Way to Go Team: Exceptional Customer Service and Outstanding Sales Are Facilitated in an Environment in Which Coaching and Mentoring Are an Integral Part of the Corporate Culture-And Not Simply a One-Time Training Event

Article excerpt

An effective way to achieve exceptional service quality is through a system in which managers continuously coach and mentor employees day after day, week after week. This type of culture can be accomplished throughout the organization only when a bank develops solid teams of both service-quality and sales coaches.

In this article, we will overview the coaching culture in two financial services institutions, touching on some of the key characteristics of their successful approaches.

In the past, ShoreBank employee satisfaction surveys revealed that many workers were leaving due to a poor relationship with their managers. The institution realized that it could not reduce turnover and increase job satisfaction until it created a "consistent and positive" relationship between managers and employees.

As a result, the bank committed itself to the development of a continuous service-quality and sales coaching and mentoring culture.

Jay Colker, vice president and manager, employee development, notes that, "Managers need some specific strategies to be successful and the organization needs a process to hold everyone accountable."

He adds, "Employees function best when expectations are clear and when managers take enough interest to pay attention to how employees are performing."

Service-quality and sales training at the bank is not a one-shot classroom event. Instead, it is made up of combinations of blended-learning activities that are spaced over time. The majority of the training is done on the job, with managers serving as personal trainers or coaches to their employees. The training is also supported with helpful on-the-job communication--timely encouragement, reinforcement and performance improvement discussions with the coach.

"The solid coaching role managers now engage in at the bank helps them develop stronger working relationships with their employees," says Colker.

Here are some of the distinguishing characteristics of ShoreBank's approach:

* All new bank employees are immediately linked to a service-quality coach and mentor. The coach is a manager or supervisor with whom they work. By using clear procedures and processes, these coaches demonstrate competence in service-related skills and immediately hold employees to a higher standard.

* When hired, all new employees complete service-quality training. Coaches provide support to employees during this training. The training is not a one-time workshop. Instead, it is a spaced-learning "experience" that includes individual self-study, personalized one-on-one practice with the coach and frequent on-the-job feedback from the coach regarding the use of these skills with customers.

* Coaches are positive role models for the very same service-quality skills they ask employees to perform. Employees learn by emulating how their coaches treat customers!

* Coaches provide performance feedback to employees to reinforce their achievements and support continued improvement. Coaching is built into the fiber of being a successful leader--it is something that is done day-in and day-out, year-in and year-out!

* Besides the appreciation they receive at their offices, employees are also recognized bankwide for service-quality proficiency. For example, employee success stories are published in organization newsletters. Employees are acknowledged when they deliver great service during mystery shops. Employees have also received special cash awards each month for referral accomplishments. In short, lots of creativity and variety is used to celebrate individual and team service-sales accomplishment whenever it occurs.

A bank customer took the time to write this note about the memorable service she received: "You have made an unhappy and disappointed new customer a customer who is now loyal and who sings your praises. I have found you to be very conscientious in your approach to our numerous and unique situations. …