New Hampshire’s Service Credit Union relies on mystery shopping to keep up with customer expectations. Dan Clark, vice president of branch administration for Service Credit Union, says that branch employees, for example, are expected to use customers’ names during transactions. Clark uses mystery shoppers to check whether employees are doing so, as well as to learn other information that he could not find out any other way. For example, they check the quality of the landscaping outside and the appropriate placement of signage, something customers wouldn’t necessarily notice.

Service Credit Union tries to get a mystery shopper into each of its 16 U.S. branches at least once a week, but also uses mystery shoppers for call center, fax, and email interactions. Those services can turn up differences between the way employees think they are acting and how they actually are acting.

The services of a mystery shopping firm don’t seem to be replaced by social media, but technology has certainly changed the way data is delivered to the business that has used mystery shopping. Today the client, such as Service Credit Union, will get an emailed detailed log of each of the “shops”, complete with graphs and charts.

If, for example, a customer at a bank is reporting waiting times that are too long, a mystery shopping service can determine exactly how long those waits are and visit again to see if improvements have been made.