Why bank employees are key to high-quality CX

Banking leadership needs to better connect the dots between how employees are treated and the customer experiences they deliver.

Employee behaviors can make or break great customer experiences — and this isn’t exclusive to those working at the front of the house at banks and credit unions.

If there’s a disconnect between what employees feel is important and what customers want, that can result in less than stellar experiences. On the flip side, it’s hard for employees to be motivated to create great experiences if they don’t feel valued by their leaders or don’t do meaningful work.

The golden rule tells us to treat others as we would like to be treated. That’s how traditional annual employee surveys are framed in terms of how companies treat their employees. But the real question businesses should ask is: Are we inspiring and enabling our people to do great by our customers?

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More than treating their people right, financial institutions with advanced employee experience efforts ensure their employees have the tools, capabilities, autonomy and coaching needed to deliver for customers. Large national banks that lead in CX empower and inspire their people to go above and beyond in service of customers. Many credit unions and relationship-focused regional banks have managed to retain and deepen customer relationships by demonstrating how much they care for their employees and nurturing a cohesive culture that keeps employee attrition low.

One of the biggest mistakes banks make with their EX efforts is checking in with their employees too infrequently. Getting performance feedback more often, even on a weekly basis, allows us to learn faster, prioritize ways to improve and eliminate bad habits before they become bigger issues.

While most financial institutions conduct some level of employee listening, they often fail to connect EX with CX. Typical internal survey questions might be: “Would you recommend this as a good place to work?” and “Do you feel supported by your manager?” But they overlook basic questions that connect EX and CX: “What will make your job easier?” or “What’s getting in the way of delivering a great customer experience?”

There are other useful types of employee feedback that many organizations often overlook. PTO usage, for example, may tell us about burnout. Help ticket activity may help us better focus training initiatives. Meeting attendance patterns may indicate whether employees feel psychologically safe and valued. Harnessing these daily behavioral signals to better understand and improve EX is the next frontier. By listening to employee feedback in all of its forms, banks have the opportunity to improve every aspect of EX based directly on what employees say they want or need.

Leaders often try to brainstorm solutions to employee pain points from the top down, but this doesn’t typically create sustainable change. Banks should bring front-line, middle and back-office employees into the mix, and create solutions from the bottom up. Their ideas are often more practical, and employees are more invested in making them work.

For example, one top bank is using an end-to-end listening program to survey, monitor and gather employee feedback throughout their onboarding process for new hires. By capturing the voice of the employee at this pivotal phase of the employee journey, this bank is able to source thousands of actionable, real-time recommendations to intervene when staff describe issues leading to poor experiences.

Banks are well known for complex processes. Every day, employees encounter issues and exceptions that can degrade customer experiences. There are plenty of ideas for fixing things, but few mechanisms for sharing and taking action. Organizations need tools to capture their ideas and recommendations in the moment — whether via surveys, crowdsourcing platforms, SMS or video — and establish processes for routing this feedback to the right teams.

Bank leaders need to connect the dots between how employees are treated and the customer experiences they deliver to be able to continuously innovate in line with growing customer expectations. The best place to get started is by examining critical trends and sentiment in employee feedback, attrition drivers and behavioral signals to assess overall EX strengths and weaknesses, and then pairing these with CX metrics and business outcomes.

At the end of the day, banks and credit unions should clearly see the impact of employee behavior on customer experiences and optimize their employee hiring, training and reward systems to maximize CX and financial outcomes.

David Ostberg is solutions principal, employee experience, and Daniel Brousseau is head of financial services industry strategy and experience, both at Medallia.