In business since 1868, Sandy Spring Bank is the oldest independent bank in Maryland and one of the fastest-growing banks in the country. With more than 600 employees and operations in commercial and retail banking as well as trust services, the bank distinguishes itself by providing the very best client service in the communities it serves. Sandy Spring Bank doesn’t want its rapid growth to negatively impact this tradition of excellent service, so it must work hard to retain the existing culture. To ensure this happens, the training department is relied on as a critical partner to the business lines.
Sandi Maxey, vice president and manager of training and development, personally wants to make sure the company dedication to service only grows. To become more effective in her role, she and her team determined that they needed to add e-learning to their toolkit. She believed it was necessary in order to continue to provide consistent levels of high-quality service as the bank expanded its geographic footprint into remote locations. In addition, they wanted to enhance their tracking capabilities to better understand who was doing what, what was working and what needed changing.
Maxey, however, was concerned that bank staff might not be prepared for e-learning and the technical adoption it required across the company. Sandy Spring Bank made the decision to first “pilot” the concept within one department—the client service center. The client service center was chosen because its people had employee and client contact, were comfortable with technology and were traditionally trained “hands-on” due to logistical challenges for formal training. They were also commonly tapped to test new company initiatives because they monitored operational metrics, making it easier to measure real impact.
Maxey and her team as well as client service center management wanted to make sure that training was more consistent and measurable. In addition, they wanted agents to have the ability to leverage training materials as a reference resource. Most importantly, they didn’t want any training efforts to interfere with operations.
Understanding these objectives, Sandy Spring created unique “learning plans” for three separate job roles within the client service center, each with its own set of learning requirements. These plans and their associated courses would be available to employees via the Internet, 24×7. Sandy Spring also established options to help staff become comfortable with online training and provided “training times” to aid employees in carving out time to learn, without interfering with their day-to-day line responsibilities.
Each learning plan included short, custom-developed courses that addressed specific Sandy Spring cultural and operational issues. These included things like listening skills, business etiquette and accuracy. The course created sample customer call scenarios to help agents understand the best approach to handling interactions. In addition, the courses had an assessment to ensure comprehension. Finally, much of the photography in the course was of real agents from the bank. This melding of required information and a lively, personalized format helped keep agents informed and interested. According to Maxey, “it really helped to get the support and energy we needed from the group.”
In order to understand the impact of this initiative, calls were sampled for one month prior to launch and for one month following implementation. The key metric tracked for this test was the use of a client name during a call—deemed critical by management, but mystery shops showed poor compliance. The improvement was significant–nearly four times better–from a baseline score of 20 percent to a post-training score of 78 percent. In addition, through a post-pilot survey, 100 percent of the agents felt that the course content was relevant to their jobs, and 90 percent found the training helpful and useful.
Maxey announced the results to all business line managers and received positive feedback.
“The training team, the client service center and management were all thrilled with the results. It gave us the hard evidence we needed to roll out further initiatives company-wide and make this an integral part of our annual training plan,” said Maxey.