Magazine article American Banker

Banks Using 'Mystery Shopper' Firm to Improve Service

Magazine article American Banker

Banks Using 'Mystery Shopper' Firm to Improve Service

Article excerpt

With an eye toward improving training techniques, several financial institutions have employed a research company to test the way bank employees interact with customers.

Seattle-based Service Intelligence Inc. offers banks a view of their services from the customer's perspective.

The California unit of Sumitomo Bank Ltd. and California Bancshares are two of the most recent users of Service Intelligence's "mystery shopping" service.

"We act as the voice of the customer, providing ongoing feedback," said Lisa Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Seattle company.

One of the ways Service Intelligence offers to help banks improve customer satisfaction is through its SnapShot service. Groups of testers, posing as potential clients, canvass a bank's branches, evaluating employee knowledge and interpersonal and problem-solving skills.

Results, usually reported within several weeks, include service grades ranging from one for "poor" to five for "excellent." The grades are applied to branches, departments, and the organization as a whole.

In addition, Service Intelligence rates how individual officers handled transactions.

Steven Nelson, a branch officer at San Francisco-based Sumitomo Bank of California, said improving service is necessary because retail banking is increasingly a commodity business.

"There are very little differences between products," he said, "but people will go to branches where they feel comfortable. When customers go into a bank, they want to be recognized and want to encounter people that understand their needs. …

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