A mere two years ago, most banks weren’t banking on a move to hybrid work en masse.
The disconnected systems, processes and technologies that have long been a part of the banking and financial services industry (BFSI) saw many employees struggle due to a lack of resources and support to manage customer queries while operating from home offices.
A year and a half later and some of these creases have been ironed out, with banks across Asia-Pacific transitioning their often-sizeable workforces to remote and hybrid models, and indicating plans to make flexible work from anywhere an ongoing trend. DBS Bank in Singapore, for example, is providing its 29,000-strong workforce with the option of working from home 40 per cent of the time into the future.
But the new work environment has presented banks with a renewed set of challenges.
Ongoing lockdowns have seen customers across Asia flock to online banking, bringing with them expectations around customer service. These customers didn’t want to simply switch from queuing at a bank branch to waiting on hold to speak with a contact centre agent. Rather they expected quick, convenient and personalised access to a range of financial services. Meeting current standards while navigating new work environments and managing increased workloads has been no easy task for banks. Particularly as businesses and individuals have turned to their services more than ever before to adjust their loan repayments and gain access to financial aid.
If bank leaders are going to service the evolving needs of customers into the future, they need to ensure their teams are connected and supported under a hybrid work model. This is particularly crucial during times of financial uncertainty, and if they want to remain competitive in the current world of buy now pay later services and Apple wallets.
To meet the challenge, these leaders need to break down information siloes and remove roadblocks to collaboration, information sharing and day-to-day activities. Here are four ways banks can enable a hybrid workforce into the future:
- Power to the people: While technology has largely saved us over the past year, too often organisations fall into the trap of forgetting who is using technology – their people. Let’s face it, even the best virtual networking technologies cause communication lapses, and studies show that millisecond delays in virtual responses negatively affect our interpersonal perceptions – regardless of technical issues. People should be at the centre of every technology-led decision you make, starting with a communication strategy that fosters collaboration at every turn by allowing teams to share files, send messages and present work in the one place – not just sit through countless video calls. Leaders should make it simple for employees to work across a range of devices suited to their own personal preferences, and accommodate their unique schedules by allowing them to select virtual time-outs of their choosing.
- Ensure Secure and Compliant Collaboration: Data protection and the mitigation of cybersecurity risks is a major concern for banks with remote workforces. As employees work from anywhere, across personal devices and in shared, non-bank workspaces, leaders need to ensure visibility over workflows to prevent cyber risks from becoming threats. This is achieved by keeping data in a secure and connected online ecosystem, supported with machine learning and AI. Facial and voice recognition is a technology that is available to ensure customer data is handled by the right agents in the right way, preventing data loss and upholding customer data integrity.
- Get frontline employees solving issues quickly: When the pandemic first hit, many contact centres across Asia ceased operations overnight, creating a sea of backlogs and frustrated customers. These banks did bounce back, however, and managed the mass transition to remote working effectively – reporting productivity gains as they administered a large number of applications for financial relief. As banks work towards a permanent hybrid arrangement, agents need to be supported to manage increased workloads and provide real-time resolutions to customers, through ready access to knowledge hubs with information, and the integration of automation and AI, for example with voice bots that can intuitively determine the value of a query and direct it towards self-service, digital chat or a live agent.
- Support their wellbeing: Uncertain work environments have caused a lot of disruption in employees’ lives, and it is critical during these times to support their wellbeing. The World Economic Forum recently found that the pandemic has caused 55 per cent of working adults to be stressed due to changes in work routines, and 49 per cent to feel lonely or isolated working from home. Bank leaders need a tiered strategy that manages the wellbeing of employees while at home and in the office. Remotely, the predictive analytics offered by AI can identify calls where swearing or aggression is exhibited, and automatically initiate post-interaction surveys for agents to check how they feel after the interaction and intervene with support when necessary. When the time comes to return to the office, employees should feel secure in the knowledge that their workplace has a strategy in place to determine who should return and when, taking into account current regulations and what is required in terms of operational efficacy.
COVID-19 has shown us that banks have the agility and resourcefulness to remain productive and deliver customer experiences when external factors cause changes in work environments. To kick this up a level, and establish a sustainable model for hybrid work, banks need to harness the right tools, data and insights to meet these challenges head-on.
Meng Teck is an industry veteran spending majority of his 20 years career in consulting, design &
implementing solutions improving customer experience & real-time collaboration. He is currently leading a
team of highly motivated UC&C solutions specialists across APAC for Avaya Singapore Pte Ltd, overseeing
product portfolio that is more than USD100M per annum.