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Keeping the Customer in Focus During M&As:

By Darryl Demos

Banks Turn to Workforce Optimization 

The mergers and acquisitions of banks will continue in the wake of the banking crisis.  From the large—Wells Fargo acquiring Wachovia, and JPMorgan Chase acquiring Washington Mutual—to the small, these financial institutions will be faced with customer wariness, skepticism and in some cases abandonment. In addition, public scrutiny will be intense as we wait to see how banks manage their businesses, and regain financial strength and customer trust.  Addressing the concerns and needs of customers will be imperative to survival.

A branch balancing act—
costs versus service
The area of the business that has the greatest impact on customer service delivery is the bank branch.  Financial service institutions are tasked with balancing productivity, performance and cost containment with revenue generation, service quality, customer satisfaction and staff retention.  The challenge becomes even greater in a merger situation, where there are extensive IT integrations, staff reorganizations and site consolidations.  Today, more than ever, financial services firms need a systemic, data-driven means of determining the number and type of staff and organizational structure to effectively do business and provide superior customer service in both the short and long term. 
Align staff with
customer demand
A workforce optimization (WFO) business strategy and solution set can help address these great opportunities and needs.  WFO in a financial services environment includes forecasting staffing requirements, scheduling to meet customer service levels and strategic planning for long-term budgeting of resources; application and process analysis to help ensure employee efficiency; performance scorecards and eLearning; along with enterprise reporting capabilities—all as part of a single solution. 
Armed with these tools, financial services institutions can gain visibility into customer service processes, workforce productivity and performance, along with customer intelligence across their retail financial services enterprises.  They can help ensure they have the right staff, with the right skills, at the right place and time to meet customer service needs and goals.  And with a WFO software solution, banks can create a base-line model of all the volumes and types of work that need to be performed – whether in remote stores/branches, the contact center or back-office operations. 
A branch WFO solution incorporates multiple parameters – such as time of day, day of week/month, seasonality and market trends – to create an accurate forecast of customer traffic patterns and transaction volumes.  Organizations can then use the baseline model to test assumptions and procedural changes, quantifying the impact on customer service and expenses, prior to instituting changes.  Particularly in a merger/acquisition situation, the model helps management understand and implement:
Short-term procedural changes to accommodate the first months post-merger
Long-term changes for creating the go-forward business model of the new organization
Processes supporting new products, services and geographies
Changes from systems integrations

Following are two examples of how base-lining demand and then aligning resources enabled merging banks to improve productivity and cut costs, while maintaining high levels of customer service:
A large retail bank reduced staff across the combined branch network by 20 percent with little impact to customer service by crafting a robust staffing model and conducting multiple scenarios before rolling out the plan. 
Fifteen payment processing centers were consolidated into nine as a result of the merger of two regional banks.  Using a back-office WFO solution, the banks were able to consolidate sites, while improving productivity by 15 to 20 percent, still meeting customer service goals.

An added benefit of a WFO solution is that it incorporates employee scheduling preferences.  So if a college student, for instance, is only available to work Tuesdays and Thursdays, the system will adhere to that requirement.  The same applies for vacation and personal time-off requests.  Employees and managers are no longer frustrated by having to haggle over schedules and availability, a process that introduces both productivity and efficiency gains. 

Improve service quality
A branch WFO solution also enables organizations to continually monitor and improve performance across the branch network.  Challenges in adoption of new processes and systems can easily be identified, and additional training or coaching assigned to individuals or groups adapting to the changes. 
Advances in WFO monitoring functionality introduce further benefits, enabling banks to capture and analyze the activity on the individual employee’s desktop.  Data gathered through this system can help banks identify best practices, business process issues, idle time and opportunities to shorten transactions to help ensure customers are waited on in a timely, efficient manner.  By monitoring processes across the branch network, a consistent level of service can be delivered, regardless of the branch the customer visits. 
In today’s economic climate, as financial services institutions seek to gain cost savings and efficiencies and generate new revenue through acquired customers and market share, customers must remain at the forefront of their efforts.  WFO solutions provide a systemic, data-driven means of evaluating and balancing cost management initiatives with delivering superior customer service, and enable ongoing measurement and management of the combined entity for continual performance improvement.  

Darryl Demos, general manager of the Enterprise Solutions Group within Verint Witness Actionable Solutions, has been consulting with some of the world’s most recognized financial services companies for more than two decades—with a focus on technology and business processes designed to deliver differentiated customer service and effective integration of staff during mergers and acquisitions.  For more information, contact the author at

Posted on Thursday, April 16, 2009 (Archive on Wednesday, July 15, 2009)
Posted by Scott  Contributed by Scott


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