Recovery of trust from customers after the financial crisis is beginning to stall due to a number of recent risk- and fraud-related incidents. Following news of a leading bank’s employees’ fraudulent account activity, customer advocacy scores in a recent Forrester survey dropped six points from 2016 to 2017—a trend Forrester correlates to decreased customer loyalty. As banks seek to restore the trust with customers and loyalty, they may be overlooking the role employees play in building trust and keeping risks at bay.
Employees play a key role in the customer experience (CX) as the group that directly interacts with customers about credit card disputes, investments, and financial advice. While a dissatisfied employee can be a weak link, one that is engaged, trusting, and trusted can set the stage for higher business performance.
The potential payoff in building an employee experience that increases trust is monumental. In fact, 20 years of research by the Great Place to Work Institute, which produces the “100 Best Companies to Work For,” found that trust between managers and their reports is the primary defining characteristic of the best workplaces. This trust drives bottom-line performance, with the advocacy group Trust Across America reporting the most trustworthy companies consistently outperform the S&P 500.
Banking leaders may be challenged in building employee trust in part due to the risk management practices that pervade the industry. Practices put in place to limit risk often hamper employees’ creativity, ingenuity and effectiveness. By finding a balance between risk management and a culture of trust internally—in which employees are empowered to act in the best interest of the organization and customer—firms can build trust externally with customers.
The benefits to the bottom-line are also substantial. For example, work teams performing in the top quartile for employee engagement outperform those in the bottom quartile by 10 percent in customer satisfaction and 22 percent in profitability.
To solve this challenge, bank leaders should encourage those with accountability for customer interactions to look inward at how interactions, processes, and tools create a culture of trust where employees are trusted and empowered to act on behalf of customers, collaborate, decrease fraud and—ultimately—mitigate risk throughout the organization. Ask yourself these questions:
Are employees limited in how they can serve customers? Though these limitations are often viewed as a way to mitigate risk, in reality, they increase the chance customers will lose trust in your bank. Ensure your staff are experts on the lifecycle of the products they work with, and use their expertise to meet customers’ needs. Also, consider revisiting your organization’s risk assessment to identify opportunities to service customers where it doesn’t weaken your organization on the regulatory front. This empowers your bank to strike a balance between customer and risk management needs.
What silos exist in your company? Consider how your products and services are organized and how they may prevent employees from having and creating positive customer interactions. Multiple groups may be working on customer-facing solutions simultaneously or solving customer challenges inefficiently due to a lack of internal visibility. Eliminating the functional mazes they must navigate to do their work supports meeting customer needs, which, in turn, builds trust.
Are you making it easier for employees to work for your bank? The employee experience must be designed and developed holistically to empower success, supported by training that equips them to navigate challenging or unforeseen situations. Take a comprehensive view of employee technology, tools and processes. For example, transactional training may not be enough to help staff understand their role and the bank’s culture – and how they come together to impact the customer experience. Put simply, banks should invest in their employees, focusing on long-term learning experiences.
Are you building in risk abatement throughout your organization? Risk management shouldn’t only happen at the last possible opportunity – at the point of customer interaction. Rather, it should be built into every step. Give staff the autonomy to solve problems to create a culture in which employees trust leadership and each other. They will be more likely to repay you by preventing risk incidents, as they feel empowered to do the right thing by the customer and the organization.
Your bank can produce more powerful customer experiences, and ultimately mitigate risk, by removing the unnecessary steps employees must take to successfully complete their work. Creating a culture of trust with employees who are empowered to meet customer needs can help banks, in turn, reestablish trust with their customers.
This article is the second in a series on building trust in financial services from North Highland consulting. Read the first article on building customer trust through experience design and the role that digital design plays in strengthening your business model.