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Banks Take a New Look at Mystery Shopping

Even with more and more people taking their banking online, there are certain procedures — like opening an account or applying for a loan — where a face-to-face interaction at a bank cannot be avoided. And banks have not forgotten this, according to a recent article by Steve Cocheo for the ABA Banking Journal. In fact, many financial institutions are using mystery shopping companies to assess how their customer service reps are handling these interactions.

When financial institutions first started hiring mystery shoppers, the main focus was customer experience. While customer service basics (like greeting the customer, for example) are still relevant, banks have started to go beyond “good morning,” in regards to market research.

RTP Federal Credit Union.

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Think about the last time you walked into a bank to open a checking or savings account. Your overall goal was to walk out with the best overall package for your needs, right? For the customer service representative, this could go two ways: 1) The one dimensional approach, in which the rep will try to put you in the best account the bank offers. 2) The rep will profile you, asking questions to paint a fuller picture of the your needs. Banks are finding, not surprisingly, that the multi-dimensional approach never fails to separate the most successful customer service reps from the bunch.

According to Cocheo, banks mystery shop their staff to determine how customers are ascertaining customer needs and banking service preferences. Management can use mystery shop findings to address gaps in training. Another main focus on recent bank mystery shops? Checking to see if reps are “asking for the sale.” Mystery shop can point out poor follow-through, and the bank can step in to remedy that issue. Mystery shops can also reveal whether or not front-line employees are complying with new banking terms, like the 2010 debt overdraft opt-in decision, and explaining that to customers.

Bank managers are finding a key takeaway — you can’t assume that an employee trained once will immediately execute what he or she has learned. Many banks have been launching new offers without following up to see if the employees truly understand the selling approach.

Because some customers are so rarely physically present in their bank, the importance of a great experience when they are present is that much more important. In this rare opportunity, the employee must be more effective, more analytical, and more persistent. Consumers are also taking their banking business to alternative channels, like social media, so all facets of their interactions need to be considered.

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