-mail must be sent within three weeks

Employees must send the e-mail within three weeks of the meeting in order to earn bonus points for the shop, says Blum.

Call Toll Free 800-CPSHOPS, to find out how Customer Perspectives’ mystery shopping programs can improve your bottom line!