5 Critical Mystery Shopper Questions for Banks and Credit Unions

Secret shopper programs have become a popular tool for banks and credit unions to keep track of their customer service standards and performance management incentive triggers. These programs excel at measuring which company standards and beliefs have been effectively translated into desired behavior and which have not. The following questions are critical to ensuring buyer reviews truly capture the beliefs and behaviors that are most important to achieving desired outcomes.

1. Number and type of open-ended questions asked. If a sale is to be made, the MSR/CSR must be trained to display inquisitive behavior. The employee has to ask questions to which the customer has to respond with an experience or an emotion. Questions that can be answered with a yes or no do not indicate how the customer feels about a product or experience at your institution or that of a competitor. Questions that start with “Have you ever had the experience” or “You know what frustrates me about X” and end with “I don’t think this has ever happened to you” work great. Achieving the goal of having MSRs/CSRs exhibiting this desired behavior requires extensive belief and behavior training, which is constantly reinforced by organizational culture.

2. Number and details of attempts to go from request to action. Oftentimes, buyer forms contain generic phrases such as “employee attempted to close sale” or “employee recommended additional products or services.” Often, forms give employees credit for merely mentioning a product or describing a product’s features. It is crucial that an MSR/CSR suggest next steps for action and try to get the customer to close the sale. Measurement questions such as “Employee offered to drive me to an office to complete account opening” or “Employee attempted to set up an appointment for me to discuss options and benefits of opening a new IRA account.”

3. Presented specific product or service benefits. In most cases, a buyer form will capture the MSR/CSR’s explanation of features such as “100% money back guarantee,” “no points,” or “no maintenance fees,” but will not capture how or if the employee presented the benefits the customer would derive from the product or service. The most useful assessment will capture the “with” declarations of performance. For example, “Our mortgage and home equity loans offer the benefit of no need to add points, so you don’t have to add an additional reason to your balance that would require you to pay interest throughout the life of the loan”. Another example would be “our IRA accounts carry no management fees (so) any interest you earn you keep and don’t have to pay back as fees”.

4. Product or Service Relationship Connections/Benefits. Often, buyer forms contain generic language about cross-selling attempts, such as “MSR/CSR attempted to cross-sell additional products.” The best way to measure effective cross-sell beliefs and desired behaviors is to ask what product relationships or cross-product benefits the employee offered. An example would be MSR/CSR explaining that by taking out a car loan from the bank/credit union along with a checking account with a debit card, I would get an additional 0.25% rebate on the car loan (so I would have one). lower monthly payments, pay less interest and potentially reduce the total loan repayment period. 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 paycheck so some funds could automatically go into savings accounts (so) I could build a high-yield nest egg on a budget, that I can afford.

5. Details of how MSR/CSR asked about the deal. Mystery shopper assessments often fail to record whether the employee has asked for an order. It’s almost impossible to do business if you put all the burden on your customers to go and ask for it themselves. I can’t tell you how many very appropriate and heartfelt sales presentations I’ve seen where the only thing that turned a safe sale into a no decision was the failure of the salespeople to simply start the presentation with a request for the to end the sale. It’s as simple as “I heard from your responses that this product gives you all the benefits you are looking for. May I set it up for you now?” The buyer form should contain the exact wording of how the MSR/CSR asked about the deal.

In elaborating the 5 critical questions, I did not attempt to cover the entire potential area in which mystery/secret shopper inventories can be focused on measuring and illicit desired behavior. For example, overcoming objections would be a whole course in itself. In writing these questions, I wanted to share my experience of developing effective shopping reviews and some of the most common pitfalls. I applaud you for your commitment to your customers if you are currently running a secret buyer program. If you don’t, I posit that there’s one thing you can take to the bank or credit union, and that is if you don’t shop your frontline staff, I can assure you your competition is. Why would anyone give the competition such an advantage?