The Most Effective Mystery Shopping Programs

Dissatisfied customers tell an average of 10 people about their bad experience. One in five tells 20 people. It’s painfully obvious what this can do to your bank’s reputation and profitability. But what can you do to build customer loyalty and avoid this erosion? How can you avoid any customers having a bad experience? Through mystery shopping programs that provide objective, systematic evaluations of your bank’s employees who interact with the public. These evaluations:

  • Provide valuable insight into their customer service and sales skills
  • Identify areas for improvement in customer service delivery
  • Provide information for coaching employees
  • Identify specific training needs and measure training efforts
  • Monitor employee compliance with your procedures
  • Gauge individual manager effectiveness
  • Help you develop an effective customer experience program
  • Identify exemplary employees for special recognition
  • And, most importantly, increase customer retention and boost profits by improving customer loyalty

In short, mystery shopping anonymously evaluates the customer experience at your bank and provides an objective, fact-based snapshot of that experience.

A common misconception about mystery shopping is that it’s a way for managers to “spy” on their employees but – there’s a much better use for your mystery shopping program.

The most effective mystery shopping programs are designed to catch employees doing it right. The tool is best used as an objective, honest assessment of the customer experience. That assessment should be followed-up with training, new company standards or other actions to reinforce your expectations of your employees.

Sometimes mystery shopping is used in a rewards program, where employees receive cash, vacation days, company-wide recognition or other incentives for a job well done. Every program is different and the rewards, or the “carrots”, can be customized to your business needs, resources and culture.

Customizing Your Mystery Shopping Proram

The mystery shopping program itself can also be customized. For example, it can evaluate tellers and / or platform employees and / or lenders and / or telephone skills, either to your Call Center or to your branches and various departments within. The service experience of both prospects and customers can even be evaluated through the internet by making inquiries through e-mail or the web and evaluating how quickly and well those inquiries are answered. These efforts can be supplemented by customer satisfaction telephone surveys that evaluate the experience of customers who have had recent transactions or interactions with your bank. The more ways you use to evaluate the whole customer experience, the more feedback you will have and the fewer bad experiences customers have.

Our clients have found that the more ways they use mystery shopping, the more “bang for the buck” they get. Two examples follow.

Bank Mystery Shopping Programs: Case Studies

#1 – Dedham Savings, a community bank headquartered in Dedham, MA, successfully uses Customer Perspectives mystery shop services to reward employees for excellent shops as well as to mentor and coach employees when the results of the shop are not up to expected standards. In some cases, the shops are even used to measure the skills that were learned in training workshops. This was recently the case when Georgia, a teller in the Westwood Branch office, was shopped.

Georgia has been working at Dedham Savings for three years and struggled with spotting and responding to sales clues. Several weeks before the shop, Georgia attended an in-house two day sales workshop. Georgia learned tips and tricks about spotting sales opportunities as well as how to respond to customers in a way that is not imposing. Rather, Georgia learned to take the opportunity to educate her customers as to what products that may benefit them. Georgia was determined after the workshop to put her new skills to use and to overcome the hesitation that she had felt in the past.

When the shopper mentioned that she was moving to the area Georgia went into high gear. She scored 100% on the shop report! The shopper, not a customer of the bank, was attempting to cash a check. This is what the shopper had to say about Georgia.

“Georgia was quite pleasant and courteous about refusing to cash my check. At no point did she make me feel uncomfortable about it. And once she moved to a “let’s turn this person into a customer” mode, she was terrific. She tried to get me to talk to a customer service person, but did not push me into that, accepting my comment that I was pressed for time. She did a nice job of explaining the accounts and an even better one of inviting me back.”

Jerry Lavoie, COO at Dedham Savings, wrote Georgia a personal thank you note and gave her a gift certificate. Additionally, she was highlighted on the company’s Intranet page. Can you imagine how Georgia felt after receiving this recognition? It was a great reinforcement for the skills learned in the workshop. The credit for this positive experience goes directly to Georgia but it would not have been possible without using the mystery shop program as a coaching and mentoring tool.

#2 – Florence Savings Bank built their business and reputation on providing outstanding Customer Service. This was what always set them apart from their competitors and it became even more important when banks’ products and services all started looking the same…Free Checking, Free Online Banking and Free Bill Pay. At that time, more and more banks started to focus on Customer Service—it was all that was left. They realized that to maintain their competitive edge, they needed to raise the bar in this area. They also recognized that as they grew and hired new people, a Mystery Shopping program would not only ensure that they continued to provide the great Customer Service that they’d been known for, but it would also help them to constantly monitor themselves and look for areas where they could improve.

Florence Savings Bank launched their Customer Impressions Mystery Shopping program in March 2007 and it has proven to be one of the best decisions that they’ve made. In addition to helping them sustain their competitive advantage, their program helps them to always keep Customer Service top–of–mind and to provide ongoing training and coaching to employees. They’re able to retain current customers and attract new ones, staying in touch with them by getting an unbiased viewpoint and perspective through the shop reports. Shopping competitors in all of their markets allows them to quantitatively measure and compare Florence Savings performance to theirs. Most importantly, their program allows them to recognize, congratulate, and reward their star performers (they have employee and branch incentives as part of their program), while promoting teamwork in their branches and Call Center. They’ve found that their employees constantly raise the bar on their own when it comes to providing the highest level of service to our customers.

When asked about the value of having a Mystery Shopping program, the consensus at Florence Savings Bank is that they would never want to be without it!

Although there are many ways to ensure you have loyal customers, who then tell others how great you are, mystery shopping programs are the most thorough and diverse of them. That’s why both Dedham Savings Bank and Florence Savings Bank have been using mystery shopping programs from Customer Perspectives to measure and improve customer service for decades.

By Judi Hess, President
Customer Perspectives