Published in Financial Services

Mystery Shop Program Design in Financial Services

In an earlier blog, my associate—Al Goldsmith—talked about what Mystery Shopping is used for. In essence, it is used to measure against service metrics in an effort to identify gaps in customer service delivery.  But how does an organization, when considering a mystery shop program to assess site-level compliance, ensure maximum benefit while meeting budgetary constraints?  It’s all in the initial program design.

Define Requirements and Budgetary Restrictions

When working with clients, I suggest first defining what the requirements are versus what budgetary restrictions may be in place—within a tiered approach.  This provides options for the client to consider when identifying “how far” down the investment services process the client wishes the mystery shopper to go.

Based on our experience, it’s best to start with a limited number of options (3 to 5) so that, in each, an overall summary of expected results—i.e. the “What”—and an overall summary of execution—the “How”—is captured for consideration.

The financial services examples below follow this methodology, from providing a mystery shop focusing on basic information inquiries to a full “life-cycle” process measurement/design.

 Basic Investments Inquiry Mystery Shop

Start off by Identifying front-line employee compliance with investment inquiries (handoff process), financial advisor compliance with organization expectation, and guidance on dialogue with customer in regards to investment services, products and processes. This would include the sharing of appropriate hard-copy materials, basic customer information gathering (e.g. advisor collected suitability information) and, if desired, advisor follow up (e.g. call-back within 48 hours.). This can be done at any retail branch by existing customers and non-customers.

A shopper would enter the retail branch and make inquiries about investment services with a front-line employee. The shopper should be handed off to an on-site financial advisor. Next, the customer would listen for information and ask questions ascertain responses. They would not open a investments account, but simply decline by saying they were just looking for information. If advisor follow-up measurement is desired, shoppers would complete shop process at time of call-back or upon waiting until the client agreed-to-point. This is a simple process and the cost for conducting would be minimal.

Investments Account Opening Mystery Shop

In addition to all of the above steps, this program now identifies financial advisor compliance with the account opening process to include mandatory communication and associate time limits, etc. Like the example above, this can be done at any retail branch however, must be conducted by an existing customer who has not yet opened an investments account and willing to do so.

The process would be nearly identical to the example above. When prompted, the shopper would complete the investments account opening process. Once the shopper returned home, account opening communications would be monitored and the shop process would be completed at client agreed-to-point. The cost for completing this mystery shop will be increased due to the nature of opening investments accounts and the length of the shop which can be up to two weeks on average.

Investment Services & Products Life-Cycle Mystery Shop

Finally, this mystery shop entails the entire life cycle of investment services. A mystery shop of this type will include the basic information gathering, account opening process, as well as the actual servicing of the account (i.e. options advice, actual product purchase). Again, this can be done at any branch. Only those customers who have an existing investments account or who are willing to open one would be able to participate.

This mystery shop would follow the same process as the above example, with customers with existing investments accounts skipping the initial steps. The shopper would then engage with the financial advisor on product options etc. This would be based on personal needs and desired which can be “scripted” with the client to meet requirements for measuring advisor execution of customer suitability process. The shopper would then complete the product purchase process, and return home to monitor account and product purchase communication. The shop process would be complete after the client agreed-to-point. Further, shoppers could monitor communications for an extended period (again, defined by the client) to measure receipt of ongoing communications (change to prospectus, etc.). Using this method would be the most expensive however would provide a deep level of insight provided into the process the customer goes through.

A Starting Point

Depending on the number and complexity of requirements, there may be a need for defining more than 3-5 high-level options.  And, in many cases, the final design may be a hyrid of one or more of those initially presented to the client team.  A hybrid that, to ensure all requirements are met, includes varying shop volumes across all options.

By defining the major options up-front, the program design team now has a framework in which to start striking the right balance between value and cost.