Mystery Shopping Study Finds Spotty Results Implementing Segmentation Strategy

Faced with questions about the profitability of small account relationships, how they distract advisors from capturing greater wallet share from affluent clients, and the compliance risk of neglecting the best interest of underserved clients, many financial institutions have developed segmentation strategies to determine who should call, click, or come in. The cornerstone of that strategy is to train the gatekeepers to triage who should have access to a traditional across-the-desk advisor, and who should be referred to an investment call center or a digital platform.

A new pilot mystery shopping study by Sales Quality Research Group and Kehrer Bielan found that this triage is still a work in progress.

Kehrer Bielan’s research identified the dollar amount of an investment that 12 banks or credit unions are using to determine who should be referred to an advisor in the branch, the institution’s investment call center, or an on-line advice platform. Then mystery shoppers from Sales Quality Research telephoned branch offices and call centers in those institutions to see where they would be directed for investment advice. The shopper told the gatekeeper that they were looking to invest a certain amount, with the investment amount varied across the shops to assess how the triage is working.

Altogether, Sales Quality Research conducted 33 shops – 2 to 4 per institution. The shopper was referred to the appropriate advice channel only 32% of the time.

There was little difference in the success of the triage between the branch shops or the call center shops; two-thirds of the time the shopper was referred to an advice channel that the institution deemed inappropriate for their level of intended investment.

This pilot was part of a larger study of the propensity to refer in 17 institutions by Sales Quality Research. Based on these initial results, Sales Quality Research and Kehrer Bielan plan to expand the study to include more institutions and more shops per institution.


Sales Quality Research Group is one of the nation’s leading providers of research and consulting services for financial institutions. Since 1993, Sales Quality Group has conducted well over 250,000 in person and telephone shops and surveys of retail bank and credit union employees, registered reps, licensed branch employees and bank/CU customers/members, for over 100 banks, credit unions, insurance companies and brokerage firms nationwide.