Money Moves

All it takes

by Grace Chan

Ada Chiu, head of direct channels
personal financial services
Photo: Edde Ngan

Banking giant expands frontline team to boost customer service

Diversification in banking is creating new opportunities for professionals in the industry. With customers increasingly shifting their patronage from traditional counter services to more convenient self-service channels such as telephone banking, one leading institution is beefing up its sales and client service team to accommodate business growth.

Earlier this year, HSBC launched a recruitment campaign to attract candidates to a number of vacancies for business development officer and customer care officer in its telephone banking division.

"We're still hiring for these two positions," says Ada Chiu, head of direct channels, personal financial services, HSBC. "Our phone banking division currently has about 500 frontline staff and we plan to increase this figure by 100 positions."

Likening the two roles to a pair of chopsticks, Ms Chiu explains that sales and service go hand in hand and that the two complement each other. "No modern company can maximise sales without also providing good customer service," she adds.

While business development officers create and capture opportunities through "proactive selling" by making outbound calls to existing customers, their customer care colleagues deal mainly with incoming calls. Both positions involve fostering long-term customer relations through excellent service, identifying client needs and ensuring that customers get the full benefit of the bank's comprehensive products and services.

Essential qualities

Ms Chiu notes that the challenge for business development officers is to show initiative in calling up existing customers and looking for additional business. An outgoing personality is therefore a prerequisite. "Customer care team members in turn should have the ability to communicate effectively through telephone conversations, while demonstrating their professional knowledge," she remarks.

Since both jobs require constant interaction with people from a range of backgrounds, prospective recruits need to be service orientated and highly motivated, with a positive attitude.

"Although we do not require job candidates to possess a bachelor's degree, those with a sound educational background, investment or insurance licences and relevant work experience will have an advantage," Ms Chiu says.

All newcomers will be placed on structured training programmes aimed at equipping them for serving customers to the required standard.

Aside from on-the-job training, new recruits will also receive classroom teaching and access to the bank's e-learning platform to improve their technical and soft skills, focusing on product knowledge, work procedures, compliance issues, customer service, selling techniques and maintaining a positive mindset.

"Hard skills alone aren't enough. New joiners should have a high emotional intelligence quotient, as it's important for them to remain positive even when the going gets tough," says Ms Chiu.

Once they have completed one to three months of basic training, new recruits are supported by a mentoring and buddy programme, learning the ropes under the watchful eyes of senior call agents from different teams. They may also attend workshops to obtain the necessary investment and insurance credentials.

New staff members' learning progress is monitored and they are required to sit a number of in-house examinations to ensure they measure up to requirements and gain the necessary accreditation.

Growth opportunities

HSBC's telephone banking platform is an ideal springboard for career development, given the growing demand for this service and its immense business potential, Ms Chiu stresses.

"In terms of staff numbers, phone banking is now our second largest division. Employees have flexibility when it comes to their career paths—business development officers can transfer to the customer care team and vice versa," she says, noting that exceptional high performers with the right attitude and skills can be promoted to the position of senior officer in six months and to principal officer in another.

With HSBC's telephone banking sub-divisions including training, strategic planning and administration, employees have plenty of scope for lateral and vertical movement and a number of career development options. Ms Chiu's direct channels department also includes the ATM and internet divisions, enabling cross-divisional transfers.

Since HSBC believes that a pleasant working environment contributes to a contented workforce, all employees have access to a break-out room which is furnished with massage chairs and a television set. Staff members who are writing exams or engaged in self-study may use the partitioned study room.

"Banking clients these days are more receptive to direct selling than in the past and are often happy to apply for various banking products over the telephone," notes Ms Chiu. "By hiring more quality people, we add value to our service and create new business opportunities."

"By hiring more quality people, we add value to our service and create new business opportunities"

Make the right call

  • Bank to hire an additional 100 frontline staff
  • Business development and customer care roles complement each other
  • New employees receive on-the-job and classroom training, e-learning opportunities and mentoring
  • Plenty of possibilities for vertical and horizontal career development

Taken from Career Times 9 July 2010, A2

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