The role of the branch employee is changing from a transaction position to an advisory one as fewer customers visit the branch, forcing banks to hire more sophisticated and flexible front-line workers. Although the new tax law has recently prompted banks to raise salaries and hand out bonuses, Novantas believes that powerful technology can give employees even more confidence and incentive for better performance.
Institutions should be arming front-line employees with sophisticated tools that can help propel sales and deliver great service. By better matching sales information to different salesforce “personas”, bankers will do a better job building and deepening relationships. Salesforce “persona” matching is an emerging field that should receive higher priority in salesforce role design, performance management ecosystem development, and front-line sales tools.
The fact is that banks want it all — great customer experience, prudent pricing, smarter execution, sophisticated but simple bundles, and more finely-targeted cross-selling campaigns. Artificial intelligence may ultimately accomplish many of these goals, but today’s technology can already significantly improve human-to-human sales interaction. Regardless of the impact of digital, bank front-line sales and service staff will still interact regularly with customers.
Illustrating this need, Bank of America has replaced its “teller” job position with the more general “client service representative.” In addition to processing customer deposits and cashing checks, the job requires employees to “create a connection and develop rapport with customers to provide outstanding, personalized service” and “listen carefully and connect with customers to understand their top financial priorities and to uncover products and solutions that will benefit them.”
This set of lofty expectations can only be accomplished with the right technology to help assist the human role.
If banks want to ensure they are a customer’s primary relationship, they need to deepen interactions with staff. The right technology matched to human employees based on their “sales personas” will help meet individualized customer needs. Back-office analytics, combined with front-line tools for facilitating conversations and information-sharing, will finally drive the revolution in employee- customer interactions that banks have been longing to achieve.
Banks staff different types of branches in different ways. Technology must be tailored to meet varying branch roles and functions — for both generalists and specialists, and for varying levels of volume and complexity of activity. Banks typically staff generalists in sleepy branches with low activity and low opportunity; flexibility is required to create a great customer experience while keeping costs down. Branches with low activity and high opportunity use the generalist role, but also bring in specialists to service the local opportunity. This is a particularly important model as a growing number of transactions take place outside of the branch. The largest and highest opportunity branches employ branch-tethered specialists and roving specialists.
As branch employees move from mere order-takers to actual advisors, they will need help. Technology can help with that transition by equipping the employee with information and data that the bank already possesses.
The challenge is not only in the back-end analytics to support these sales personas. The trick is how to deliver these options to the front line in a way that and works within performance expectations and incentive programs.
Effective technology-infused techniques vary based on the employee role. Here are some examples by sales type at two very different ends of the selling spectrum
The branch generalist: One of the core principals in building confidence with the front-line branch generalist is to ensure that they believe they are doing the right thing for customers.
A core analytical driver needed to build and convey this sense is what Novantas calls “Just Like You” analytics. These can be used to identify similar customers and all the similar transactions that those customers completed in the last 30 days — just as a travel website advises users that “four other people booked this hotel today.”
The generalist can then use that information to call on customers for a home-equity line or credit-card sale with the knowledge that “300 customers just like Ben took our credit-card promotion in the last six days” or “the credit-card campaign is adding 100 new customers a day for customers just like Ben.”
Such contextual information helps bankers develop new metrics for customer usage and adoption that reinforce the value for the customer.
The branch specialist: This salesforce has been trained to actively grow the business and, in some cases, steal the most profitable customers from the competition. To do so, they require the information to win competitive deals. Members of this salesforce, which includes mortgage specialists and investment advisors are motivated and compensated by the value of the deals they bring to the bank.
These employees must be armed with customer insights, market knowledge, and clear negotiating guidelines to handle technical objectives. They can come in the form of the bank’s own intelligence on customers, developed through customers’ prior experiences with the bank, as well as off-us data like credit bureau information and online shopping behavior. Better competitive insights also allow a specialist salesforce to more dynamically respond to changes in market conditions, such as a rally in secondary mortgage markets.
In the case of the specialists, Novantas recommends using “Just Like You” analytics, along with specific financial and compensation impact of the deal on the employee. In this case, the sophisticated sales individual is motivated to maximize value for the bank, the customer and the employee.
Ultimately, any analytics must be aligned to the right compensation structure. Specialist incentives are targeted to the bank’s business objective, such as bottom-line profitability. To help specialists succeed, front-line tools should expose specific points and dollars for specialists to optimize.
UNLEASHING THE POWER
Back-end analytics on customer behaviors, propensities, profitability and pricing are evolving at record speeds due to advancements in big-data analytics, including more complete data lakes and high-volume processing capabilities. The trick is how to unleash that power not just in the digital channels, but in human channels as well. By providing sophisticated tools to assess the best ways to approach the customer, a bank can stimulate employee motivation, customer satisfaction, and its own bottom line.
EVP, New York
Client Services Principal, Chicago