Mystery Shops - 1As part of its larger marketing audit services, On The Mark Strategies performs mystery shops. These primarily entail posing as potential customers or members for clients to investigate how competing banks and credit unions interact with consumers. These mystery shops can also be internal, as we pose as a customer/member off the street that has come into their financial institution to conduct a specific transaction.

The value of these mystery shops cannot be understated. Often, clients are surprised (both positively and negatively) by what mystery shops revealed. A few compelling generalizations can be expressed after reviewing several years of information. The data generalized below represents approximately five credit unions and approximately 25 institutions identified by them as prime competitors to mystery shop.

  • Disconnect between perception and performance. Many strategic planning teams come into and marketing audit and mystery shop situation with preconceived notions about the outcome. Typically, results received, both internally and externally, come as a surprise. And while this can come in the form of employees performing beyond expectations, more often than not it is in those that are not living the brand or executing prescribed methods of consumer interaction.
  • Outdated and/or inconsistent marketing materials in branch offices. Often existing as islands unto themselves, branches were often found to display older and outdated marketing materials. This includes materials misaligned with existing branding efforts (see below).
  • Branch offices don’t do a terrific job of living the brand. Branches historically exhibit evidence of the “redheaded step kid syndrome,” in which they feel isolated and left out from the main office culture and the executive staff that typically houses there. And while a lot of this falls on the main office and senior team to remedy, branch offices can also step up and do more. Poor performance on the branch level can also include a lack of consistency with brand standards when it comes to consumer interaction. For your brand to succeed, branches must fully integrate with what the main office prescribes.
  • Your competition is doing a better job than you think. During mystery shops, clients sometimes come into the process believing that their local competitors are far behind when it comes to service. Results are often contradictory to this misconception. Other banks and credit unions in your area are typically just as interested in superior service and performance and have invested similar amounts of time, money and training in branding to realize that. Simply assuming that because you work hard to provide superior service others lag behind is a recipe for disaster.

While many other generalizations could be made about the mystery shop process, these are just a few of the more prominent ones. One client described the On The Mark Strategies marketing audit and mystery shop process as “brutal, but fair.”

While not every mystery shop is described as brutal, they are often a somewhat uncomfortable experience for the client. But nobody ever grows while they’re comfortable. In order to thrive and succeed, banks and credit unions will embrace the marketing audit and mystery shop process and learn from its results, both positive and negative.