Perhaps the greatest triumph for the chief learning officer is to ferret out a key business need, institute a development program to fulfill that need, and once it has been successfully implemented, deliver measurable results. Such was the case for JPMorgan Chase Card Services voice and accent neutralization training program for financial service advisers in India.
The journey began in 2003, using vendor programs, which were sufficient, but they did not offer the control or the quality that Senior Director of Performance Improvement Eric Hicks wanted. In January 2005, he decided to bring the program in-house.
“There’s obviously a cultural difference between the U.S. and India,” Hicks said. “And to bridge that gap, we needed to make sure that we had some good cultural-awareness training of the culture that our card members have in the U.S. versus what the advisers who were talking to them on the phone in India were experiencing. We also had this issue of colloquialisms, how we speak to each other and the figures of speech that we use.”
Sushma Kapoor, site training manager, said this sort of language training was integral to success.
“The colloquialisms and business phraseology pieces are extremely important in interaction, so we wanted to bridge that gap in the adviser interaction and understandability,” Kapoor said. “The card members might say, ‘Give me a ballpark figure on that.’ We would expect our advisers to understand the context behind ‘the ballpark figure.’ These are not common terms used in India or Mumbai. (In) Mumbai, being a metropolitan city, there are other colloquialisms that are used — I’m going to take ‘a lift’ versus ‘an elevator’ or ‘a gas station’ versus ‘a petrol pump.’ They mean the same, but there are different words used to explain the same terminology. We wanted to explain some of the idioms, especially those that they will hear more often in the financial world and on calls, so they don’t go completely blank when they hear an expression like that. They’ll have a ready response to the question.”
JPMorgan Chase has a rigorous screening process that all financial service advisers must go through before any training begins to prove they have some basic English communication skills, as well as the capability to say all the sounds required on the job. The voice and accent training curriculum, however, is not so much about teaching financial service advisers to speak American English but to neutralize their accents as much as possible, Hicks said. “Our focus is to make sure that we help our employees become global speakers,” Kapoor said. “We’re trying to get them to sound as neutral as possible in some of their speech pronunciation. Our focus during our 10-day program — and it’s really a continuous learning — is to get them to have more speech clarity.
“We focus on their consonant and vowel sounds, which could be colloquial. We also focus on getting them to pronounce some of the business terms correctly through syllable stress on the right word for the right meaning. Our focus is also to help them give the right inflection or intonation on calls when they are making a statement or asking a question. We also cover culture, which helps them to get familiar with common names, weather information or time zone information.”
Hicks said the cultural aspect is especially important.
“Often, customers will mention in passing things that are happening in society or in their community, and it’s helpful for our financial service advisers to have a little bit of an understanding of that so they can develop some rapport,” he said.
Hicks also said since the voice and accent neutralization training was implemented, JPMorgan Chase Card Services has enjoyed performance improvements.
“We’ve seen an increase in overall customer satisfaction scores for the site — that’s a survey that we send out to a sampling of customers, and they tell us how they feel about the last interaction that they had with us,” he said. “We had few or really no complaints about our accent or understandability. I’m sure there are a few, but in terms of ‘often’ or a consistent complaint, that just hasn’t happened since we implemented this program. We’ve had better handle time in terms of how we manage the call. In other words, customers aren’t continually asking us to repeat ourselves or to slow down and say things in a different way. When you reduce the amount of time that customers are on the call, they’re happier because they’re serviced more quickly.”Filed under: Leadership Development