A new study shows that frontline employees in the financial services industry need more in-depth and ongoing training to provide a more positive impact on customers.
Microlearning platform Axonify partnered with PMG Intelligence to conduct a survey of 400 frontline bank employees and insurance advisers and 1,300 consumers in the U.S. and Canada. Results revealed that only 13 percent of financial services frontline employees feel equipped to answer questions from clients and 60 percent indicated they were not completely satisfied with the employee training they receive.
Because the financial services industry is robust and diverse, frontline professionals end up consuming a lot of information in a short period of time. They deal with regulations and compliance and often learn the material as part of the onboarding process. This may be one of the reasons the results show employees are unsatisfied with the training they receive, said Rob Grein, a PMG Intelligence partner.
“Where the deficiency starts to occur is that advisers and frontline employees receive so much training in a short period of time that as their tenure in the business increases, there’s no regulatory requirement outside of licensing to keep training yourself,” Grein said. “The further away from teaching, obviously there’s going to be a disintegration of your knowledge base.”
Other factors may also hinder the training of frontline employees. Today, workers are often trained the same way they were before the internet made it easy for consumers to educate themselves. Axonify CEO Carol Leaman said consumer trust and loyalty was also much greater in the past. The emergence of more complex financial services products also contributes to the complication of training frontline employees, she added.
“Frontline workers now must be trained in a way that ensures they can keep pace with change and deliver superior customer service in the face of much more informed clients,” Leaman said. “Often, training is provided upfront and difficult to retain.”
Instead, Leaman said firms should deliver continuous training to ensure frontline employees are on top of rapidly changing products, competitors and consumer needs. “Doing so empowers employees to deliver exceptional customer experiences while remaining engaged,” she said.
The survey results also showed that 26 percent of employees and advisers feel that training is not engaging. Leaman said training can be more engaging by making the program easily accessible on mobile devices to be used anytime, anywhere. Using a gaming method, where points and rewards can be collected, can also increase participation. Finally, adapting to different learning styles may help engagement since people have different preferred learning methods, Grein added.
“It is proven that when employees enjoy a learning experience, they will seek out the next one and make it a habit,” Leaman said.
The study also found that when frontline employees don’t know the answer to a question, 31 percent ask a colleague, 24 percent ask a manager, 24 percent consult the company intranet and 8 percent go back to training materials. Leaman said this poses a problem for customers.
“This means that employees are at risk of providing inconsistent information to customers because they don’t have a single source to look up information,” Leaman said.
This inconsistency can result in the potential loss of customers. In fact, 2 out of 5 customers surveyed switched their primary financial institution. Of those who switched, 51 percent said they made the change because they received poor customer service or didn’t feel valued.
“Whenever you have varying structures — different companies and different channels administering training and different requirements to update training— the customer may experience an inconsistent level of service or satisfaction with their interactions and with the advice that they receive,” Grein said.
Leaman added that consumers will continue to seek personal interactions with frontline employees. “Positive and engaging interactions are crucial for maintaining and improving customer satisfaction and loyalty,” she said.
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