A collection of don'ts gathered along the way

Bill Shapard Jr., PRC
December 7, 2020

In talking with current and potential bank clients over the years, I've heard some pretty outrageous stories about how other mystery shopping firms perform their work. Many banks that we now work for, used to utilize mystery shopping at some point in the past, but stopped because the methodology was unworkable and the data collection was poor.At ShapardResearch, we set out to change all of that, and fix the issues that have plagued the practice for far too long. Here is a collection of don'ts that we gathered along the way and how our methods keep these from giving mystery shopping a bad name.


Would you believe that one of our clients told us that their former firm's shopper came in the bank lobby and carried a clipboard around during the entire shop? Where's the mystery in that? Obviously, the shopper was trying to prepare a good report during the shop, but the data being collected wasn't. This shopper suffered from a lack of training and supervision, which we believe is critical to providing good business intelligence to the client.Firms that use independent contractors or recruit from the bank's customers to perform their shops have difficulty conducting the type of in-depth training needed and, therefore, are stuck with shoppers in distant places who, somehow, think that there is nothing wrong with carrying a clipboard during the shop.We put our shoppers, who are employees of our firm, through extensive in-person training with cognitive learning and role-playing. Plus, they have to pass an evaluation conducted by the trainer before performing any shop assignments. For us, this and a host of other amateurish problems are solved rather simply.

Change for a twenty?

I would not have believe it had I not heard it myself, but the shopper comes into the lobby and asks the teller for change. It may be a simple transaction, but there's just one problem: how can the shopper accurately evaluate the teller when one of the criteria on the shop instrument is 'did the teller use your name during the transaction?'This scenario is an example of poor methodology and execution on the part of the mystery shopping firm, which must design a program where the bank employee can be accurately and fairly evaluated based on the criteria important to the bank. Relationships is critical to the banking industry and the use of the customer's name is just one part of building that relationship.We design transactional scenarios that allow our shoppers to effectively evaluate the bank's employee on all criteria determined by our client. Then, we supervise our shopper employee for perfect execution. That's how we roll.

My favorite teller

When a mystery shopping firm recruits from its client's customer, which few customers are willing to accept, there is a tendency for the bank customer to want to shop their favorite teller who, naturally, always get a good score. There are so many problems with this one on so many levels, it's hard to know where to start.You can't blame the customer shopper. They already have a career or life of their own and when asked to mystery shop their own bank, they said they'd help out. But, they don't want to get anyone at the bank in trouble?Unfortunately, firms using this type of methodology are stuck. How do you keep this from happening (and a host of other issues from a supervision perspective), and not anger the shopper who happens to be a customer of their client? You don't.Here at ShapardResearch, we do not use this type of methodology which, to us, is just another dog with fleas. We have complete supervision over our shoppers because they are our direct employees, hand-picked and trained by us. Straight forward, nothing awkward, solid research.

Over and over and over

It's an oldie but a goodie, and I've saved it for last. Mystery shopping firms which use independent contractors as shoppers tend to find one shopper in a particular area close to the client's bank location, and use them over and over and over. You can't fault them really. Recruiting these shoppers through want ads or the internet, who they never meet or train in-person, is expensive and time consuming.The problem is, at some point the bank's employees begin to say to themselves, 'haven't you come in and asked about types of bank accounts before?' and soon the deal is up. The bank employee may not tell anyone when they know, but they always end up delivering great service to the shopper and getting great scores. Suddenly, banks realize this isn't what they need or wanted to pay for.Our solution is simple. Since we use our own employees as shoppers, and given the size of our staff, we do not send the same shopper to the same bank branch within six to twelve months apart. Problem solved.It's really the way mystery shopping should be conducted, but most firms lack the resources and experience to deliver it successfully.Got another mystery shopping horror story you'd like to get off your chest? I'd love to hear it. Post it below in the comments or email me at:

Share this post
Bill Shapard Jr., PRC
Founder & CEO

Ready to get started?