Secret Shopper programs have become a popular tool for banks and credit unions to maintain a pulse on their customer service standards and performance management incentive triggers. These programs excel at capturing what company standards and beliefs have effectively translated into desired behavior and which have not. The following questions are critical to ensuring shopper assessments truly capture the beliefs and behaviors which are most critical to producing the desired results.
1. Number and type of open-ended questions asked. If any sale is to be made, the MSR/CSR must be trained to exhibit the behavior of curiosity. The employee must ask questions that require customers to respond with an experience or emotion. Yes or no answerable questions do not provide how the customer feels about a product or experience with your institution or that of a competitor. Questions that start with “have you ever had the experience of” or “you know what frustrates me about X” and end with “I don’t suppose that has ever happened to you” work great. Arriving at the goal of having MSR’s/CSR’s that display this desired behavior requires extensive belief and behavioral training which is constantly reinforced by the company culture.
2. Number and details of attempts to move from inquiry to action. Many times shopper forms contain generic language like “employee attempted to close sale” or “employee recommended additional product or service” Many times forms give employees credit for merely mentioning a product or describing a product features. It is critical that an MSR/CSR suggest next action steps and attempt to move the customer to complete the sale. Measurement questions such as “employee offered to show me to an office to complete opening the account” or “employee attempted to set an appointment for me to discuss options and benefits of opening a new IRA account”.
3. Specific product or service benefits presented. Most times a shopper form will capture the explanation by the MSR/CSR of features like “100% money back guarantee”, “no points” or “no account maintenance fees” but fail to capture how or if the employee presented the benefits that the customer would derive from the product or service. The most useful assessment will capture the “so that” benefit statements. For example “Our mortgage and home equity loans provide the benefit of no points (so that) you do not have to add additional principle to your balance that you would have to pay interest on for the entire term of the loan”. Another example would be “our IRA accounts carry no maintenance fees (so that) all the interest you earn you keep and do not have to return as fees”.
4. Product or service relationship connections/benefits made. Many times shopper forms contain generic language about cross sell attempts such as “MSR/CSR attempted to cross sell additional products”. The best way to measure effective cross sell beliefs and desired behavior is to ask what product relationships or cross product benefits the employee offers. An example would be MSR/CSR explained that by having a car loan with the bank/credit union along with a checking account with debit card I would receive an additional .25% rate reduction on the car loan (so that) I would have a lower monthly payment, pay less interest and possibly reduce the total repayment period of the loan. Another example would be “MSR/CSR explained that by opening a checking and savings account I could set up a split direct deposit of my payroll so some funds could automatically go into savings (so that) I could start a high interest nest egg on a budget I can afford.
5. Details of how MSR/CSR asked for the business. Often mystery shopper assessments neglect to capture whether the employee asked for business. It is almost impossible to capture business if you place the entire burden on your customers to seek you out and ask for it on their own. I cannot begin to tell you how many very adequate and heartfelt sales presentations I have witnessed where the only thing that turned a sure sale into a no decision was failure on the part of the sales persons to simply end the presentation by asking for the sale. It’s as simple as “I am hearing from your responses that this product provides you with all the benefits you are looking for. May I set it up for you now?” The shopper form should require the exact verbiage as to how the MSR/CSR asked for the business.
In drafting the 5 critical questions I made no attempt to cover all the potential areas Mystery/Secret Shopper inventories can be focused on to measure and illicit desired behavior. For instance, overcoming objections would be an entire course in itself. In writing these questions my wish was to share my experience with developing effective shopping assessments and some of the most common pitfalls. I applaud you for your commitment to your customers if you currently engage a secret shopper program. If you do not I submit that there is one thing you can take to the bank or credit union and that is if you are not shopping your customer contact employees I can assure you your competition is. Why would anyone provide the competition with that kind of advantage.