Citizens Bank

Inside a successful cross-training initiative at Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank, one of the oldest and largest financial institutions in the US, has a frontline workforce of 7,000 consumer banking colleagues. Ordinarily, they’re split between the 24/7 contact center and the bank’s 1,000 branches in 11 states. But the COVID-19 pandemic changed things.

“COVID-19 caused us to rethink how we support customers,” says Leanne Kearney, VP of Learning and Development for Citizens Bank. “Customers were primarily reaching out via the phone. Volume went up considerably.”

They immediately saw the opportunity to transition retail colleagues in the branches onto phone support to keep up with demand. These colleagues already had the customer service skills—but they needed to get up to speed on the contact center’s systems and processes.

“We were able to use the existing content in Axonify that we had developed for contact center, and quickly repurposed it to ramp up retail colleagues on the skills they needed,” says Kearney. “It worked swimmingly—we were able to quickly give them the knowledge they needed to be successful on the phones.”

Citizens Bank employee talking on a headset

It all starts with engagement

Even the best training programs fall flat if users don’t log in. Fortunately, Citizens Bank’s user participation rate in Axonify is in the mid-80%—a key factor in the success of their cross-training initiative.

“No matter what we push out through Axonify—whether it’s a message, questions, a module—we know that the colleagues are going to access it,” says Heather Dockray, Instructional Designer at Citizens Bank. “It’s such a great feeling to know they are going to take the training and take it at the right time, which is crucial in this situation.”

Kearney adds, “People are so excited to go in there for their daily dose of knowledge. Being able to deliver training this way, with such a high participation rate, is kind of a no-brainer.”

Following up to fill knowledge gaps

The L&D team knew that one-and-done training wouldn’t be enough to help retail colleagues successfully transition to a brand new role. That’s where the daily reinforcement questions came in, delivered through 3 – 5 minute training sessions in Axonify every shift.

“Based on feedback from their phone calls, we realized some colleagues had a few pieces they needed to brush up on,” says Kearney. “Axonify is a very nimble platform, so we could quickly develop the questions and get them out to those people to reinforce what they initially learned. Prior to having a platform like Axonify, we weren’t able to be as quick to get training to market.”

With a close eye on their KPIs, the team could adjust daily training on the fly to make sure new contact center employees had what they needed to deliver a consistent, high-quality customer experience.

"It's giving colleagues the on-the-job knowledge and skills they need when they need them—and it's also giving them the confidence, so they can in turn talk to customers confidently." Heather Dockray, Instructional Designer, Citizens Bank
Citizens Bank customer

Building the agile workforce of the future

The shift from branch to contact center was borne out of necessity—but the ease of rolling out cross-training, as well as the unexpected benefits of the hybrid role, have caused Citizens Bank to think differently about their frontline workforce.

“We uncovered a great synergy between contact center and retail. It makes for a successful colleague to have someone that can work in both the call center and the retail branch, and it’s something that we’re still actively doing today,” says Kearney. “In the future, we’ll continue to use the Axonify platform to make sure we’re cross-pollinating these groups.”

As their customer experience evolves to balance the right mix of human interaction and technology, these hybrid employees are well-positioned to advance Citizens mission to transform how people think about banking.

“Through this whole experience, the customer feedback has been how great it is to learn about the different ways to bank here. The education we’ve been able to give colleagues on those different pieces took that to another level,” says Kearney. “I think that’s really a pivotal point as we move forward and as we make further enhancements to our digital platforms, to build the confidence for colleagues to be successful.”

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