Magazine article Communication World

Banking on Knowledge: At First National Bank, an Education Program Changes Employees' Perceptions of Customer Service and Provides Career Opportunities

Magazine article Communication World

Banking on Knowledge: At First National Bank, an Education Program Changes Employees' Perceptions of Customer Service and Provides Career Opportunities

Article excerpt

In 2005, First National Bank (FNB) presented its vision to improve the quality of its customer service and to become the No. 1 bank in South Africa within three years. To make this happen, FNB set out to provide outstanding customer service in its banking contact centers.

Achieving these goals means retaining and attracting high-quality employees who will deliver great service. Before the communication team implemented the "Banking on Knowledge" program, staff turnover in the contact centers averaged 2.87 percent a month. In order to build staff commitment, the communication team would need to persuade temporary employees to become permanent; at the start of the program there were 310 temporary employees out of a total of 450.

In general, growth and career opportunities in the contact centers are limited, which makes it challenging to attract and retain talented, motivated staff. To change this situation, FNB needed to offer growth and career opportunities within the various banking business units. More important, before employees could take advantage of these opportunities, they needed to be banking experts. Banking expertise would also allow staff to provide FNB customers with great service.

The primary audience for Banking on Knowledge was any staff member who has direct contact with customers of FNB's contact centers. The average age of the target audience was 23. Research shows that people in this age group expect to change jobs frequently and are easily bored. "What's in it for me?" is an important question to them, though they are team players. They respond to humor and to straight talk. Also, the majority of the audience (43 percent) was black, a demographic that has been historically deprived of educational opportunities in South Africa. Further education is very important to them.

Goals and objectives

The Banking on Knowledge program had five objectives. The short-term goals were to:

* Enroll 80 percent of the contact center staff in a banking education program called the University of Banking.

* Offer staff members growth opportunities that would give them access to a wider range of careers, and would allow the organization to recruit and retain quality people (including making temporary staff permanent).

* Improve staff satisfaction.

The long-term goals were to:

* Deliver great customer service through staff members who are committed to excellent service, as measured by the monthly customer satisfaction index and real-time customer satisfaction measurement via interactive voice response (IVR).

* Deliver great-quality service through staff who have expert banking knowledge, also measurable by the monthly customer satisfaction index and real-time customer satisfaction measurement via IVR.

Overall, FNB envisioned creating enduring, rewarding relationships with customers by empowering employees to come up with innovative solutions to customer issues and concerns, and by managing costs.

Solution and implementation

The FNB communication team introduced the idea of increased career opportunities in banking to contact center consultants through the Banking on Knowledge program in September 2005.

Contact centers are seen as having no real career opportunities. FNB was determined to change this by creating an environment in which temporary staff would want to become permanent employees. Staff members needed to understand what a career in banking could mean to them, such as improved status and monetary gain. They needed to know that they could have aspirations that went well beyond the team leader role in the contact centers, which was previously the only position typically available to them. …

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