Secret Shoppers: Going Beyond Customer Satisfaction

Using secret shoppers will improve service and your compliance rating.

By Mandy Admiraal | 18th October 2018

It’s a problem as old as business itself: how can upper level management ensure that frontline employees deliver quality service on a regular basis?

Of course, many organisations in the banking world and beyond rely on customer surveys to gauge the performance of their in-store and call centre employees. These surveys prove useful when considering a few metrics but are limited in scope. For instance, customer surveys can measure speed of service, take account of complaints, and reveal whether new services are required to meet customer needs. All of these categories straightforwardly contribute to a clearer picture of what the on-the-ground service experience is like for customers. However, true quality service and professional performance amounts to more than mere customer satisfaction.

One area where customer surveys fall drastically short in measuring quality of service— especially in banking—is code violations. The truth is, customers are typically unaware of upper-level banking policies. The average customer cannot report or take offense at code violations, because they are not well-versed in official guidelines. Therefore, customers who have been poorly advised at a bank may never know they’ve received erroneous instruction from their service representatives. On the whole, they simply do not have enough technical knowledge to evaluate whether they have received top-notch service from their banks. That is part of the reason the banking scandals in Australia were able to persist for as long as they did.

In a 2017 study published by the Banking Code Compliance Monitoring Committee (CCMC), secret shoppers were hired to uncover whether branch representatives were enacting code requirements appropriately. The study revealed that bank correspondents gave policy-breaking responses to questions about debt cancellation 54% of the time. Although these incompliant responses were rampant, customers did not seem to realise this was the case—CCMC only received 6 code breach allegations from consumers regarding debt cancellation, and even this number was considered abnormally high. Some of those reports were not even filed by consumers themselves, but by financial advisors whom customers confided in. While the customers didn’t realise they had been treated badly, the financial professionals they spoke to recognised the code transgressions right away and launched complaints on their behalf.

So, given consumers’ lack of knowledge, customer surveys cannot be relied upon to hold staff accountable for code violations. Banks must put forth due diligence to ensure frontline staff members execute services in a manner that complies with established codes. Mystery shopping offers executives a unique and data-driven option for getting this widespread problem under control. Secret shoppers are equipped with clear-cut instructions and are trained to evaluate staff responses based on straightforward formulas. The questions and acceptable responses can be tailored to any suspected areas of concern. Once the numbers are in, problem areas become clear to leadership, and action plans can be put into place.

When it comes to quality assurance, code compliance is a must. Mystery shopping not only measures customer satisfaction, but also ensures consumers receive the technically sound services they deserve.


Mandy Admiraal

General Manager
TKW Research

Mandy is a social research, compliance and customer engagement specialist with over 15 years’ experience in customer experience research program management, as well as designing and building highly innovative, bespoke research programs for high profile clients in Australia and internationally.Mandy specialises in mystery shopping with a strong emphasis on code compliance auditing in the banking and finance sector.Mandy may be contacted by email on or by phone on 03 8789 4444.