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DV Asks Our Clients About Mystery Shopping

What do the banks and credit unions that utilize Mystery Shopping really think about it?

Delivering Value asked them. Read on to learn how they use it, what results they have achieved and what advice they have for those who are contemplating this solution. We thank Haigohe Miller, vice president of branch administration at Nevada Federal Credit Union in Las Vegas, and Richard Searson, vice president of training at Aliant Bank in Birmingham, for sharing their experiences.

DV: Why do you use Mystery Shopping and how long have you been using it?

Miller: We use it to improve our member service. Our goal is to provide an exceptional member experience by building relationships. Getting a third party opinion is more objective. We've been using the program for about six or seven years.

Searson: We've been using Harland Clarke for about a year to measure telephone service in our 13 branches and in our call center. We don't do any face-to-face mystery shopping. Before that we used another company, but I wasn't satisfied with the process or reporting. I thought it was a little simplistic and didn't think it was giving us a true picture. The Harland Clarke reports are very specific-I like how the questions are asked and how the answers are recorded. I can tell almost word for word what people have said in response to the shoppers' questions. Plus the reports include comparisons, so I can see how much we've improved. Also, with the old company, our staff could always tell when they were being shopped, whereas now they rarely guess. Although sometimes they'll tell me, "Hey, Richard, I think I got shopped yesterday!"

DV: What service standards do you measure with Mystery Shopping?

Miller: We focus on 21 areas, including teller wait time, professionalism and courtesy, cross-selling, and facility appearance.

Searson: We measure service levels and cross-selling. So we're looking for things like how pleasant our employees are and whether they ask good questions of the customer. Also, we had a problem with our staff putting customers on hold and then, suddenly, someone else would pick up the phone.

DV: How frequently are your Mystery Shops conducted?

Miller: Usually monthly. Every branch gets shopped once, and we have 20 branches in seven districts. Also, shoppers make 10 calls a month to our call center. And now we're also using them to shop our Mortgage Lending department about two or three times a year.

Searson: Quarterly

DV: What results have you achieved with Mystery Shopping?

Miller: Results are measured in points, and a perfect score is 160 points. We always increase our point goals, based on previous averages. Right now our goal is 140 points. Back in February, we hit a record-nine employees with a perfect score of 160; usually we have just three or four a month. We also have an annual member survey, and those ratings continue to rise. And our cross-sell ratio and referrals have improved dramatically. Best of all, since we began Mystery Shopping, we no longer get members calling or writing with complaints, whereas before we used to get two or three a month bumped up to senior management.

Searson: Our service ratings have improved significantly. Last year, from third quarter to fourth quarter, we went from 78 percent to 84 percent. The number of employees who scored in the 90th percentile increased, too.

DV: What advice would you offer a bank or credit union that is considering Mystery Shopping?

Miller: When you establish service standards, share them with your employees. Embarking on a Mystery Shopping program should not be a mystery to them! You don't want to scare them or keep them in the dark. You need to present it in a positive manner, as an opportunity for improvement and as a coaching tool. We train them first and give them time to practice before we start the program.

Searson: I think a good start is to measure telephone customer service. Once your staff is used to telephone Mystery Shopping, it becomes easier to move to in-person shopping.