How Mystery Shopping Can Help You to Feel the Customer’s Experience


female detectiveI am a true believer in learning by observing the “real” world. That is why, last week, I spent a full day mystery shopping at 4 branches of a bank in a European country. My goal was to find out how well they could identify my needs and how eager they were to open an account with the products I needed. Let me share my experiences.

The bank is the number one bank in that country, and my expectations were high. My first impressions confirmed my expectations. I noted that the staff were all “very friendly people and willing to help me without making an appointment first”.

I dropped the clue that I want to open a current account to start with and, surprisingly, 3 out of the 4 advisors immediately started to explain to me their common current account. They printed out the information and/or handed me their brochures. No questions or financial details were asked to find out if this was the right account for me. The only question they asked me repeatedly was “What more information do you want?”

To help them out, I dropped some more clues, but each time the advisors only addressed the obvious question. When I said that I wanted to discuss it with my husband first, none of the advisors asked to schedule a next appointment or noted my contact details.

The following questions kept me awake that night:

  • Is excellent service only about being friendly to a customer?
  • Is pro-actively asking the right questions to identify the needs of a customer and, therefore, being able to offer the best solutions, considered being too pushy?
  • Would a customer feel irritated if they were offered a next appointment and/or asked their contact details for a follow-up?

My answers to those questions were definitively no. What I learned from Marty Cohen and Ed Brown is that Sales and Service are intertwined. And guess what, they really are. As a customer, at first I felt welcome because the employees were very friendly and willing to help me. But from the start of the conversation to the end, it became obvious that the advisors were not listening to me and didn’t recommend the right account for me. I felt I was not being taken seriously.

That day I learned a lot about how a customer must feel sometimes and what we all could do to train, coach and support employees to improve their Service and Sales skills for the benefit of the customers. It was a well spent day, and I recommend you do some mystery shopping yourself or do it more often.

Let me know what you discover!

Brenda Schäfer is a Results Consultant for Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc.

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