by Jonathan Bernstein, Executive Director and General Manager, Interbrand
For financial service companies in Asia, competition has never been more fierce, customers have never been more fickle, and technology has never been more disruptive. In this difficult environment, employees are a key asset a company can leverage to create brand loyalty.
Agents of Business Growth
In Asia, effective employee engagement that drives business performance is rare. Too often, efforts suffer from several fundamental – yet addressable – flaws. At the outset, the organization’s leaders do not own employee engagement efforts, which are typically driven by human resources or communications divisions. Furthermore, engagement programmes approach the workforce as a homogeneous entity, failing to acknowledge the different needs and motivations of different types of employees. It leads to diluted messages that fail to resonate with their intended audiences.
The prevailing view of employee engagement is that it’s primarily an internal communications endeavor, with the fairly limited objective of sharing business goals and explaining how job functions support these goals. They fail to link employee behaviour to the desired customer experience, thus failing to create real business impact. What is required is a segmented, tailored approach that truly activates employees as agents of business growth – from understanding to action, and from action to an initiative. In many ways, customer experience reflects what transpires inside an organization, and a customer usually feels the lack of alignment of internal behaviors at some touchpoint in his/her journey.
Likewise, when every individual in the business works in harmony, customers experience that positive coherence. It brings about the tangible benefits of more customers, greater loyalty, and premium pricing.
Driving Behaviour Change
There are five must-dos when seeking to engage employees in a manner that results in a richer customer experience.
- Drive the initiative from the top. Employee engagement efforts can start from the bottom or from a division, but true organizational impact requires the leadership’s support.
- Segment the workforce as you would your customers. Along with HR, it’s important to work with key business and functional heads to understand the diverse employee groups. For example, the needs and motivations of a bank teller in the provinces will differ from those of a senior banker working in a head office.
- Move beyond internal communications. Emphasize how to live the brand through actionable behaviors and link these actions to desired customer experiences. The sum of these actions will lead to increased customer loyalty and preference, and as a result, better business performance.
- Help internal staff understand the role they play on the outside. Many back-office function employees do not realise that they are brand custodians too, and the vital part they play in delivering the customer experience.
- Create scalable solutions that can easily be accessed and delivered through digital channels, such as an internal socialization tools and platforms.
BDO – We Find Ways
BDO in the Philippines is an example of a bank that lives these best practices. When BDO Unibank merged with Equitable PCI Bank in 2007, it established the brand proposition of “We find ways”. BDO, working with Interbrand, then focused on building a strong employer brand to not only attract the best talent but also to align its culture with its vision.
“We needed to unify our story under one brand proposition that is common and genuinely practiced across the whole Bank – one that is anchored on service, the genuine desire to help customers and the ability to think out of the box,” shared Nestor Tan, Director, President and Chief Executive Officer at BDO Unibank.
Today, BDO maintains a No. 1 or 2 market share position in almost every major product category of significance. Annual usage, attitude and image studies since 2010 show that along with advertising, customer experience in the branch network has been a major driver of BDO’s image. BDO’s continued commitment to its customer promise “We find ways” – with its supporting customer service philosophy – is reflected in its customer tracking scores. Over the past 5 years, its main index score exceeds both regional and global standards. Moreover, among local multi-banking customers, the tracking shows a significant advantage for BDO over its nearest competitors.
“More than a cultural aspiration, our employees genuinely practice ‘We find ways’ to help our customers. They’re engaged and are proud to work for BDO, always going the extra mile to ensure that customers receive the best overall banking experience and deliver better results for all stakeholders,” concludes Tan.
With competition increasing through greater regional integration, Asian banks need to effectively deploy all of the assets they have to build customer loyalty. Engaging employees to create more meaningful customer experiences is a lever that Asian banks should embrace to drive this loyalty.