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29 октября 2014

Effective Front Office: How to Lower Demands from Personnel and Improve Services Quality?

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HOST Group of Companies has launched a new product – "Big Retail!" for the operations of the bank's front office. Andrey ZAVADA, Regional Development Director at HOST Group of Companies talks with NBJ about ways to release personnel from excessive competencies, while improving quality of customer services.

NBJ: Bank employees have always been seen as a selective group: well educated, alert, accurate. Do you claim that it is possible for virtually anyone to service customers?

A. ZAVADA: Yes, I do. We have tested, whether it is true, on multiple occasions. When using our programme, it is possible for anyone to grant a loan from the first time as if she were an average frontliner. And the quality is improving only after a couple of trials.

How do banks achieve similar results? They train the personnel, spending on it millions of rubles. An productive employee has to have a perfect knowledge on all products, memorize hundreds of pages of regulations and standards and know how to use complex IT systems. Banks would hire sales trainers and involve senior employees. In a year, 20–30% of these fully trained employees would leave for other companies. The millions that banks have spent would become a waste. Also, there is no guarantee that completing training an account manager would deliver quality customer services and not spend inordinate amount of time, browsing the regulations or ask others about rare products.

Our objective is to release personnel from excessive competencies: capabilities to operate a large number of IT systems, memorizing volumes on products and regulations. The only skills that an account manager needs to master are communications skills. In order to do that, she needs to know, how to read and speak.

NBJ: How did you manage to achieve this?

A. ZAVADA: We have been working together with banks for 20 years and have a clear understanding of what they work covers. 95% of all operations at a front office – to grant loans, consult on deposits or other relevant offers – are customer service scenarios that have been developed in advance. We visualize and automate these processes, breaking them down by successive stages and actions, while the interface is so easy and intuitive that even a child would have no problem with it. At each stage, an employee can see only that information, which he needs to complete it – a cheat sheet, stating the questions to ask and offers to make. An employee that deals with deposit boxes might have no idea about exchange rates. She is provided with clear and understandable instructions on how to act. The risks of operational errors are minimal. When an employee inputs any new data, the program would automatically check, whether these data are correct, complete and there are not double entries and populate respective databases. For instance, if you have already input the customer's name and passport data, you would not have to enter them again, when filling in a contract.

NBJ: A roll-out of IT technologies does not always deliver an increase in productivity. It is quite often that a bank employee would not be able to perform a particular operation in the system and would have ask for help from a more experienced colleague. How much time does it take for an employee to get the feel of the programme?

A. ZAVADA: A couple of days. And there is no need to ask for help from senior staff. Our program "Big Retail!" is a combination of an instruction, regulations and sales trainer. Upon completion of the inbuilt training course, an account manager can start servicing customers. It takes one day for any person, who has never granted a loan before, to go through the certification procedure. Senior employees have no need to get involved and can focus on their own work. The program uses the test results to automatically determine the success rate. Until a person has passed all the items, he or she would be required to return to the new trainings runs.

Throughout the rest of the training process it is possible to measure and track the indicators for customer service operations. The program enables to obtain a full scope of statistics on complete and incomplete tasks and time, spent on each action. The accumulated results enable to improve the processes and operations of an individual employee, sales office or a product.

NBJ: What is the catch?

A. ZAVADA: There is no catch. Just like in the proverb "Brevity is the soul of wit".

This is a perfect motto for anybody, who sets out to create a program. Any technology solutions and improvements of program capabilities should focus on end users they serve. Do they really need a particular button? How often will they use it? Do they have a clear idea on how to use it?

This is the way that e-stores went through in their evolution. Users would get to a site and perform complex actions on their own: they might need to get a consultation on a product, compare a number of products, order logistics services, track movements of products. Processes in any e-store must be as simple and understandable for customers as possible, otherwise they would decide to use another site. These are the core principles of our program "Big Retail!". It is these principles that drive a breakthrough in productivity and continuous strive for service excellence.

NBJ: It sounds as a "magic bullet" for all issues that a bank's front office might face. It might be hard to believe it if you haven't tried it yourself.

A. ZAVADA: Of course, "Big Retail!" is not a "magic bullet", but a new method to make improvements. It has been successfully deployed across a number of banks and we offer others to test how effective it is. We would be happy to get feedback from anyone, who might have a chance to test it. We do not suggest that anyone should take on trust what we say and they can test our methods and products themselves. I would personally meet with the colleagues, who might find this article interesting and discuss ways to boost productivity at the front office.

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