Best Practices in Bank Customer Experience Measurement Design: Mystery Shopping

Bank Mystery Shopping

“You can expect what you inspect.”

This management philosophy is as true today as it was 50 years ago when W. Edwards Deming used it.  Mystery shopping is more than a pure measurement technique conducted properly; it is an excellent motivational tool to motivate appropriate sales and service behaviors across all bank delivery channels.

Unlike the various customer feedback tools designed to inform managers about how customers feel about the bank, mystery shopping focuses on the behavioral side of the equation, answering the question: are our employees exhibiting appropriate sales and service behaviors?

It is the employees who animate the brand, and it is imperative that employee sales and service behaviors be aligned with the brand promise.  Actions speak louder than words.  Brands spend millions of dollars on external messaging to define an emotional connection with the customer.  However, when a customer perceives a disconnect between an employee representing the brand and external messaging, they almost certainly will experience brand ambiguity.  The result severely undermines these investments, not only for the customer in question, but their entire social network.  In today’s increasingly connected world, one bad experience could be shared hundreds if not thousands of times over.  Mystery shopping is an excellent tool to align sales and service behaviors to the brand.

So…what behaviors, channels and employees should be shopped?

Sales channels and sales behaviors offer the most ROI relative to other types of shopping.  In terms of prioritizing mystery shopping resources, shops of sales channels and sale behaviors should be the first priority.  With the increasing use of universal associates and transforming tellers into sellers, it is incumbent on managers to measure and motivate these higher level sales skills, in both branches and contact centers.  After sales behaviors have been prioritized, if resources remain for mystery shopping service scenarios can be included in the mix.

As for the specific measurements, the best practice for mystery shop design is to focus on empirically measureable employee behaviors captured with objective questions.  (Was a specific behavior present or not?…Yes or no).  The best methodology for deciding which questions to ask is to start with your brand promise, and determine which sales and service behaviors animate the brand.  Once you have developed a list of expected behaviors, the next step is to map each behavior to a specific question.  Avoid compound questions which ask about two different behaviors, unless you expect both behaviors to be present at the same time, and you are not worried about distinguishing if one is present without the other.

For more information about a process to align behaviors to the brand, click here: “5 Steps to Make Frontline Employees Authentic Representatives of the Brand”

Open-ended questions, either in narrative form or qualitatively asking what shoppers liked or disliked about the experience, add valuable context for understanding the customer experience.  Many clients consider these qualitative observations the heart of the shop.

While the core of the mystery shop is objective measurements of specific behaviors, there is a place for subjective impressions.  Rating scales are used to capture shopper impressions of various dimensions of the customer experience, as well as the overall experience itself.  These subjective ratings provide valuable context for interpreting the customer experience, and specifically the efficacy of the objective behaviors measured.  For example, purchase intent ratings calculate a correlation between the objective behaviors measured and purchase intent, identifying which behaviors may be more important in terms of driving purchase intent, and which investments in training, incentives and rewards have the most potential for ROI.

Finally, given mystery shopping measures employee behaviors against bank service standards, it is a best practice to calibrate and align service standards with customer expectations by constantly feeding information uncovered with the customer surveys back into the service standards and mystery shopping.  Such an informed feedback loop between customer surveys and mystery shopping will ensure the behaviors measured are aligned with customer expectations.

Call to Action

Research without a call to action may be informative, but not very useful.  Call to action elements should be built into research design, which provide a road map for clients to maximize the ROI on customer experience measurement.

For more posts in this series, click on the following links:


Click Here For More Information About Kinesis'; Bank Mystery Shopping


Clink Here for Mystery Shopping Best Practices

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About Eric Larse

Eric Larse is co-founder of Seattle-based Kinesis CEM, LLC, which helps clients plan and execute their customer experience strategies through the intelligent use of customer satisfaction surveys and mystery shopping, linked with training and incentive programs. Visit Kinesis at: www.kinesis-cem.com

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