Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Mystery Shopper: Gaining the Competitive Edge in Customer Service

Posted by Chris June 26, 2012 10:55am

Photo Credit: Jeroen van Oostrom

The competitiveness of the community banking industry is ata critical point to where customer service in banks is becoming a drivingfactor in where people choose to bank.  Amajor reason customer service is a heightened consideration for where customerschoose to bank is due to the low rates for deposit products offered in banks,to where a customer can attain almost the same rate for similar products at anybank.  Therefore, the customer experienceand convenience, whether it be in the branches, the drive thru or over thephone are key service channels banks are now, more than ever before, measuringand testing to ensure customer service is at its most optimal level.  Many of the larger banks, such as the formerCommerce Bank, have re-energized the customer service experience in branches byoffering  seven day branch banking,extended hours and legendary customer service which set a high standard for otherbanks to follow to remain competitive in the marketplace.

To assist Banks in evaluating the“customer service experience” at each of their branches, weoffer community banks a “Mystery Shopper” service to benchmark customerservice across each of its branches to appropriately identify related issuesand weaknesses to become more competitive in the market place. The approach tothis service is engaging a “mystery shopper” which is a person who visits orcalls the branch for a product, transaction, or service where the employeehelping the mystery shopper has no idea this person is measuring the employee’scustomer service skills. This approach eliminates the bias that an employeeknows they are being evaluated to where he or she would display customerservice skills expected by the Bank. Instead, with the mystery shopper notrevealing their identity to the employee, and posing as a customer inquiring ona product or service, this method provides the Bank with a more accurateportrayal of the customer service experience provided by that employee. Beingable to gain an accurate customer service experience for each employee allowsthe Bank to focus on specific employees where additional customer servicetraining may be warranted. 

During a specified period of timedecided by the Bank, we will conduct a determined number of“mystery shops” at each branch location on random employees to appropriateassess his or her customer service skills. Such service factors measured, whichcan be tailored by the Bank, may be, “Did the employee stand up, shake yourhand and introduce themselves when approaching the customer service desk?”wherein a numerical rating is then assigned, as well as a comments section forthe mystery shopper to provide specific feedback.  A common service factormeasured at the teller line to ensure employees are cross-selling productswithin the branch may be, “Did the teller attempt to cross sale a product orservice tailored to my needs during transaction?”  Once the mystery shops for the specifiedperiod are conducted, we will provide the Bank with a detailedreport of each mystery shop by branch and conduct a trend analysis acrossbranches to denote which branches are the strongest and which branches may needimprovement. Many banks take the approach of notifying their branch employeesthat there are mystery shoppers, as employees will be aware and be more likelyto provide the expected customer service more consistently as he or she willnot know which customer is an actual customer or a mystery shopper.  Market Managers and Human ResourceDepartments of banks take advantage of this by creating customer servicecompetitions across branches in which mystery shops are used to benchmark eachbranch evidencing where each branch stands amongst other branches in thecustomer service experience.  Withappropriate customer service training, implementing the Mystery Shopper productoffered by us and creating a benefit reward system forexcellent customer service from employees, Banks can ensure their branches areperforming at the highest level for customers to truly gain an exceptionalcustomer service experience which is proven to be a leading factor in wherepotential customers decide to Bank.


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Chris Burns

Deposit, Operations and Branch Audit Team Leader

Mr. Burns leads the Deposit and Operations Audit Team and Branch Audit Team at acxell Associates, performing detailed and in depth audit procedures relative to these areas. He has obtained a wide range of audit, financial and banking compliance experience, including extensive knowledge experience in all aspects of operations and compliance at community financial institutions.

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