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40 Best Practices
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This report offers insights into the critical need for a cohesive interplay among back-office staff and frontline employees for building and supporting customer relationships. Moreover, clear-headed marketing strategies, targeted human resources initiatives, as well as technology consolidation and training emerged as essential aspects of a holistic customer service experience.
Chapters in this report highlight best practices and metrics for marketing and sales excellence; service excellence; human resources and management excellence; and transactional excellence.
Benchmarks for Excellence in Caribbean Retail Financial Services (OP-100) evaluates multiple fronts of retail financial services operations that have the greatest impact on customer service excellence. For example, certain marketing programs call for coordinated process interactions between frontline employees and back-office staff to avoid sabotaging customer service expectations. Marketing must take care not to set unrealistic customer expectations, which could eventually lead to poor customer perceptions. Human resources practices that focus on hiring, training, career path development and performance management foster employee retention, which promotes continuity in customer relationships. Moreover, the varied application of technology across the industry reveals an important area of focus for improved efficiency aiding in customer retention.
The following are two sample key findings from the benchmarking report. In total, the study includes more than 200 best practices, data charts, narratives and performance metrics.
Sales and Marketing: Focus marketing efforts on customer relationships and leverage all staff to execute marketing strategies to capture new customers and increase the depth of assets within existing accounts.
Based on the benchmarking survey responses, Barbadian retail financial services companies spend five percent or less of their budgets on marketing. This relatively modest investment shows that this function may be under-funded in light of the increasing levels of competition. Still, benchmark companies have used these marketing dollars in surprisingly innovative ways, demonstrating a clear trend away from product marketing towards customer relationship marketing.
According to one participant, there are several important reasons for this shift from product emphasis to relationships emphasis. First, products are easily copied, but strong relationships are not. Second, by establishing close relationships, companies are better able to leverage their relationships and increase the amount of “wallet-share” from each client. In fact, the benchmarking survey shows companies that have greater numbers of clients also are able to attain greater assets per client. As assets grow, revenue tends to grow in direct proportion. Sales and marketing strategies that take advantage of these trends tend to be the most successful.
Moving in this direction, companies have provided many examples of innovative programs, employing strategies that are both defensive and offensive such as aggressive mortgage “buy-backs,” rapid turnaround loans — within one day — around key times like Christmas, and explicit processes that direct account managers to touch base with clients on key dates like birthdays and anniversaries to develop personal ties that help to cement client relationships.
Furthermore, the traditional model of utilizing branch personnel as the focal point of sales efforts is changing, especially for large ticket purchases like mortgages. Indeed, some of the benchmark companies have instituted roaming mobile sales forces to go out to potential customers' homes and workplaces to increase the effectiveness of sales for mortgages and other loans. Additionally, some of the companies have designed processes and systems that tie referrals and up sells in the branches directly to frontline compensation, incanting front line workers to focus on the relationships and drive additional sales.
Lastly, companies are realizing the impact that the overall customer experience has on long-term retention and adopting strategies for focusing on customer relationships. They are rethinking how the customer experience works in branches and designing processes, procedures, incentives, and staff management programs to drive behaviors aligned with the overall marketing and sales strategy.
Human Resources: Design innovative ways to manage people and provide incentives to ensure behaviors are aligned with strategies, and create HR processes that measure and align capabilities with intended performance standards.
Human Resources is a critical function for ensuring that talented employees are hired, that they remain motivated to achieve appropriate performance levels, and that performance gaps are addressed through effective training. Interviewed companies use a myriad of standard approaches to acquiring key talent — including newspaper advertisements, walk-in applications, college student part-time workers and word-of-mouth.
However, we found stark differences in how companies interview and screen candidates against culture and position requirements. Benchmark companies used a combination of technical and behavioral competencies to identify best candidates. Additionally, they provided extensive training to hiring managers on how to do so. Furthermore, top companies use a standardized screening process and a set of successful competencies.
Once new employees are on-board, companies use different methods to keep them engaged and in value-added roles. Top companies evaluate different career paths and job rotations to retain talent. One company rotates frontline employees through the back office to increase their appreciation for transactions. This well-rounded training results in added value as these frontline employees learn to look for and spot errors. Another top company uses compensation broad banding to equalize salary differences across the organization and develops various career paths in both front and back offices to allow movement and progression, without removing good people from areas where they are strong.
Performance management provides another area where best practice companies showed substantial improvements over other benchmark participants. Best practice benchmark companies in the HR area directly and visibly link performance and compensation. For example, many companies perform annual customer-satisfaction surveys, and many use annual employee-satisfaction surveys as well. World-class companies perform customer-satisfaction surveys and focus groups more than once a year and build specific performance plans around the findings.
If there are any deficiencies in performance in either of these surveyed areas, the impacted managers must create action plans, jointly with the employees when employee satisfaction is an issue. Monthly progress reports are required as well. These action plans are the fundamental basis for improvement; managers unable to meet satisfaction targets are moved to other roles. Similarly, employees are held to strict performance standards, with variable compensation tied to their targets.
The Best Practices team also studied training practices. Findings revealsed that several companies use a shared or centralized approach to delivering training. Many companies are starting to implement Computer Based Training for simple technical or managerial courses. Others allow employees to use university training for skill-set enhancement. For most companies, however, the majority of training is provided on the job and is less than stellar in quality. As such, employee training represents an opportunity for most companies moving forward.