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SG Marketing gave a Shopper Workshop on September 16, 1999 at the Four Points Sheraton
in Pleasanton, CA.  The workshop lasted from 10:30 am until 1:00 pm.  Lunch and door prizes
were provided and all this was at no cost to the people attending.  The speakers were Susan
Seiler, President of SG Marketing, Andrew Keirns of SG Marketing, Donna Snowden of
Westamerica Bank and Debbie Pezzini of Westamerica Bank.

The purpose of the workshop was to exchange information and to show the shoppers what
happens to their reports after they are completed. 

Susan started the meeting by welcoming us and having us all introduce ourselves.  SG
Marketing is 13 years old and does a variety of shops including: Financial, Retail, The
California Cheese Board and Gas Station/Convenience Stores.  Susan started out in
Finance 20 years ago as a teller.  After her daughter was born, she didn't want to work
outside the home and with her original partner, Jenny Brown, they kind of accidentally
stumbled into mystery shopping after doing some related work for bank presidents.

They started doing the shops themselves, but then rotation became a problem and they
needed more people.  They started with friends and kept growing. 

Andrew Keirns was our next speaker.  He is a detail oriented person that handles
about 12,000 shops per year for SG.  He says their philosophy is to catch employees
doing something right.  He reminds us to record "Just the Facts".   After our reports
go to SG Marketing, they go to an editing team that checks them before they go to the
client.  They are checked for consistency and factual accuracy.  He reminds us to
think of the employee who will see the report later.  If it is too negative it isn't really
helpful.  He says that after the 5th shop in a day we might get too hurried and reminds
us that we need to give the employee a chance to succeed. These shops are used
for bonuses and promotions in some cases.  On the other hand we are not supposed
to do their job for them.

Donna Snowdon from Westamerica Bank, a client of SG Marketing, was our next
speaker.  It was very nice and informative to hear things from the client's point of
view.  Westamerica is the 9th largest bank in California, they have 89 branches
from Southern California to Gualala(North of Bodega Bay)to The Sierra Foothills.
She said that there is very little to distinguish the quality of service between banks,
so they have made a strong commitment to improve customer service.  The bank
employees know what is on their shopping reports.  Westamerica gets 89 shops per
quarter and the President and the Executive Vice President see them first.  Then the
shops go to the Regional Managers, there are 11 of those.  After this they go to the
branches, where they are highly anticipated.  Awards are partially based on shopper

Debbie Pezzini, Regional Service Manager for Westamerica Bank was our next speaker.
She says she has a total belief and commitment to customer service.  Service is a hard
feeling to quantify and asked us to think of a place that made us feel good.  Now think
about the DMV.  They don't want to be the DMV of banking.  They have a Service Culture
Handbook and the employees must follow the guidelines.  The purpose of the shops are
to make sure the employees are meeting the minimum quality requirements, among other
things.  Debbie agreed that the shops are hotly anticipated.  Our shops are practically
bestsellers by the time they get to the actual employee who got shopped.  Once a month,
there is a service quality meeting and the shopping reports are part of that.  If an employee
got a really bad shop, their name is not mentioned in the meeting, they are taken aside and
counseled privately.  All the shops are shared between all the branches, with   the names
blanked out. 

Susan interjected at this point that   it is so important to get the name right.

During the question and answer portion many issues were addressed.

Debbie said that most of the time the bank employees are wrong when they think they
have identified a shopper, but some things that do give you away are:  Changing your
name in the middle of a scenario(This had happened).  Someone was very noticeable
by too obviously taking notes and looking around too obviously.

Sue told us that they have a computer program that prevents any shopper from
going to a bank more than once every two years.  Employees only see a shopper's
ID number, but Sue thinks it's OK if they remember you, it gives them insight into
what they could have done better.  Sue also said that she has never seen 1 bad
shopping report result in someone losing their job. 

Sue also told us to stick to real facts as much as possible and that makes it easier
to remember-do not make up elaborate scenarios.  Also she says to quit a shop
immediately if you know an employee. 

Debbie related to us what bank employees have said makes them suspicious
of a shopper.  They said if the scenario doesn't seem to fit the person it doesn't make
sense.  They also say that shoppers sometimes know too much, regular customers
do not have any idea of all the details of banking products. One of the shoppers
attending, Jan, said we need to be "Dumb on Demand". 
The bank employees say that a person with no account at the bank, or one that
goes to a seller first and then the teller is a giveaway.

At this time we had a nice lunch provided by SG Marketing. 

At the end of the session we did a practice shop. Susan was the bank employee and
Andrew was the customer.  It was interesting to see how many different interpretations
would come from the exact same shop.  All the reports were a little different.   Andrew
noted that we should throw out some mild objections so that the employee can
overcome them.  He also said that the narrative should be able to stand alone
without the yes/no answers.  He said the person reading the report should feel that
they were at the shop.  Susan commented in an e-mail after she read this report
that she feels that the differences in the practice shops could easily be explained
in the narrative portion or by the SG Marketing editors.

This workshop was great fun and all who attended enjoyed it.  Not suprisingly it
was a mostly female crowd.  All age ranges were represented.  The information that
shoppers exchanged among each other was great.  It was also very nice to meet all
of you that had visited the web site.  Both mystery shopping and the internet   do not
give us many opportunities to meet each other face to face. I hope more mystery
shopping companies take a note from Susan and give workshops also.  Thanks
again Susan for a great workshop.



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