Specificities of mystery shopping

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  • 1. COPYRIGHT NOTICESERBIAN MARKETING ASSOCIATION (SEMA) IS THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERAND PUBLISHER OF FALLOWING ARTICLE.YOU ARE OBLIDGED TO CONTACT SEMA AND EDITORIAL BOARD OFQUARTERLY MARKETING JOURNAL (QMJ) IN ORDER TO OBTAINPERMISSION TO USE THE ARTICLE.FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE VISIT:WWW.SEMA.RS REFERENCING AND CITATIONFOR REFERENCE LIST USE:Djordjic, M. (2011). Specificities of Mystery Shopping in Retail Financial Services.Quarterly Marketing Journal, 42(1), pp. 53-69.FOR IN-TEXT CITATIONS USE:Djordjic (2011) or (Djordjic, 2011)
  • 2. UDK 658.6, Pregledni rad Članci/Papers Specificities of Mystery Shopping in Retail Financial Services* Marko ĐorđićABSTRACT:  The purpose of this  introdUctionarticle is to investigate methodological specificities of mystery shopping in retail  The term mystery shopping was coined in 1940s by the WilMark Compa-financial services, as well as a set new  ny which was the first one to offer mystery shopping services (Michelson,non-methodology related challenges in  n.d.). Even thought financial institutions have been conducting mysterymanagement of mystery shopping stud- shopping since then (Newhouse, 2004) it was not until 1970s when theies, introduced with recent innovations in  major employment of mystery shopping started in banking. It evolvedmystery shopping. The article also reveals  from a tool intended to monitor and enhance performance, and developmethodological recommendations on how  sales culture, into a predictor of customer satisfaction, after the intro-to enhance the overall quality of mystery  duction of innovative concept of service quality in 1980s (Leeds, 1995).shopping studies in light of current inter- Today mystery shopping is an industry worth $1.5 billion USD globallynational standards and code of conduct  (Michelson, n.d.) and a part of everyday business practice of small andin mystery shopping. Exposed recommen-dations indicate that quality of mystery  large companies.shopping in retail financial services can  Mystery shopping in general has been a subject of a numerous pub-be enhanced by: (a) conducting mystery  lications about customer service, service, quality and so forth (Limbrickshopping on continual basis, (b) mystery  1997; Newhouse, 2004; Stucker, 2005). When it comes to mystery shop-shopping in entire network of branch  ping implementation in financial services – primarily in banking – ma-offices, (c) integrating all components  jority of previous scholarship dates back from mid 1990s (Dorman, 1994;of service delivery into research subject,  Hoffman, 1993; Holliday 1994; Hotchkiss, 1995; Leeds 1992, 1995; Mor-and (d) continuous application of quality  ral, 1994; Stoval, 1993; Tepper 1994).control instruments prior, throughout, and  Even though mystery shopping in financial services was the subjectafterwards the study. Findings are mainly  of extensive scientific exploration, further research is needed in order toapplicable in mystery shopping in retail  extend present knowledge base is with exploration of specificities of mys-financial services, as well as to an extent,  tery shopping in retail financial services. Also, further research is neededin mystery shopping in other retail and corporate services. especially having in mind (a) the advancements in research methodology which have occurred since 1990s, (b) revised and updated internationalKeywords:  mystery shopping, retail  standards and code of conduct in mystery shopping, and (c) new chal-financial services, research methodology,  lenges which have emerged in research management.service marketing, research management. Therefore, primary objective of this methodological article is to inves- tigate methodological specificities of mystery shopping in retail financial services, and expose methodological recommendations that can enhance the overall quality of mystery shopping. These methodological recom- mendations refer to the mystery shopping’s: (a) purpose and objective, (b) geographic and observational embracement, (c) frequency, (d) sam- * The article is partially based on previously conducted study Kvantitativna marketing istraživanja u bankarskom poslovanju [Quantitative Marketing Research in Banking] (Unpublished master’s thesis) by M. Djordjic, 2009, University of Belgrade, Depar- tment for Organizational Sciences, Belgrade, Republic of Serbia. 53
  • 3. pling, (e) research embracement, (e) shop scenario practice without further development of its theoreti-and inscription, and (f) data acquisition and qual- cal foundation.ity control. Methodological recommendations are Because of this, providers of mystery shopping ser-revealed in light of current international standards vices invested a significant amount of effort in orderand code of conduct for mystery shopping, and ag- to compensate for the missing knowledge, and fillgregate existing theoretical knowledge, with author’s the void between inadequately developed theoreti-professional experience in managing mystery shop- cal foundations and growing employment of mysteryping studies for retail financial service providers. The shopping in practice. These efforts resulted in intro-article also examines a set of new non-methodological duction of internationally recognized standards andchallenges which have emerged in mystery shopping guidelines for conducting mystery shopping, whichmanagement, as well as some fundamental issues of today make the methodological foundation of mys-mystery shopping methodology. tery shopping. Therefore, today there certainly is no Even though the article addresses the issues of con- discrepancy between theory and practice of mysteryducting mystery shopping in retail financial services, shopping.majority of the recommendations can be employed Even though the initial objective of internationalto an extent, when conducting mystery shopping in standards was to codify existing knowledge, and ex-other retail services, and in corporate (i.e., business periential learning about mystery shopping—thusto business – B2B) services. However, it is important providing a firm basis for further theoretical devel-to note that mystery shopping in retail and corporate opment—standardization surpassed initial objec-services do not share the same methodological frame- tives and led to creation of strict code of conduct forwork, and therefore conducting mystery shopping mystery shopping. International standards of mysteryresearch in corporate services is not feasible solely re- shopping are developed and enforced by associationslying on methodological recommendations presented such as Mystery Shopping Providers Associationin this article. (MSPA), European Society for Opinion and Market Practical implications of the article may be particu- Research (ESOMAR), and British Market Researchlarly interesting to marketing professionals (market- Society (MRS). Member companies of these asso-ing managers and research consultants), because it ciations are obliged to conduct mystery shopping inprovides recommendations on how to deal with chal- compliance with the international standards and codelenges that emerge on everyday basis when conduct- of conduct, because declination from these regula-ing mystery shopping research in retail financial ser- tions can result in sanctions.vices. Theoretical implications may be interesting to Despite strict standards and code of conduct thereacademics and scientists who study the field of mar- still are some methodological issues regarding mys-keting research or marketing in financial services. tery shopping which need to be addressed before en- gaging in further discussion.1.   ethodological foUndations  m Marketing Research or Not? of mystery shoPPing One of the issues trailing mystery shopping since theMystery shopping as marketing research has had a day of its conception is whether the mystery shoppingbit of a rough start. Contrarily to the other types of actually is a marketing research? This is an importantmarketing research — which were firstly developed in issue because it determines overall approach towardstheory, and then enhanced through practical exercise mystery shopping, both in science and practice.— mystery shopping emerged on the basis of practical According to MSPA Europe (2003) “mystery shop-needs without ever reaching such high level of theo- ping is not traditional market research but is a busi-retical development. ness information tool” (p. 3). It is important to rec- Premature employment of mystery shopping cre- ognize previous statement, because it represents anated a discrepancy between its practical implementa- opinion of the most influential industrial associationtion and theoretical development. On one hand, the of companies specialized in providing only mysterytheoretical basis of mystery shopping was insufficient shopping services. The state of fact is that these com-to provide high quality research, but on the other panies are not genuine marketing research compa-hand, mystery shopping could not be enhanced in nies, and from their perspective, it might be justified54      Marko Đorđić
  • 4. to observe mystery shopping as a business informa- Mystery Shopping astion tool, rather than as a marketing research. Observational Research On the other hand ESOMAR (2005) provides verystrict definition of mystery shopping in relation to its In primary marketing research original data can bebelonging to the diverse spectrum of marketing re- acquired trough (a) observation, (b) survey, (c) ex-search. periment, and (d) qualitative methods (Easwaran & Singh, 2006, p. 95). Since data in mystery shopping is “In cases where any personal data collected are acquired through observation and not through survey to be treated as fully confidential and are not to – which is a more common method of data acquisi- be used for any purpose other than scientific tion – it is important to recognize that mystery shop- research the study falls under the definition of ping is an observational research. This type of research market research and can be described as mys- allows direct observation of phenomenon in its natu- tery shopping research. ral setting. To be more specific, mystery shopping is If the personal data collected are not to be treat- a form of covert observational research. Furthermore, ed as fully confidential and may also be used ESOMAR (2005) emphasizes that “key characteristic for purposes other than scientific research—for of a mystery shopping studies is that the data subjects example in connection with the staff training, are normally not aware at the time they are participat- reinforcement of sales efforts or the operation ing in a study” (p. 2). of bonus system—then the study does not fall One of the ways to classify observational research exclusively under the definition of market re- is as (a) structured or (b) unstructured (Brink, Van der search and must not be described as the mystery Valt, & Van Rensburg, 1996/2006, p. 143). While the shopping research but as the mystery shopping data acquired through unstructured observational project.” (p. 4) research tends to deliver descriptive information pri- According to ESOMAR’s definition key qualifiers marily used in qualitative analysis, structured obser-that determine when mystery shopping abandons vational research tends to acquire quantitative data.boundaries of marketing research are (a) confidential- “Structured observations entail specifying in ad-ity of personal data and (b) purpose of mystery shop- vance precisely the behaviors or events that areping. How does this apply to the business practice? to be observed and how they will be recorded, Well, it is hard to find a mystery shopping study and preparing forms for record-keeping suchthat would be exclusively used for scientific purposes as checklists, categorization systems and ratingoutside scientific or academic institutions. In busi- scales. Structured observation is the methodness practice mystery shopping is used in customer most commonly used in quantitative studies,relationship management (CRM), quality manage- where the researcher or trained observer simplyment (QM), personnel training, business intelligence, observes and records certain aspects of the sub-and so forth. However, this type of deployment does ject’s behavior.” (Brink et al., 1996/2006, p. 143)not necessarily lead to disclosure of personal data.Therefore, until there is no disclosure of personal data In practice of retail financial services it is muchmystery shopping in business environment still can more common to conduct mystery shopping as struc-be categorized as marketing research. On occasions tured observational research. Qualitative data is of nowhen it is necessary to disclose personal data it should value for research orderers because it does not deliverbe considered as a mystery shopping project. findings which can be deployed in CRM, QM, person- The distinction introduced by ESOMAR is very nel training, and so forth. Marketing research indus-valuable both in scientific discussion, as well as in try is very responsive to this requirement and researchpractical employment. It clearly defines boundaries, providers are constantly innovating mystery shoppingwhich should be kept in mind when engaging in mys- methodology towards making it more robust, reliable,tery shopping. This article predominantly examines and quantitative, thus drifting away from its qualita-methodology of mystery shopping research. However, tive counterpart.the majority of recommendations can be successfully However, it is important to have in mind that evenapplied to the mystery shopping projects as well. when conducting mystery shopping as structured ob- servational research it still is not typical quantitative research. Observational research requires different methodological platform especially in terms of sam- Specificities of Mystery Shopping in Retail Financial Services      55
  • 5. pling method, data analysis, data interpretation, and firstly observed and then recorded in detailed andso forth. Friedrichs and Ludtke (as cited by Wilson, objective manner1.1998b) indicate potential advantages which observa-tional research offers over survey research.1. Reported behavior can differ from real behavior. 2. research methodology Statements gathered through interviewing can be different than the factual behavior of the inter- Methodology of mystery shopping studies relies viewed person. heavily on international standards and strict code of2. Sometimes, facts can be brought to light only by conduct. While from the outside it resembles other examining them in their natural setting, because marketing research methodologies, closer review these facts emerge only when interviewee is not will reveal some crucial differences between mystery aware of the interview. shopping and other types of marketing research. Therefore findings and data gained only through Purpose and Objectivesurvey research may not be sufficient, and can be verywell complemented with findings from observational The generic purpose of mystery shopping research isresearch. That is exactly what mystery shopping pro- to provide positive contribution in decision makingvides because “participant observation helps to de- processes related to the issues of CRM, QM, sales, andvelop richer knowledge of the experiential nature of personnel training. The objective of mystery shoppingservices” (Wilson, 1998b, p. 149). research is to acquire objective and unbiased data in reference with factual performance of a service deliv-Definition of Mystery Shopping ery unit2 at a particular moment in time, in accordance with the pre-defined protocols and specifications, soESOMAR, MSPA Europe, and MRS define mystery that acquired data can later be used to evaluate the en-shopping in quite similar manner without essential forcement of corporate standards in service delivery.differences. Examination of ESOMAR’s definition is Various authors provide more elaborate viewpointssufficient for the purposes of this article. that relate purpose and objective of mystery shopping “Mystery shopping studies involve the use of to its specific deployment in practice. Leeds (1995, mystery shoppers who are trained and/or briefed p. 3) indicates that mystery shopping provides feed- to observe, experience and measure any cus- back on how branch office personnel treats custom- tomer service process by acting as a prospective ers, and whether branch office personnel is competent customer and undertaking a series of pre-deter- and courteous. Wilson (1998b, p. 153) establishes mined tasks to assess performance against spe- a concatenation between expectations of managers cific criteria reporting back on their experiences and customers – which are expressed through cor- in a comparable and consistent way.” (2005, p.2) porate standards in service delivery – and mystery shopping – which collects facts rather than percep- Previous definition reveals key features of mystery tions, and that way objectively measures performanceshopping which set it apart from other types of mar- in service delivery relative to these standards. Sameketing research. author denotes that mystery shopping provides the1. Unlike in other types of research, in mystery possibility for managers to look behind the aggregate shopping filed force is required to go one step data acquired through customer satisfaction surveys further from just acquiring data, and try to experi- and detect decline in service delivery at specific time ence the service process they are engaging in. and specific service delivery units (Wilson, 1998b, p.2. In mystery shopping field force acts as ordinary customers and behaves in accordance with pre- 1 On occasions, if there are no legal constrains, it is possible to defined protocol, in order to evaluate performance make an audio recording of mystery shopping, thus making the in service delivery, without ever disclosing their data acquisition and recording a simultaneous process. true intentions or identity. 2 Service delivery unit comprises of people, processes, and3. Contrary to the survey research when data is physical environment engaged in service rendering to the acquired and recorded simultaneously, data and customers. Main service delivery units in retail financial ser- vices are branch offices, even though financial services can be insights collected through covert observations are rendered via telephone, Internet, or automated teller machines (ATMs).56      Marko Đorđić
  • 6. Figure 1. Mystery Sopping Research Embracement Matrix.Note. Mystery shopping studies can expand its geographical reach by conducting mystery shopping on multiple nationalmarkets, or expand its observational reach by including competitor’s service delivery units into study.157). These findings would remain inaccessible with- Initially mystery shopping was designed to evalu-out mystery shopping. Leeds (1995) emphasizes the ate and monitor enforcement of standards in servicerole of mystery shopping in rising corporate income delivery of the company which ordered the research.because it (a) helps build customer satisfaction, (c) This type of autogenous3 mystery shopping is the ba-strengthens the ability to retain customers, and (c) sic way to design mystery shopping. It gives an op-enhances product usage. portunity to thoroughly examine the entire process According to the Wilson (1998a, p. 419) mystery of service delivery, and discover its strong and weakshopping studies have employment potential to points. Its findings can be utilized in CRM, QM, sales, and personnel training.• identify weak points in service delivery, Observational reach of mystery shopping can be• enhance personnel’s motivation by further train- extended to competitors branch offices as well. This ing and bonuses, and gives another deployment potential to the mystery• in case of competitive mystery shopping, to assess shopping and turns autogenous mystery shopping the company’s competitiveness in service delivery. into competitive mystery shopping. The emphasis of competitive mystery shopping is to evaluate perfor-Geographic and Observational Embracement mance in service delivery of own company relative toEmbracement of mystery shopping research is deter- the performance of direct competitors, rather than tomined by its (a) geographical and (b) observational evaluate and monitor enforcement of own corporatereach. Research embracement matrix in Figure 1 dis- standards in service delivery. Also, it can be utilizedplays four possibilities to design mystery shopping re- for business intelligence (BI) purposes. Leeds (1995)search. These possibilities are obtained by intersecting suggests that competitive mystery shopping providesgeographic and observational reach of mystery shop-ping research. 3 Autogenous is a medical term used to describe phenomenon which is self generated, or self produced. Specificities of Mystery Shopping in Retail Financial Services      57
  • 7. the opportunity to identify competitor’s best and Frequencyworst practices and present the opportunities to im- Research frequency should be determined in suchprove your own service delivery. manner that it provides greatest employment poten- International standards and code of conduct (ESO- tial, for a given amount of financial resources intend-MAR, 2005; MRS, 2008; MSPA Europe, 2003) are very ed to be invested in mystery shopping. How does thisstrict when it comes to the competitive mystery shop- apply to the particular types of mystery shopping inping, especially having in mind its BI employment po- retail financial services, and what would be the appro-tential. Therefore, standards prescribe that when con- priate methodological recommendations regarding itsducting competitive mystery shopping it is especially frequency?important to avoid any unnecessary losses or dam- In order to be effective and reach limits of its em-ages to the competitors. Data must be collected care- ployment potential mystery shopping must be con-fully without waste of the competitor’s resources (e.g., ducted on continual bases. According to Leeds (1995,money, time, etc.). This is very important in order to p. 3) „measurements should be taken quarterly toprevent any kind of misuse of mystery shopping. provide timely feedback on missed opportunities (for Driven by the need to have more efficient asset example not asking the customer to come back ormanagement the industry of financial services un- forgetting to offer an application)“. Previous recom-derwent transformation throughout international- mendation should be considered optimal, because itization of its business operations. In order to ensure provides balance between employment potential andinternational growth, financial service providers had research cost. Conducting mystery shopping moreto introduce specific instruments of international de- often would insignificantly increase its employmentvelopment in all areas of business administration. In potential, regarding the amount of additional fundsmarketing, one of these innovative instruments was it requires. Furthermore, conducting mystery shop-multinational marketing research. The purpose of ping too often will cause research to lose its impact,multinational marketing research is to explore and and saturate decision makers with information, whichmonitor performance of subsidiaries operating at dif- is just the opposite of what the research is intendedferent national markets (countries) by using unified to achieve. Also, it is important to recognize, that itmethodology, which provides comparability of find- takes some time for financial service providers to ana-ings and data. lyze data and findings gained through mystery shop- This led to expansion of geographic reach of mys- ping, make decisions, and subsequently take action.tery shopping and introduction of multinational mys- Therefore, mystery shopping studies should be evenlytery shopping. Multinational mystery shopping is spaced during the entire business year, with enoughsimilar to the autogenous mystery shopping, except it time in between, so each study can be utilized in deci-is conducted simultaneously or in proximity, on more sion making process.than one national market. The objective of multina- However, if it is not feasible to conduct mysterytional mystery shopping is to evaluate and monitor shopping quarterly, mystery shopping should be con-enforcement of international corporate standards in ducted no less than once a year. Otherwise, employ-service delivery within subsidiaries. Its emphasis is to ment potential of the research would significantlyinvestigate compliance with international corporate deteriorate. Even when conducting mystery shoppingstandards in general. only once a year its employment potential is dimin- Multinational mystery shopping requires coopera- ished, because it cannot be utilized in personnel train-tion and synchronization of a large number of par- ing, QM, CRM, and so forth. It can be used only toties, usually dispersed over a large geographical area. evaluate performance in service delivery at certainFurthermore cultural, social, and lingual issues – un- moment in time. Even though it is better to conductknown in national marketing research – emerge in mystery shopping once annually, than not to conductmultinational marketing research. This means that it at all, it is recommended to make it more often, be-methodological framework must be developed in such cause only than it yields its true benefits for decisionmanner that it assures comparability of data without makers.neglecting national specificities. (Further details in When it comes to the competitive mystery shop-reference with multinational mystery shopping will ping, there is no need to conduct it more often thanbe discussed later.) once annually. Competitive mystery shopping aims to acquire data that would later be used to compare per-58      Marko Đorđić
  • 8. formance in service delivery of own company against servations of events4 during certain specified times”its direct competitors. Having in mind that this type (p. 144).of research is far more demanding to conduct, more There are two options to time individual shops inexpensive, and that it delivers more complex findings, time sampling:there is no need to conduct it more often. It especially • Random timing, when the timing of each indi-applies in case of multinational competitive mystery vidual shop is determined only by the will of theshopping. mystery shopper without any external interfer- ence. The sampling plan is not required becauseSampling Without a Sampling Frame the mystery shoppers independently decide whenSampling in mystery shopping is quite different than to visit branch offices.sampling in survey research. In survey research, • Systematic timing, when all shops are conductedsample is obtained by deriving a certain number of within those key hours when it is suspected thatelements from a target population by using some of the quality of service delivery may decline. Usual-the sampling methods (e.g., random sampling, quota ly, these timings are: (a) in the morning just uponsampling, etc.). Sample frame provides the informa- the opening of branch offices, (b) the rush hourtion on how to access particular sampling units, and when it is expected that branch offices will beconsequently sampling elements. In survey research flooded with customers, or (c) just before the endrelations between target population, sampling frame, of the business hours. Systematic timing requiressampling unit, and sampling elements are strong and development of precise sampling plan, whichdirect. needs to be strictly fallowed during the fieldwork. How different is the sampling in mystery shopping The decision which timing option to apply is spe-in retail financial services? cific to each mystery shopping study, and depends on Well just to start with, the relations between sam- the assumption which timing would be most benefi-pling frame, sampling unit, and sampling elements are cial to the representatives and objectivity of the study.not that rigid. This is due to the fact that in mystery While, the random timing may make the study moreshopping service encounters carry the role of sampling unbiased, it might deliver less useful findings and dataelements, and sampling frame for service encounters than systematic shopping. The decision which timingis impossible to obtain. While the list of branch of- to choose is usually made by the research orderer.fices might be the closest thing to the sampling frame, Finally there are two important recommendationsit is not an actual sampling frame. The list of branch in reference with time sampling in mystery shoppingoffices does not resemble the population of service in retail financial services.encounters, and thus prevents the formation of such Firstly, it is especially important to emphasize thatrigid relations between sampling frame and sampling the findings and data acquired through mystery shop-elements. To be exact, in mystery shopping service en- ping are representative only for branch offices wherecounters are being induced rather than being sampled. the mystery shopping took place. It is impossible toBut, from the branch office personnel point of view, conduct mystery shopping in a number of branchthese covert service encounters appear like all others, offices and then assume that acquired data is repre-and effectively are being sampled from the infinite sentative for the entire network of branch offices (i.e.,population of service encounters which take place in entire financial service provider). Therefore, mysterybranch offices. shopping should be conducted in all branch offices. Then, what would be the appropriate sampling Only branch offices which should be excluded frommethod to use in mystery shopping? the sample are the ones where there is only one em- The inherent properties of mystery shopping as an ployee, because it would lead to the identification ofobservational research now come in to play, and di- the employee, or according to the ESOMAR (2005)rect the application of sampling methods which are “the results must be given in a form only which doeswidely used in observational research: (a) time sam- not lead to the identification of an individual person”pling or (b) event sampling. Having in mind that event (p. 6). Under certain circumstances—such as the re-sampling requires observation of an entire event, time quirement of the research orderer—it is justified tosampling is the only applicable method. According to conduct partial mystery shopping covering only aBrink et al. (1996/2006) “time sampling involves ob- 4 In mystery shopping events are induced service encounters. Specificities of Mystery Shopping in Retail Financial Services      59
  • 9. Figure 2. Mystery Shopping and Customer Satisfaction Surveys Note. It is especially important to make both researches complementary as possible, especially having in mind that both of them explore the issue of service delivery but from different angles.portion of the entire branch office network. Yet again, sary information for decision makers. They need toacquired data is representative only for the portion be complemented with findings and data acquiredcovered by the mystery shopping, and not the entire through observational research, primarily mysterynetwork of branch offices. shopping. This especially applies to researches that Secondly, it is very important to shop at each investigate the issues of service delivery, such as cus-branch office at least twice during the same mystery tomer satisfaction surveys (CSS). Therefore, whenshopping study. This is an important methodologi- designing mystery shopping or CSS it is importantcal requirement because it gives an opportunity to to align research subject of one another, in order toreduce the risk of observer bias. According to Good- make them as complementary as possible, and cre-win (2010) observer bias emerges in observational ate more synergy between these two different typesresearch because observers have some preconceived of researches. It is recommended to engage the sameideas about the object of observation and may un- research provider to design CSS and mystery shop-consciously allow their preconceived ideas to color ping, and conduct them the same time. This approachtheir observations. Conducting at least two shops to enriches informational surrounding, and makes boththe same branch office provides interobserver reliabil- researches more productive. Relations between theity. The reduction of the observer bias is the focus of research subject of mystery shopping and customertraining, and with these measures it is reduced to a satisfaction surveys are depicted in Figure 2.minimum. Having this in mind, let us now investigate the re- search subject of mystery shopping in retail financialThree Components of Research Subject services. The most natural approach to define the researchAs mentioned earlier, findings and data acquired subject of mystery shopping is to start from servicethrough survey research do not provide all neces- marketing mix. Service marketing mix contains ad-60      Marko Đorđić
  • 10. ditional 3 Ps which stand for: people, processes, and service, starting with kindness and forwardness, rightphysical environment. Furthermore, in retail finance to the specific protocols on how to handle complaintsmajority of services are delivered in branch offices and unsatisfied customers. Sometimes they are sothrough numerous interactions of customers, branch strict that they prescribe exactly what branch officeoffice personnel, and physical environment. There- personnel should or should not say in case clients ex-fore, the generic mystery shopping research subject press dissatisfaction. Prior to their unsupervised workmust cover three fundamental research components: in branch offices, branch personnel are trained until(a) people, (b) processes, and (c) physical environ- they achieve certain level of readiness and capabilityment. to handle every customer. This is especially important However, having in mind the diversity among retail having in mind fierce competition among providers offinancial service providers, and their efforts to design retail financial services, and the value of each custom-and deliver service in a unique way, it is usually neces- er. Specific mystery shopping scenarios, which drivesary to enrich generic framework of mystery shopping branch office personnel through various situationsresearch subject. The generic framework is enriched with customers, are designed to test their readinessby integration of individual specificities of service de- and capability to service customers.livery into research components. Careful examination Competence of the branch personnel is evaluatedof corporate standards in service delivery is required as well. It is done by designing specific shop scenariosin order to discover specificities and integrate them which mimic the inquiry regular customers aboutinto shop scenarios and inscriptions. This can be done certain financial products or services. Branch officeonly in close cooperation between research provider personnel needs to have in depth knowledge of vari-and research orderer. It can be a time consuming pro- ous products and services their company has to offer.cess, especially in case of multinational mystery shop- Therefore, when being asked about some of them, theyping studies. should give elaborate and accurate product or service Another factor that may influence the embrace- descriptions, and move forward with sales activities.ment of research subject may be the requirement for Mystery shoppers already know the answers to thesespecific information. According to judgment of the re- questions, and they can evaluate the competence ofsearch orderer, some components of service delivery the branch office employees. On occasions branch of-may require more attention and others may require fice personnel may even be asked about product theirless. However, accurate and impartial findings can be company does not offer, and tested whether they willacquired only by gaining insights in all components of act in compliance with prescribed protocol.service delivery, without neglecting some, and priori- Finally, mystery shoppers can observe general ap-tizing others. Reclining on partial findings increases pearance and tidiness of branch office personnel. Thisthe risk of drawing wrong or misleading conclusions. refers to whether branch office personnel wears or does not wear name tags, whether their workspace isPeople clean and tidy, whether they are dressed properly, and so forth. In modern financial services these criteriaIn marketing mix of retail financial services people are usually met and retail financial service providersindicate the entire branch office personnel, with em- report excellent performance in that department.phasis on employees who provide services to custom-ers. This is the most important research component Physical environmentof mystery shopping in retail financial services. Thiscomponent of research subject covers investigation of Second component of the mystery shopping researchbranch office personnel’s subject is physical environment where the service delivery takes place. Practically all physical objects• readiness and capability to provide services to engaged in service delivery should be observed and customers; evaluated. Yet again, corporate standards in retail fi-• competence; and nancial services are very strict when it comes to the• general appearance and tidiness. physical environment. They prescribe which items Exploration of people component of research sub- and machines are to be used in servicing customers,ject relies heavily on corporate standards in customer their placement, and so forth. In retail financial ser-service, and usually is unique to every financial service vices the evaluation of physical environment refers toprovider. These standards cover all areas of customer Specificities of Mystery Shopping in Retail Financial Services      61
  • 11. • cleanliness and tidiness of service delivery envi- not conducted simultaneously. Therefore, mystery ronment, shopping requires specific instruments to facilitate• placement (existence) of objects, and and aid data acquisition.• operational status of these objects. In mystery shopping field force uses shop inscrip- tion5 because there is no surveying and it is not pos- In practice this means that mystery shoppers usu- sible to note and acquire data simultaneously. Whileally observe external and internal appearance of the the questionnaire in standard survey research is de-branch offices and evaluate their cleanliness. Mystery signed to allow field force to enter data by followingshoppers especially pay attention on proper location certain order of questions, shop inscription is de-of certain objects (e.g., information desks, automated signed to aid mystery shopper to accurately recollectteller machines, etc.), and whether these objects are all of the information he or she previously collectedoperational or out of order. Specific open ended ques- through observation. That would be the key differencetions are added to the shop inscriptions, so mystery between questionnaire and shop inscription in termsshoppers can provide more elaborate explanations of of overall design. Therefore, MRS (2008) suggests thatparticular observations. This component of service mystery shopping studies should be limited in lengthdelivery is particularly easy for observation, and de- and complexity in order to increase recollection abil-livers very reliable findings. ity of the field force operators. There are other, more particular differences as well.Processes While questions in the questionnaire can be ratherThe last component of mystery shopping research complex, and contain various scales, the questions insubject are the processes involved in the service de- shop inscription must be as simple as possible, andlivery itself. In practice this is related to the evaluation directly related to the specificities of service encoun-of their ter. Preferably questions should be designed in such manner that they can be answered in a form of yes• flow; and and no answers. Each question must be accompanied• duration. with detailed directions for the mystery shoppers so Corporate standards in service delivery prescribe they would exactly know what to observe. This is es-the length of each process (e.g., opening of the cur- pecially important because mystery shoppers need torent account should not take longer than ten minutes) recollect all of the observations acquired during theirand their expected flow and outcome (e.g., customer shops and then write them down in shop inscription.should receive brochure about additional services). Therefore, making questions to complex or ambigu-Therefore, mystery shoppers measure the time it took ous can lead to difficulties in interpreting data. Also,to get them serviced, and observe have all the steps the shop inscription should provide some room forin the service delivery process been fallowed through. mystery shoppers to describe special circumstancesAlso, mystery shoppers may engage in testing of spe- they might encounter while conducting mysterycific services, such as currency exchange. These and shopping. This is done by adding a limited number ofsimilar activities leave physical evidences such as open ended questions.bank statements, product brochures, and so forth. Another instrument specifically developed for theApart from providing physical evidence that the pro- purposes of mystery shopping is a shop scenario. It iscess has been fallowed through, this is a good quality a written document which consistcontrol instrument. • description of the setting in which mystery shop- ping is going to take place,Shop Scenario and Inscription • protocol which mystery shoppers should fallow inQuestionnaires are among the main instruments used order to be serviced,in survey research. Field force uses questionnaires to • description of the expected outcome of the servicesurvey elements of target population, and acquire data encounter, andby asking questions and noting answers. Question- • instructions on how to behave in case of unfore-naires are designed in such manner that they provide seen events.simultaneous acquisition and entering of data. Unlessmystery shoppers are making an actual audio record-ing of the shop, data acquisition and data noting are 5 Other terms such as evaluation form or even questionnaire can be used as well.62      Marko Đorđić
  • 12. After reading the scenarios mystery shoppers consumer behavior in natural setting as close toshould be almost able to visualize the environment reality as possible.they are going to be in, and know what exactly to ex- • Safe. Scenario must not entice mystery shopperspect. Scenarios should tell mystery shoppers what to to do anything illegal or put them under any kindwear, what actions to take, which service to ask for, of risk or danger.and what to do in case of unforeseen events. Suc-cessful development of realistic scenario is possible Data Acquisition and Quality Controlonly with close cooperation of research orderer andresearch provider. It is not uncommon that research Quality control in mystery shopping requires engage-orderers develop the shop scenarios, because they are ment of both research provider and research orderer.the ones who are most familiar with the service they The duty of research provider is to ensure highestprovide. quality of data acquisition, while the duty of research Shop scenarios play an important role in training orderer is to ensure compliance of its employees. Theof mystery shoppers, and they should be exercised engagement of research orderer is very important forin training prior to the deployment in real setting. A overall success of the mystery shopping and it shouldcommon practice is to develop more than one scenar- be encouraged. There are secondary benefits of closeio for each mystery shopping study. This brings more cooperation between research orderer and researchdiversity to the assumed roles of mystery shoppers. provider such as: (a) strengthening of relations be-Unlike with mystery shopping subject, there is no tween two parties, (b) incrising of morale of mysterygeneric framework for the shop scenario. Each shop shoppers, and (c) better chances for success of the en-scenario is developed according to the requirements tire study. Therefore, there are a lot of obligations forof the particular mystery shopping study. both sides prior, throughout, and afterwards the study MRS (2008, p. 5) outlined three key features of in order to maintain its methodological integrity andgood shop scenario design. enhance overall quality. Figure 3 depicts the roles of research orderers and research providers in quality• Straightforward. The scenario should be straight- control in mystery shopping. International standards forward and easy for field force to comprehend, and code of conduct in mystery shopping especially but with enough depth to the role. emphasize quality control and its influence to the suc-• Credible. In order to make mystery shoppers cess of the mystery shopping study (ESOMAR 2005; convincible, scenario should aim to reproduce MRS, 2008; MSPA Europe, 2003). Figure 3. Quality Control in Mystery ShoppingNote. Quality control in mystery shopping is a continuous process lasting before, throughout, and after the study has ended.It requires joint efforts and close cooperation between research orderers and research providers. Specificities of Mystery Shopping in Retail Financial Services      63
  • 13. When it comes to the research provider quality tions for mystery shoppers. The ultimate objective ofcontrol is mainly related to the preparation, organi- training is:zation, and supervision of the data acquisition stage. • to make mystery shoppers adopt scenarios andRegardless of operational capabilities of research inscriptions as their second nature, andprovider data acquisition in survey research remains • reduce the influence of observer bias of eacha challenging task, and data acquisition in mystery mystery shopper, thus making them observe theshopping is twice as challenging. In mystery shop- factual circumstances they detect in branch officesping the risks of data falsification are much greater, in neutral way.and quality control is harder to achieve. Therefore, itis necessary to apply different quality control instru- MRS (2008, p. 5) suggests that “the primary aim isments than the ones used in survey research. to document precisely what happened at the point of What can be done to ensure and enhance the qual- contact, rather than how the mystery shopper feels”ity of data acquisition in mystery shopping in retail and that is exactly what such specific training pro-financial services? vides. Firstly, careful selection of field force is crucial. The actual data acquisition must take place underAccording to the Wilson (1998b) “the shoppers must continuous supervision. This is particularly hard tomatch a customer profile that is appropriate for the achieve because it is impractical to validate each shopscenario that they are being asked to enact” (p. 154). mystery shoppers make. However, there are few qual-This is especially important because branch office per- ity control instruments that can be deployed in ordersonnel has a large experience in servicing customers. to prevent and detect wrongdoing.Therefore, mystery shoppers must look convincing, • Service usage. Usage of some service (i.e., auto-and resemble customers that branch office person- mated teller machine, foreign currency exchange,nel meets on everyday basis. They must mimic regu- etc.) conducted as a part of the mystery shoppinglar customers according to their: (a) age, (b) appear- scenario, without unnecessary loss of time orance, and (c) social background. It would be wise for money, and submission of physical evidence aboutresearch providers to maintain a steady base of mys- the usage of service (i.e., confirmation, bill, banktery shoppers that can be selected according to the re- statement, etc), provides some proof that mysteryquirements of a particular study, rather than engaging shopping actually took place. Documents issuednew mystery shoppers over and over. Even though it by banks usually contain date and time, whichrequires more funding, this is a much better policy in may be useful to assure that the sampling plan waslong term, because it provides insight in the field per- fallowed.formance of each shopper, and possibility to enhance • False branch offices. False (i.e., non-existingtheir capabilities through training. branch offices) may be deliberately added to the Secondly, specific training for each study should be sampling plan. If some mystery shoppers reportconducted. General training in mystery shopping is back that they have conducted mystery shoppingnot sufficient, because each mystery shopping study in these false non-existing branch offices, it is anusually is significantly different. During training filed obvious sign of data falsification.force must be thoroughly briefed on what to expect • False questions. False questions referring to non-upon entering branch offices. They need to know what existing elements of service delivery may be addedcorporate standards in service delivery prescribe, to the shop inscription. If the financial providerwhat exactly to observe, and pay attention to. Training does not have a queueing system in its branchtransforms mystery shoppers into ordinary custom- offices, and some mystery shoppers report other-ers with deeper knowledge of how service delivery wise it may indicate data falsification.should look like. Also, it is important to thoroughly • Time limit. Mystery shoppers must be time lim-acquaint mystery shoppers with scenarios and shop ited to submit shop inscriptions within the sameinscriptions. These documents must be carefully dis- day the shop took place. Stalling with the submis-cussed between mystery shoppers and research team sion of the completed inscriptions should not beso that there are no unclear questions or ambiguous allowed. This ensures fallowing of the samplinginstructions. The participation of ordering party rep- plan.resentatives is encouraged in training, because they • Debriefing. Mystery shoppers should be random-can provide more elaborate explanations and instruc- ly debriefed after they complete mystery shopping.64      Marko Đorđić
  • 14. Debriefing may reveal if some of mystery shop- tual time of the mystery shopping does not need to pers falsified data, did not fallow sampling plan be revealed. If both the personnel and management exactly, and so forth. Also, it may clarify some understands what is mystery shopping, why it is done, obscurities in noted observations. Although pri- and how may they benefit from it, the chances that marily it is a quality control instrument, it is also the study will succeed are much greater. Regular and provides feedback on practical employment of timely communication ensures compliance, and has scenarios and inscriptions, and field performance further benefits when it comes to the implementation of mystery shoppers. Close and sometimes infor- of findings gained through mystery shopping. Also, it mal relations with field force can only do well, and is important to clarify the objectives and intended uses enhance the chances of success of mystery shop- of the findings, especially in case of mystery shopping ping study. projects which may be related to bonus operations. Consistent behavior after the study is also impor- Even though each of the previously mentioned tant. Research orderer must not abuse mystery shop-quality control instruments may fail, deploying all of ping. MSPA Europe (2003) states that “disciplinarythem simultaneously significantly decreases the risk action must not be taken only on the basis of theof data falsification. However, the most effective in- mystery shopping program results. The aim of mys-strument of quality control in mystery shopping is tery shopping should be to increase customer servicethe strong base of loyal mystery shoppers. Loyal field levels and develop staff through training and motiva-force is less likely to commit any kind of falsifying tion” (p. 5).because they do not want to compromise relations The research orderer is also responsible to ensurewith research provider. Furthermore, their fieldwork that branch office personnel does not make attemptsperformance is constantly evaluated and enhanced to identify mystery shoppers, as well as not to harassthrough regular practice. Also, it is important that them. Also, MSPA Europe (2003) suggests that at-mystery shoppers who have successfully completed tempts to identify mystery shoppers may lead to an-the fieldwork receive adequate honorarium. noying genuine customers, and that is very important Quality control does not end with the completion to acquaint branch office personnel with the benefitsof the data acquisition. Research provider is obliged of mystery shopping so they become less interested into maintain methodological integrity of the mystery making attempts to identify mystery shoppers.shopping in later stages of the study. This is particu- Therefore, by claiming that there will be no disci-larly related to the anonymity of shopped employees plinary action against employees, prior to the mys-when reporting to the research orderer. MRS (2008) tery shopping, research orderers ensure compliancestates that “the anonymity of respondent s must be of their personnel. It is especially important to actpreserved unless they have given their informed con- consistently after the study, and use findings and datasent for their details to be revealed or for attributable gained through mystery shopping to improve thecomments to be passed on” (p. 3). It is especially im- performance of employees with training, and subse-portant to pay attention to details such as the actual quently improve the quality of service delivery. Anytime that the shop took place, because such informa- other course of action by research orderer may createtion may indirectly reveal identity of the employees more harm than good.present at the branch office. According to ESOMAR(2005) “there must be adequate security arrangementsin place both at the client and at the research companylevel to ensure that any personal data are secure and 3.   hallenges in research  cnot accessible by unatorised parties” (p. 3). management As stated earlier, engagement of research orderer Conducting marketing research has always been ais also important to ensure quality control and overall demanding and challenging endeavor, even to an ex-success of the project. tent that it strongly influences the relations between It is very important that research orderer prop- research orderer and research provider. This brings aerly and timely informs branch office personnel and whole set of new non-methodology related challeng-management about the mystery shopping. According es in research management. What would be the rootto the MSPA Europe guidelines (2003) “all staff must cause of this?be informed that their organisation is subject to, or Well, from a research orderer’s viewpoint, engag-intends to undertake, mystery shopping” (p. 5). Ac- ing in marketing research is somewhat like going to a Specificities of Mystery Shopping in Retail Financial Services      65
  • 15. doctor’s appointment. You need to share confidential budget items. This makes the entire procurement pro-information about your business, to someone with cess more transparent, which in return should bringspecialized knowledge, in good faith that their advice relief to the negotiations. However, if the pressure towill be beneficial to your business. This situation is cut cost remains, the duty of research provider is tostressful itself. On the one hand, research providers protect integrity of marketing research, and revise thehave the responsibility to deliver credible data and decision to cooperate with research orderer in ques-findings in order to aid decision making, and on the tion. Another solution for the research provider is toother hand, research orderers must allow insight to go ahead with research, and provide the missing fundstheir confidential business operations to an external from its own resources.party, and ultimately act upon marketing research. On both occasions the integrity of mystery shop- If you add financial commitments, constrains, and ping must be maintained or mystery shopping shoulddeadlines in equation it is obvious that a lot of com- not be conducted. This is ultimately in the best inter-plexity and tension can arise in relations between re- est of research provider and research orderer.search orderers and research providers. However, managing all marketing research does The Nature of Researchnot carry equal sensitivity. In retail financial services The inherent properties of the mystery shopping tendsensitivity is especially present in mystery shopping to be a source of sensitivity itself. Mystery shoppingresearch. What would be the circumstances under is, most of the time, advertised as an objective andwhich the likelihood of developing such sensitivity reliable tool to evaluate the enforcement of corporateis particularly high, and what challenges in research standards in service delivery. Therefore, top manage-management may arise with it? ment examines mystery shopping reports with scru- tiny in order to pinpoint weak performers, and act onResearch Cost improving service quality.Well, just to start with, mystery shopping projects Unlike other types of marketing research whichtend to be more expensive than other types of market- examine opinions of target population, mystery shop-ing research (Leeds, 1995). Mystery shopping requires ping intends to examine factual circumstances andspecific recruitment and training of field force, addi- therefore leaves no room for free judgment. For exam-tional instruments of quality control, and so forth. All ple, if certain branch office reports weak performanceof this adds extra cost to mystery shopping research, in customer satisfaction survey, this can be attributedwhit almost no room to save funds. to more demanding customers that expect higher Right there, even before the actual start of the re- quality service than an average customer, and there-search, this strains the relations between research fore evaluate the service with lower grades. Since, theorderer and research provider. It is not only a prob- mystery shopping intends to provide objective mea-lem for a research provider—who needs to justify the surement based on the observation of factual circum-extra cost—but, for a manager assigned to conduct stances, the weak performance can only be acknowl-the mystery shopping as well. Top management and edged. That is why mystery shopping is so powerful ifdepartment heads request firm assurance from their conducted properly.subordinates, that there will be no unnecessary ex- Surely this brings a lot of sensitivity to the research,penditures, and that financial resources will be spent especially in the case when mystery shopping is relat-wisely. Therefore, during negotiations or tender pro- ed to bonuses or promotions. Branch office managerscurements, managers in charge of mystery shopping or regional managers tend to be particularly affectedinsist on getting the most favorable conditions espe- by the fact that they might be the ones to acknowl-cially in terms of price. edge weak performance and face consequences (e.g., Even though cost reduction requests are justi- get downgraded). Therefore, intra personal relationsfied and acceptable, this kind of pressure can force among managers can be altered by the findings ofresearch provider to make unreasonable cost reduc- mystery shopping. This may not be the case in sometions, just in order to close a deal with research order- occasions, but in others it cannot be avoided.er. If such occasion occurs, the duty of marketing re- Intra personal relations at research orderer, cansearch provider is to render all necessary explanations place research providers in an inconvenient position.on what exactly makes mystery shopping so expen- Depending on a particular study, and particular setsive, and perhaps offer detailed insight into research of circumstances, more or less obvious attempts can66      Marko Đorđić
  • 16. be made to somehow influence the design of mystery work for mystery shopping into a very complex andshopping, or doubt methodology and research find- demanding task.ings. Inscriptions and shopping scenarios need to be de- While it is completely acceptable that research or- veloped in such manner that they assure comparabil-derer expresses interest for the research, tries to be ity, and at the same time, that they can be applied to allmore involved, any interference on methodology is national markets. This requires careful examination ofnot acceptable. Research provider must: service delivery standards. In one country standards may prescribe that branch office personnel must have• remain neutral, name tags. In the other country name tags may not be• maintain mystery shopping integrity thought required, and so forth. entire duration of study, and Infinite number of specificities in service delivery,• enforce international code of conduct and stan- unique to all national markets, prevents development dards for conducting mystery shopping. of unified shopping scenarios. Therefore, shopping As mentioned earlier research orderers can help scenarios are customized according to the local stan-mystery shopping to succeed. It is especially impor- dards in service delivery. Usually there are some basictant to promote mystery shopping among employees multinational guidelines.as a tool that would be used for common benefit, and When it comes to the inscription design, there isthat will make them better in providing high quality a way to go around this problem by using modularservice. Communication needs to be consistent and inscription. Modular inscription comprises one mainmotivational. Key to the success of mystery shopping module common for all national markets, and it canis to secure cooperation and compliance of regional be expanded through supplemental modules, whichand branch management and branch office personnel. are customized according to the specificities of ser-It is important that everyone accepts mystery shop- vice delivery in effect in each national market. Thatping in good faith, and build its image through con- way important data for comparison of performancesistent action. among subsidies is collected through main module, Intra personal relations will continue to be a source while country specific data can be collected throughof sensitivity in mystery shopping. Only with proper supplemental modules.communication, neutrality, and objectivity research Secondly, further efforts are required to design ap-orderers and research providers can increase the propriate measuring methodology. Even though, justchances of success of mystery shopping. the basic statistics is required for mystery shopping, making of a unified measuring methodology can beMultinational Mystery Shopping time consuming, especially in case when a large num- ber of national markets are involved in a study.When it comes to multinational mystery shopping in Therefore, specificity in service delivery of each na-retail financial services additional challenges in re- tional market must be taken into account. Measuringsearch management emerge, as well as a unique form methodology should not prefer one national market,of sensitivity. or put other national market in disadvantage. It is very Firstly, some challenges emerge due to the dif- important to thoroughly probe measuring methodol-ferences in market development. Some markets are ogy before the start of actual research. After the proj-more developed with intense rivalry among competi- ect has started, and the data has already been collected,tors, and diversified offer of financial products. Other is not a good time to discover that chosen measuringmarkets are less developed. The competition is not as methodology requires different type of data, or thatintense, product offer is basic, and mergers or acquisi- they methodology needs to be redesigned. In generaltions are not yet finalized. Because all of this, financial changes and revisions of the methodology in multi-service providers may be present in a number of na- national marketing research should be kept to mini-tional markets, providing different types of financial mum once the research has started. Keeping up withproducts and services, with different standards in ser- constant changes in methodology is a challenging taskvice delivery. Therefore, it is inevitable that financial especially in multinational marketing research. Meth-service providers will not be able to deliver service ex- odology should be carefully developed, thoroughlyactly the same way in all national markets. This makes probed, put in practice, and utilized until it reachesthe development of unified methodological frame- its own analytical limits, or there is requirement from research orderer to change it. Specificities of Mystery Shopping in Retail Financial Services      67
  • 17. Finally, a unique form of sensitivity may arise in sure of personal data, and mystery shopping projectsmultinational mystery shopping, this time on a level require the disclosure of personal data, because theyof entire subsidiary. are sometimes related to bonuses operations. The engagement in multinational mystery shop- The main inherent property of mystery shoppingping means that findings and data will be disclosed to is that it is an observational research. It can be un-the top management at the corporate headquarters of structured, which intends to deliver qualitative data,the financial institution. Furthermore, performance or structured, which intends to deliver quantitativeof each subsidy will be examined. Even though there data. Regardless of the data which intends to deliver,might not be intense rivalry among subsidies from it provides important insights which would other-different countries, it is inevitable that each subsidiary wise remain inaccessible such as factual observationswill try to do its best to look as good as possible in of the service delivery, rather than opinions acquiredmultinational mystery shopping. through survey research. Sensitivity towards mystery shopping can be par- In order to be effective and reach its maximal em-ticularly visible in those subsidiaries that operate at ployment potential mystery shopping must be con-undeveloped markets, or in these subsidies which ducted continually, and it is recommended to conducthave not yet finalized process of synchronization it quarterly. More complex studies, such as competi-with corporate standards (e.g., after a merger or ac- tive or multinational mystery shopping can be con-quisition). These subsidies may feel that their position ducted once annually.puts them in disadvantage, and that subsidiaries from Time sampling is the sampling method of choice inmore developed markets, or fully integrated subsid- mystery shopping. Timing of individual shops can beiaries, will perform better in mystery shopping. In random or systematic and is chosen according to thegeneral this leads to involuntary compliance and diffi- preference of the research management. It is especial-culties in implementation of mystery shopping. Since ly important to include all branch offices into mysterythe cooperation of local parties is necessary, it is very shopping, and to shop each branch office twice duringimportant to avoid such situation. Yet again, proper the same study. Data acquired through the mysterycommunication and cooperation between corporate shopping is representative only for the branch officesheadquarters and subsidiaries should stem towards included into the research.acceptance of multinational mystery shopping to full Generic research subject of mystery shopping con-extent. sists of three research components: (a) people, (b) pro- Therefore, it is especially important to pay atten- cesses, and (c) physical environment. These researchtion that methodological solutions developed at the components can be enriched with integration of in-corporate headquarters of financial institution and dividual features of service delivery, specific to eachmultinational research provider maintain their integ- service provider. It is especially important to alignrity when deployed over a large geographical area. research subject of mystery shopping with research subject of CSS, in order to create more synergy and maximize employment potential of both researches.conclUsion Shop scenarios need to be realistic and straightfor- ward. Inscriptions need to contain questions designedPrevious argument revealed methodological specifici- in such manner that they can be answered in a form ofties of mystery shopping in retail financial services, as yes and no answers. A limited number of open endedwell as non-methodological issues of mystery shop- questions should exist as well, so that mystery shop-ping research management. The argument reviewed pers can provide more elaborate answers about specialthese issues in light of the latest standards and code of circumstances they might encounter when conduct-conduct in mystery shopping. Here is a summary of ing mystery shopping.key methodological recommendations, which can be Quality control in mystery shopping requires jointparticularly useful to overcome practical challenges in efforts of both research provider and research orderer,mystery shopping, and which can enhance the overall prior, throughout, and afterwards the study. Researchquality of mystery shopping studies. provider is in charge of quality control of prepara- Prior to the engagement in any kind of mystery tion, execution, and supervision of data acquisition.shopping study it is very important to separate mys- Research orderer’s duty is to ensure compliance oftery shopping research, and mystery shopping proj- branch personnel and managers, promote mysteryects. Mystery shopping research excludes the disclo- shopping, and act consistently after the study has68      Marko Đorđić
  • 18. been completed. It is especially important not to take odology related challenges in mystery shopping. Evendisciplinary action on the basis of mystery shopping, though these challenges are different, the solutionand utilize mystery shopping to enhance training and for overcoming them is the same. It is utmost impor-empower branch office personnel. tant to develop close, transparent, and trustworthy Data acquisition in mystery shopping remains a relationship between research orderers and researchchallenging task. However it can be enhanced through providers. Research orderers and research providerstraining which main objective is: (a) to make mystery should turn cooperation into partnership, and thatshoppers adopt scenarios and inscriptions as their way make achieving their own objectives a joint effort.second nature, and (b) reduce the influence of ob- Even though mystery shopping may not be theserver bias. Quality control during data acquisition is most important marketing research, it certainly be-ensured through deployment of various instruments come a must have in retail financial services. From itssuch as: (a) service usage, (b) false branch offices, (c) rocky beginnings, almost three quarters of a centuryfalse questions, (d) time limit, and (e) debriefing. The ago, it became an objective and reliable tool to mea-greatest assurance of quality is a steady base of loyal sure and monitor performance in service delivery. Itsmystery shoppers. employment potential grew, and it is safe to say that The research cost, nature of the mystery shopping it deserves a lot of credit for the quantum leap in en-research, and intra subsidiary relations in multina- hancement of service quality we witness in moderntional mystery shopping will remain key non-meth- retail financial services.references 1. Brink, H. Van der Walt, C., & Van Rensburg, G. 11. Limbrick, D. (1997), “Mystery Shopping”, in P. Murley (2006), Fundamentals of Research Methodology for (Ed.), Gower Handbook of Customer Service, (pp. 151- Health Care Professionals, 2nd edition, Juta & Co., 159), Grower Publishing Limited, Hampshire. Cape Town. (Original work published 1996) 12. Market Research Society (2008), Mystery Shopping 2. Dorman, K. G. (1994), “Mystery Shopping Results Research Guidelines, http://www.mrs.org.uk/ Can Shape Your Future”, Bank Marketing, Vol. 26, No. standards/downloads/2008-10-30%20Mystery%20 8, pp. 17-21. shopping%20guidelines.pdf, accessed: May 16, 2011. 3. Easwaran, S., & Singh, S. J. (2006), Marketing 13. Michelson, M. (n.d.), Taking the Mystery out of Research: Concepts, Practices, and Cases. Oxford Mystery Shopping, http://www.mspa-ap.org/about/ University Press, New Delhi. MysteryShopping1.ppt, accessed: May 16, 2011. 4. European Society of Opinion and Marketing Research 14. Morrall, K., (1994), Mystery shopping tests service (2005), ESOMAR World Research Codes & Guidelines: and compliance, Bank Marketing, Vol. 26, No. 2, pp. Mystery Shopping Studies, http://www.esomar. 13-23. org/uploads/pdf/ESOMAR_Codes&Guidelines_ 15. Mystery Shopping Providers Association Europe MysteryShopping.pdf., accessed: May 16, 2011. (2003), Advisory Guidelines for Mystery Shopping 5. Goodwin, C. J. (2010), Research in Psychology: in Europe, http://mspa-ap.org/pdf/Guidelines.pdf, Methods and Design, 6th edition, John Wiley & Sons, accessed: May 16, 2011. Inc, Hoboken. 16. Newhouse, I. S. (2004), Mystery Shopping Made 6. Hoffman, G. (1993), “Customers Can Hone Mystery Simple, McGraw-Hill, New York. Shopping”, Bank Marketing, Vol. 25, No. 8, pp. 36-37. 17. Stovall, S. A. (1993), “Keeping Tabs on Customer 7. Holliday, K. K. (1994), “Mutual Funds”, Bank Service”, Bank Marketing, Vol. 25, No. 6, pp. 29-33. Marketing, Vol. 26, No. 7, pp. 23-31. 18. Stucker, C. (2005), Mystery Shopper‘s Manual, 6th 8. Hotchkiss, D. A. (1995), “What Do Your Customers edition, Special Interests Publishing, Sugar Land. Really Think?”, Bank Marketing, Vol. 27, No. 3, pp. 13- 19. Tepper, G. C. (1994), “The Merits of Self-Testing”, 20. Mortgage Banking, Vol. 54, No. 8, p. 76. 9. Leeds B. (1992), “Mystery Shopping Offers Clues to 20. Wilson, A. M. (1998a), “The Role of Mystery Quality Service”, Bank Marketing, Vol. 24, No. 11, pp. Shopping in the Measurement of Service 24-26. Performance”, Managing Service Quality, Vol. 8, No. 6,10. Leeds, B. (1995), “Mystery Shopping: From Novelty pp. 414-420. to Necessity”, http://www.allbusiness.com/sales/ 21. Wilson, A. M. (1998b), “The Use Of Mystery Shopping customer-service/506432-1.html, accessed: May 16, in the Measurement of Service Delivery”, The Service 2011. Industries Journal, Vol. 18, No. 3, pp. 148-163. Specificities of Mystery Shopping in Retail Financial Services      69
  • 19. rezimeSpecifičnosti tajne kupovine u bankarskomposlovanju sa stanovništvomMarko ĐorđićSvrha ovog metodološkog članka je istraživanje meto- kupovine u kontinuitetu, (b) sprovođenjem tajne kupovinedoloških specifičnosti tajne kupovine u finansijskim u celoj mreži filijala, (c) integrisanjem svih komponentiuslugama za stanovništvo, kao i seta novih izazova u koje učestvuju u pružanju usluge u predmet istraživanja, imenadžmentu studija tajne kupovine koji nisu u vezi sa (d) stalnom primenom instrumenata za kontrolu kvalitetametodologijom istraživanja, a koji su nastali sa skoraš- pre, tokom, i posle studije. Nalazi su prevashodno primen-njim inovacijama tajne kupovine. Članak takođe otkriva ljivi u tajnoj kupovini u finansijskim uslugama za stanov-metodološke preporuke kako poboljšati sveukupni kvalitet ništvo, kao i do izvesne mere, u tajnoj kupovini u ostalimtajne kupovine u svetlu tekućih standarda i pravila za maloprodajnim i korporativnim uslugama.sprovođenje tajne kupovine. Izložene preporuke ukazuju Ključne reči: tajna kupovina, finansijske usluge za sta-na to da se kvalitet tajne kupovine u finansijskim uslugama novništvo, metodologija istraživanja, marketing usluga,za stanovništvo može poboljšati: (a) sprovođenjem tajne menadžment istraživanja. contact: Marko Đorđić, Belgrade, Republic of Serbia e-mail: marko.djordjic@gmail.com70      Marko Đorđić