Mystery Shopping Tests Compliance Issues


Compliance issues, or failure to adhere to compliance standards, can make or break a business. This is especially vital in the financial industry, whether it is banking, loans, mortgages, or tax preparation. With the laws becoming more stringent, it is vital to ensure that staff are providing accurate information, the proper disclosures, and are as transparent as they need to be to ensure compliance.

Mystery shopping has helped in monitoring and measuring compliance among staff in this industry. Starting a program can be beneficial and will help businesses learn more about what consumers are being told, and be sure that employees are compliant with the law. Below are some examples:


  • Personal and “payday” loans: this type of loan has been in the news in recent years, as they have been hit with insanely high interest rates and some policies that are not clear to consumers when they use these services. A mystery shopping exercise can be initiated in which shoppers apply for these types of loans, whether in person or online, and document what they are told about the loan process, the repayment system, and interest rates. Additionally, they can attach documentation, such as required disclosures (Truth in Lending as an example) that need to be given to each consumer, as proof that this step was done. If there is a time where a shopper does not receive these disclosures, it is an immediate red flag to the company.

  • Auto insurance: this is another area for compliance issues. A recent study revealed that approximately half of consumers shopping for auto insurance do not disclose all relevant information during the application process. If there are “typical” aspects consumers tend to omit, a simple mystery shopping exercise can reveal which staff take the additional steps to ensure there are no omissions or find additional information and which just “let it go.”

  • Liquor and tobacco: while not in the financial industry, this is another aspect that can harm a business if compliance is not strictly followed. Starting a program in which mystery shoppers in the appropriate age group (18-27) will purchase alcohol or tobacco products to evaluate if staff request identification, inspect the identification, or if they simply override the system.

Utilizing a mystery shopping program to proactively monitor compliance issues can save a lot of headaches and trouble down the road. Mystery shopping is traditionally thought of in the retail and restaurant industries, but it can be useful for more complex programs as well.


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