BEYOND
MYSTERY SHOPPING

Key Differentiators

Built on Solid Science

The foundation of Service & Sales CX is SERVQUAL, a multi-dimensional research methodology, designed to capture and measure the quality of service experienced by customers across five critical factors and identify gaps between their expectations and their actual experiences.

Transformative Coaching

Our Client Success Team equips managers with training as coaches focused on identifying and building service skills and strengths within each employee; boosting their commitment and developing crucial sales skills that translate into increased revenue and customer loyalty.

Customized Evaluation

From the beginning, our Client Success Team identifies the full range of instances where customers experience service interactions and develops a customized, comprehensive strategy for assessing those interactions at the branch, channel and individual employee levels.​

Expert Evaluators

From the financial institution’s own customer base, our Client Success Team recruits, trains, develops and monitors an extensive team of expert evaluators who are then deployed to conduct mystery shop assessments in the live environment according to strategy.

Accuracy is Guaranteed

Our Quality Auditing Team examines every assessment as it comes in for accuracy and consistency, investigating and clarifying all discrepancies with the member evaluator. Further auditing validates all data, ensuring the client a near 100% level of accuracy.

Truly Actionable Analytics

Results are made available on Support EXP’s proprietary Client Portal, presenting data in a powerful, granular way that enables managers to pinpoint performance gaps at the individual level, leading to greater accountability for managers in developing exemplary employees.

Answering Your Questions

From a direct interview with Rhonda Sheets | Founder, President, CEO

What Is Service & Sales CX™?

Service & Sales CX™ is a next-generation Voice-of-YOUR-Customer mystery shopping program that targets specific employee behaviors and informs coaching for improved performance.

Is mystery shopping a thing of the past?

I’d have to answer that question with another question: Is designing your service and sales culture to meet the expectations of the customer a thing of the past? Absolutely not. We have to not only meet but exceed the expectations of consumers today. Mystery shopping is the only tool that actually anticipates where consumers are going to be. By capturing what they’re thinking about, what they’re doing, and how they’re perceiving financial services, you can design services that meet them where they are. The only way to capture that is through something that gets down under the transactions and into the behaviors. That instrument is mystery shopping.

Isn’t there a better or cheaper way to achieve the same value?

Everyone is looking for the easy way, and I think that’s where Net Promoter Score came on the scene. It created that thought of, We have just one number that we have to actually deliver on and then all of the growth that we could ever want is going to fall into our laps. But the reality is, there is not a silver bullet. If you truly want to identify exact employee behaviors and determine if those behaviors are meeting your financial institution’s expectations and standards, the easy way is not going to do all of that. 

Is there any difference between a mystery shop and a survey?

There’s a very distinct difference. In the survey channel, the feedback is very general, because when the customer had that experience with you, they had no idea they would have to report the details back to you later. You’re dealing with recall, so you have to expect pretty general responses. By and large, the feedback is not going to be at the behavioral level. In a survey channel, for example, respondents are going to say, They were unfriendly. In the mystery shopping channel, you will know the exact behaviors that were or were not demonstrated: how that employee communicated lack of friendliness, lack of confidence, lack of reliability. Why your sales process was off-putting and not effective. You cannot get that through a survey. You have to use a mystery shopping instrument. And our mystery shopping solution goes even further than that. Our program identifies over 60 specific service and sales behaviors. We take real customers and equip them, engage them and train them to identify what their experience should sound like, look like, feel like. Then, the questions they answer are on specific, observable behaviors. That is key: observable behaviors, not impressions.

Haven’t organizations started to step away from mystery shopping?

” Actually, not everyone has moved away from it. The reality is, the most progressive banks and credit unions are still doing it. Those institutions that want to really differentiate themselves and be out in front of the competition are measuring at the behavioral level. But those who’ve said, “We did that, we’ve tried that,” what they have worked with is a program that I would say was not even a strong, traditional application of mystery shopping. Most of these were probably mystery shopping programs where employees could easily identify who the shoppers were, where there wasn’t credibility, or the data they received wasn’t actionable – they didn’t know what to do with the information. So basically they said, That doesn’t work for me, but what they’re really saying is, That brand didn’t work for me.

Here's What Rhonda Had to Say

What Need Does IT MEET?

This solution was designed to instill accountability in the process of closing gaps between employee behaviors and organizational goals and objectives.

What unmet needs did you see in the marketplace, that prompted you to create Service & Sales CX™?

It started with identifying a clear need, which I believe is still a clear gap and need in the industry, that’s entrenched almost culturally. Financial institutions have come to accept a particular way that they’re doing business and still not getting the results. I would say there was an element of providence that I was thinking about that, in that moment, when here comes this mystery shopping program, confronting me, that I would have never considered. I would have never said, okay, it’s measurement that we can make actionable. I just knew that there was a problem and a need, and accountability was huge in that process: the lack of accountability to really deliver what the strategies and the growth of the organization and business goals are demanding. What appealed to a lot of leaders within these credit unions and banks when we approached them with this solution was that now they had accountability, they had a way to hold their managers accountable for what they were responsible for.

Financial institutions are usually great at developing strategy, but like many organizations, they often fall short in the execution. We saw that banks and credit unions had many growth goals and sales objectives that needed to happen at the branch level, but they were unable to deliver on them and didn’t know why. Employees would come back to their branch from training programs and their manager would say, I know they learned to do this, but they’re not actually doing it. So there’s this huge gap between learning to provide service and sales in a relationship-building way, and actually doing it. Our holistic solution meets a real need by truly closing that gap between what you need your employees to do and what they’re actually doing. It equips and empower managers to go from just saying, Go out and deliver great service, to saying, Here’s what great service should look like, and here are the actual skills that need to be learned, developed and mastered. From saying, “We need more transactions, we need more sales, we need more growth, to saying, Here is how you actually get those through your behaviors.

What did you want to promise financial institutions you would provide that they weren’t currently getting?

Managers wanted to generate more revenue, but there were two things holding them back. One was that their people really didn’t know how to sell in a relationship-building way, despite all of the training. You had some that cared and some that didn’t. I would ask the managers, Do you want them to deliver better sales, or is it just something you wish they would do? For those managers who said, Okay, it is an expectation, I said, I’m going to equip and train your branch managers to develop their people to actually sell in a relationship-building way. Twenty years ago, that was a whole new thought: that you would actually get your results through those branch managers, that they would have the ownership and responsibility. I began working at that front-line management level and started to see the difference, but then I saw another issue holding these institutions back: these branch managers didn’t have the basic service and sales skills themselves! So our program had to bridge the great divide between what the executive team wanted, what the frontline had to deliver, and what the branch managers had to be responsible for. Our Service & Sales CX™ solution brought those three pieces together – completely.

Here's What Rhonda Had to Say

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Service & Sales CX™ manages clients’ CX performance with an objectivity that is coming up from the voice of your customer. It provides the awareness that this is what quality service looks like. This is what quality sales behaviors look like.

Does Service & Sales CX™ assess the same behaviors as other mystery shopping products?

No. Our SERVQUAL methodology ensures that the service behaviors we ask them to evaluate are the most critical for an organization to deliver well during a service experience. On the sales side, the measurement follows a methodology that builds relationships and fits with the culture and DNA of each specific organization. Done well, these selling behaviors WILL build relationships. If not, you might have an employee that closes a transaction because the consumer got a great incentive on it, but is that consumer coming back to you? You might get the deal but you’re not getting the relationship. Our methodology ensures that what your customers experience, they experience across your brand, and that your employees are really going to sell with a relationship in view. So it’s really both service AND sales. The service behaviors are not easy but they are very straightforward. Employees are either doing them or not. The sales behaviors have an arc, a science, and some real training that has to happen. This is why we gave it the name Service and Sales, because many mystery shopping programs out there focus on service. But service is a springboard to building relationships, which is the springboard to sales. So the true test of service is: are you deepening relationships? We have a true, solid methodology that answers that question.

What would you say to someone who says that Service & Sales CX™ is merely measuring the perceptions of the customer?

I would say that while there is an element of garnering what we would call perception or subjectivity of how the customer experiences it, that is not the core. It’s not the foundation of what this program and the solution were built on. If you’re only garnering perceptions of customers, which could be quite fickle and quite random, no one’s going to build a strategy or execute on a strategy of service and sales excellence based on the fickle perceptions of random customers. If that was what your program is based on, then that is certainly a house of cards. You will be aiming in all different directions.

As I mentioned before, the foundation or the fundamental core this is built on is the science for service called SERVQUAL. This is about predetermined standards on how service needs to be delivered. SERVQUAL says that consumers experience and perceive service in one or more of five dimensions. Those dimensions are Reliability, Responsiveness, Empathy, Assurance and Tangibles. Well, we can’t just say, go out and make sure you deliver service in such a way that elicits assurance from the customer. There are certain behaviors that communicate this assurance, certain behaviors that communicate this reliability in the financial services environment. So the first thing is to set in place this science of standards. What must your people learn, demonstrate and master in order to deliver service that is perceived as excellent across the spectrum of idiosyncrasies of individual financial consumers? What are those standards?

And that’s the science on the service side. Then we are inviting, recruiting, equipping, training, coaching, developing your customers to then evaluate a real service experience based on this science and these criteria. And then to provide the assessment against that. While there will be a bit of subjectivity based on the perception or need of that particular financial consumer or evaluator – for example, to what degree were they satisfied with the empathy? – it’s all based upon a core science. To lack that science is to have a program that is deeply subjective. What you need is a program that’s deeply objective.

Is there a science or a methodology to the sales aspect of Service & Sales CX™?

First of all, we use a methodology that focuses on the reality that selling is a series of events done in the right order. We train to this. This is in our coaching guides. Those five events – Connect, Analyze, Inform, Advance and Adjust – have a set of behaviors, and those behaviors need to be learned, demonstrated, mastered. The process by which they can be learned, demonstrated, mastered is the coaching process, and knowing exactly where to pinpoint the coaching.

Well, how would we know exactly where to pinpoint the coaching? Does Sally need what Joe needs, does Joe need what Rhonda needs? When we get the assessments from those that are experiencing those sales techniques throughout your entire branch and channel network, then we’re able to pinpoint where they’re excelling and where that focus needs to be. We don’t want you to train and coach your people to advance until they have connecting well in hand.

The other thing institutions need to ask themselves is: Are we just about the transactions? Is the purpose of our sales methodology to get more closes or is our sales methodology and philosophy designed to build true relationships?

We would say we care less about whether they get that individual transaction. We’re not even measuring whether or not they get the transaction, the close. We’re coming under that and asking, What are the actual behaviors that need to be learned to build a relationship and ensure that you’re going to be deepening it as you go along?

If you’re unable to deliver based on your scorecards and your goals and your objectives to focus more on transactions, your people will probably end up getting those transactions. Think Wells Fargo. But are they really going to get the relationship? There’s a threefold impact of our methodology and philosophy, and the threefold impact is this: What’s the impact on the employee as they’re building these progressive skills? What’s the impact on the customer as they’re experiencing a seamless way in which the brand is delivered on the selling side of this? And then it impacts the manager who’s able to coach and develop their employees around these actual sales events. That’s the methodology, the philosophy that we are actually measuring or assessing to.

Here's What Rhonda Had to Say

WHAT SETS IT APART FROM OTHER PRODUCTS?

So many things: the science underlying the questions, our recruitment of actual customers or members as shoppers, the deployment strategy, the quality review process, the on-demand analysis and reporting and the ongoing guidance and support.

Are other mystery shopping products asking different questions and missing the mark, or asking the same questions, but not doing anything useful with the data? Where does your differentiation begin?

It definitely begins in the science. We measure actual, research-proven behaviors. Then it moves into how we collect that data and who we collect it from. This is where our credibility sets us apart. Say a credit union wants 100 shops or evaluations per month. Other programs will give you five or six shoppers, deployed randomly throughout the financial institution, that are so-called professional shoppers, not even regular customers or members. When the professional shopper arrives on the scene, up and down the teller line you hear, The shopper is here, the shopper is here. Then they call the next branch and say, Hey, the shoppers are in town. So the employees are performing for the shopper. Have those programs changed the culture? Not at all. Sure, you’ve got great scores, but we hear this all the time. One credit union used a different company’s mystery shopping program and told us, You know, we got great scores on our program but I know it doesn’t reflect what actually is going on out there. What is wrong?

Is your process of selecting and deploying shoppers completely different than what is typically used by other mystery shopping products?

Yes – if a bank or credit union uses our solution and asks for 100 shops or evaluations per month, we will send out three to five hundred different customers or members and strategically rotate them in and out of different branches and channels to make sure they are not recognized as mystery shoppers. We also know exactly what to do and how to retire shoppers who give themselves away. Our data becomes very CREDIBLE in the eyes of the employee and the organization.

The fundamental premise of mystery shopping is that it is a mystery, that your employees do not know they’re being evaluated. If that is compromised, you don’t have a mystery shopping program, and you are not going to get the results you thought you were signing up for.

What happens after an evaluation is completed and submitted? How is what you deliver different from what competitors’ products provide?

We have a robust technology that’s driving this. The work resides internally with us and with our systems so that it’s seamless and coachable data as soon as it hits the Portal. To begin with, we don’t start with the evaluation and then try to figure out what to do with it. We are actually determining, dynamically, where these assessments need to be deployed: which departments, which products, and then the different question sets relevant to those different types of services that are being delivered.

Then we have an entire quality and editing team. The data is not raw like in the survey channel, where it’s almost livestreamed. The error ratio for each quality reviewer always needs to be less than 1%. Our entire team is handling a high volume of evaluations, but they’re incredibly efficient and disciplined. After it goes through them, there’s also an audit process that spot checks to make sure all the issues on everything they’ve worked on have been caught. So we are measuring their quality on a consistent basis and the system itself identifies whenever there are quality issues, which is how I know through tracking that their error rate is less than 1%. By the time that the client gets the evaluation, it’s virtually error-free because it’s going first through our quality check process and then through the auditing process. Nothing is perfect, but it’s as near error-free as it can be.

Given that there is definitely a distinction between what you do and what other mystery shopping programs are doing, is it appropriate to even refer to your solution as “mystery shopping”?

Well, it is a completely different solution! Our evaluations are really scientific research that is going on, and we’ve trained customers to be real evaluators or assessors, so they go into it with a very different attitude and a very different set of eyes and ears. And I would add one more differentiator: the purpose of our solution is different. The purpose is to equip managers to deliver on their part of their organization’s strategic vision and objective. From the very beginning, the program has to be designed with purpose in view, so that the data is captured and presented in such a way that it enables this purpose. You cannot just do it as an add-on. It doesn’t work as an afterthought. The core, the fundamental purpose and design of the program, has to keep that in view.

Here's What Rhonda Had to Say

HOW SOON CAN WE EXPECT RESULTS?

After benchmarking, individual coaching to expectations begins in the fifth month, with effects noticeable within six to seven months.

” During the initial benchmarking period our clients begin to see their service and sales culture for what it is. That’s a 90-day period, if we can get them to hold off that long. Some of them want to do benchmarking for only 60 days; they just want to jump in and fix this. But you have to let the trends compile over three months so it becomes a very believable case when we do the onboarding with these managers and they see their three months’ results. That is another part of our secret sauce: our data is undeniable when it’s coming through the voice of the customer for three months.

They roll it out in the fourth month and they do a group level coaching session based on the benchmark for each manager. They set the expectations in that fourth month. They begin individually coaching in the fifth month, which is the first time individual employees are seeing their own assessments. Now in that six month they are beginning to use these skills, and the lift in terms of results comes in that sixth to seventh month.

Here's What Rhonda Had to Say
Schedule A Free Consultation

Let our CX Experts assist you in exploring how

Service & Sales CX™ can help you build the team you need!

Let our CX Experts assist you in exploring how Service & Sales CX™ can help you build the team you need!
Close