On the importance of training front line staff

John Berry, Founder of Customer Buyology, has worked on a variety of futures-driven projects with banks around the world. Here, he explains to us why getting staff training right is so crucial. Additional inputs by I-AM from an India perspective.

Banks around the globe find themselves facing an ever increasing set of challenges:

  • Rapid growth of technology innovations impacting traditional distribution and marketing approaches
  • Changing and increasing demands from customers for improved service levels
  • Margin pressures in a competitive and regulated environment
  • New entrants – small finance banks, payment banks, micro-finance (in India)

All of these pressures are making it very difficult for banks to decide where to focus their efforts and in particular their spend.

Distribution has been a major area of debate – do branches have a future; will mobile growth mean physical environments become expensive white-elephants? Clearly the pace of change varies from market to market but no-one can deny the significant impact that technology is having on our lives – whether banking or any other sector. It is feasible these days from the comfort of one’s arm-chair to order and purchase food, music, holidays, jewellery, books and clothing let alone undertake banking tasks. These innovations have a far reaching impact on the effectiveness and profitability of a bank’s physical network.

Notwithstanding these pressures there is still an important role for face to face contact and a re-engineered branch presence is an important part of these changes. But re-engineering the physical infrastructure is not the sole answer – the people who manage and operate these sites are key to delivering experience excellence, which creates sustainable differentiation and profitability. However, the new formats require different skill sets so quality training with the new team is a MUST. It is often easier to agree to spend monies on a new layout that seems sexy or innovative but it is the people in the branch who are the brand – THEY create and maintain the brand experience not the fancy graphics or electronic advertising.

Too many banks underestimate the importance of training the front line in their new vehicle – who would dream of developing a new Formula 1 racing car only to ask your grandmother to drive it! It may get plenty of column inches in the papers but is unlikely to be on the podium! Training is also not about how to sell more – people have had enough of banks selling them what they don’t want – they want banks to “be on their side” to help them as someone who is “supporting their financial well-being”, someone who helps them “buy” the right solutions – it is the front line staff who deliver this excellence – fail to invest in sufficient and appropriate training at your peril – if you don’t the infrastructure spend will have been wasted.



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