Thursday, July 30, 2009

Here We Go A-G.A.I.N.

So yesterday I went to the big top secret G.A.I.N. (Greet, Assess, Inform, Next Steps) training. I say top secret because every time I asked someone higher up about the training, they would only tell me "I can't tell you anything about it" (as if it was KFC's secret recipe or something).

Well, I'M gonna tell you about it.

Our trainers were nice, if a bit too over-energetic. Basically, the training enforces behaviors many of us are currently engaged in, like shaking hands, greeting the client with our name and getting theirs, assessing client needs and explaining products. But it shifts the focus onto the client and their needs, and will not be so product driven. We're being transitioned into almost sort of a financial counsellor role, rather than pushing the "hot product," which is a change I am excited about. I hate having a client come to me about savings and ending up trying to sell them Incentive Checking account because if I don't I might not make my incentives (more on that another day). Now, we're going to be encouraged to analyze our client's needs and recommend the right product, which technically, we have always done, but the focus is more on the client rather than the product.

There are some parts of the new methodology I am not thrilled about. We're being "strongly encouraged" (I won't say "forced") to continue to engage in lengthy small talk before recommending products to probe for information, walk the client to the door, and then continue our computer wrap up before helping the next client. I think a few of our more impatient clients will take issue with some of that, but part of the training is also for us to "retrain" our customers to expect that kind of personalized care every time. I understand all of this.

Seems like Fiscal United Bank is trying to make everything very formulaic in an effort to make things more personal. Hey, whatever's clever. I think that all the INTENTIONS behind the new processes are solid. Just seems like Fiscal United is taking out any wiggle room for personal style that we may have to our job.

Most of my clients love me. I have build great client relationships doing what I do, and it never involved forcing "small talk with a purpose," ignoring my computer for the first 70% of the customer interaction, or taking my time walking people to the door rather than helping the next client. I'll do what's necessary to toe the line, but I can't see how this forced approach is going to help my clients more than me being genuine with them.

But back to the training. It seemed to me like the biggest gaff came when they asked us what we were happy about and what we were concerned about with the new methodology. Most (if not all) of the people in our group expressed concerns about walking clients to the door, especially while other clients were waiting in the lobby. I was one of the more vocal detractors of this practice for a variety of reasons. It seemed to me that the trainers were trying to assuage my hesitancies (and those of my fellow classmates) in one sentence explanations, and then asking if I was OK after each sentence. After a few minutes of that not working, one of the senior trainers rather brusquely stated that we were spending an inordinate amount of time on the subject and wanted to know what the real issue was. I explained that I was willing to drop it and move on for the sake of expediency, but that I remained unconvinced of the necessity of such a step.

Don't get me wrong, if it wasn't for my back being a trainwreck, I'd be walking them out to the parking lot if it was what's required. As it is, I have a medical exception excusing me from any standing, so I'll need to work that much harder to make them feel at home without walking them to the door, but I am up to that challenge (I feel pretty successful at that as it is). But that doesn't mean I don't find the practice questionable. They asked if we had concerns, not if we were going to committ mutiny. I felt like I was being asked for my opinion, being told I was wrong, and then asked for my opinion again, and being made to feel like I was a bother when I gave the same opinion. I'm sure that's not what her intention was, but I felt like she was invalidating my opinion.

I think the training will lead us towards being a better bank as a whole, but so long as Fiscal United Bank is locking us rigidly into a scripted approach with no room for improvisation or personalization, it'll be a rough, jerky, awkward ride.

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