The financial sector (for the purpose of this article covers banks, credit unions, insurance firms, and pay day loan companies) is a very intricate, competitive, and ever-evolving industry. And the extensive use of market research in banking reflects the complexity of this sector. With this in mind, I want to share some practical tips for bank mystery shopping from lessons I’ve learned over the past 35 years.



1. Make sure that some shoppers have previous financial work experience, such as being a financial planner, insurance agent, or mortgage broker. They will be able to provide additional insights based on knowledge gained through work experience.

2. Recruit shoppers in the process of actually purchasing a bank product or service. For instance, if the shop’s focus is estate planning, then recruit shoppers with investable assets of over say $1,000,000 actively looking to switch FIs). They will be more motivated and credible than a shopper who is just playing the role.

3. Recruit 2 or 3 more shoppers than the required sample size. Invariably there will be shoppers, who submitted incomplete or inaccurate surveys.


4. Review the instructions and survey questions with each shopper. Shoppers must have sufficient understanding of terms, the advisor’s role, requirements of the financial institution, etc. A verbal briefing enables you to school each shopper to guarantee they achieve that understanding.

5. Make sure to provide a sample survey. This will ensure that shoppers grasp the level of detail, accuracy, and clarity required for their findings.

Project Control

6. Complete one or two pre-test shops prior to finalizing the shopper instructions and survey questions. This will identify any glitches to be resolved and ensure that the questions are straight forward.

7. Provide the stakeholders with a profile of the shoppers (e.g., age, occupation, investable assets, etc.), along with the shopper instructions and surveys for their review and approval.

8. Instruct shoppers to email a scan of the business card of the staff person they spoke to. This will ensure you get the correct spelling of the staff person’s name and title.

9. Take the findings to the next level. For example, incorporate Net Promoter Scores into the report (“On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely would you recommend this bank to others based on your shop experience?”), or create a customer journey map based on shopper experiences.

10. Create individual reports for each branch or office shopped. Include key strengths, weaknesses, performance vs. other branches shopped, recommendations, and copy of the completed survey. This will generate greater accountability because the information will be customized for each branch or office.

Bank mystery shops require a deep level of investigation, attention to detail, understanding of financial jargon, along with an unremitting commitment to accuracy and detail. The 10 aforementioned tips will help you meet these expectations.