Investing in People

  • Jo Causon
  • 6 July 2020
  • Blog | Career Development | Managing People | Leadership & Strategy | Blog

Why banking transformation starts with investing in people, not tech.

Investing in people, not just technology, is key to unlocking digital transformation in banking. Jo Causon, CEO, The Institute of Customer Service, explains.

Customer service was once seen as a pink and fluffy subject area, but today its strategic importance resonates with leaders across the globe.

So, what’s changed? Businesses increasingly recognise customer service for what it is – a long-term commitment to trying to understand an individual and serve them in the right way, not a short-term fix or the responsibility of one department. When organisations focus on this from the very top – and keep focused on it – they are rewarded with tangible business benefits.¹

Balancing human and digital

One question I am often asked, particularly by banks, is how to strike the right balance between people and technology.

For anything transactional that doesn’t normally require human intervention, such as checking a statement or managing money by creating pots, technology is brilliant. This is where some of the newer online banks have done very well indeed. But if you’re making a big decision or need some advice, you’re more likely to want to speak to a human being.

Investing in people

I’m a big proponent of using tech [in the right way] because it can be much more accurate and efficient than a human, especially in areas such as data processing. But I sometimes wonder whether we have taken our eye off the ball and allowed ourselves to believe it will solve all our problems. We have invested millions in our systems development, for example, but have we invested similarly in providing our people with the skills and opportunities they need?

By placing processing in the ‘hands’ of technology, human beings can add value in what I would term softer areas: building relationships and trust, educating and providing reassurance. The banking sector is so closely tied to the wellbeing of the UK and I think there’s a huge opportunity here to reinvent the service experience. Individuals in these roles need high levels of emotional intelligence and a strong connection to the issue or problem and, so far, a machine cannot do that.

Future skills

If you think about the skills future CEOs of organisations need to have, many of them are customer experience skills: listening, problem-solving, thinking innovatively and taking a holistic view. We’re living in a much more connected world and customers expect the same seamless experiences they get in other areas of their lives from their banking provider, so it follows that we need professionals who can think through the whole customer experience – not just a simple transaction.

Computer says ‘no’

We can’t control customers’ expectations, but what I think what we can do is to be much more transparent, much more open, much clearer about what is required. As a customer myself, I know how frustrating it is when you keep getting the ‘computer says “no”’ response, rather than a genuine conversation where someone sits down and explains the situation logically.

That’s the real balance I think we need to strike: let tech take some of the strain and give employees the skills and some freedom to create the best possible customer outcomes.

¹Research from the Institute of Customer Service shows those organisations that consistently outperform in terms of customer satisfaction have higher levels of ROI [return on investment]. For example, those with above-average customer service satisfaction over a five-to-eight-year period have 10% higher levels of EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation], 114% higher levels of productivity, and almost 5% higher levels of revenue.

Jo Causon is Chief Executive of The Institute of Customer Service. Hear more from Jo in the Spring 2020 issue of Chartered Banker magazine.