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Name of Organization/Company: AIB (Allied Irish Banks), Dublin, Ireland
Category: Achievement in Customer Training

Entry Title: Allied Irish Banks: AIB’s CHATs Customer-First Training Transforms Customer Complaints Journey


Headquartered in Dublin, Ireland and employing 9356 employees, Allied Irish Banks (AIB) financial services group operates predominantly in the Republic of Ireland and the UK. AIB provides a comprehensive range of services to personal, business and corporate customers with leading market shares in banking products in the Republic of Ireland.

In recent years, against a backdrop of exceptional change in Ireland and the banking sector, AIB's business has been restructured with the aim of becoming a more customer-focused, profitable and sustainable institution, well-positioned to support economic recovery in Ireland while seeking to generate sustainable shareholder returns. Today, AIB is proud to be recognised as one of the leading banks in Ireland by our 2.8 million customers.

In 2019, as we faced challenges around Brexit and Covid-19, we held true to our long-term ‘Customer First’ strategic goal and united around our singular purpose “to back our customers to achieve their dreams and ambitions.”

We turned our focus to improving complaints resolution, arming our people with the skills to help cope with difficult situations and transforming the experiences of our customers, a true reflection of AIB’s long-term holistic approach to achieving better customer outcomes.

At the start of 2020, research identified 7 pain points in our customer journey. These included the ‘fear factor’ - not knowing what to do when a customer is angry and being afraid of making mistakes - to a lack of confidence and working individually rather than as one team.

The Heart Of The Matter - CHATs

A specifically designed Complaints Handling and Telephone Skills Training programme (CHATs) for all 600+ customer-facing, phone-based staff was launched in June 2020, two months after the first lockdown. It was a stressful time on the front line and this intervention proved invaluable.

Learning objectives covered skill gaps such as knowing the difference between a complaint and a query, ways to increase confidence, and how to turn a complaint around.

Customer-First Achieved

Mandatory for all 600+ telephone-based staff, CHATs was made available across AIB, achieving outstanding take-up of 381% in just 6 months, 98% internal NPS and driving the following improvements:

● Greatly improved skills and confidence in handling customer complaints over the phone
● Transformed customer experience of the complaints process (NPS improved)
● More phone-based staff owning and handling complaints on the spot (rather than passing them on or pointing fingers)
● Everyone assuming the customer’s complaint is valid and doing what they can to make the complaint right

Crucially, AIB has seen Complaints NPS improvement across the board since implementation and greater resilience has spread to all parts of the business.

This was an innovative solution that engaged AIB’s diverse workforce, helping to build long-term resilience and shift mindsets, in the following ways:

Phone-based staff were involved in the design, testing and development, giving it reality and truth. Unusually this involvement was communicated to participants and contributed to 95% participants stating the course was ‘highly effective’.

Real-world customer scenarios covered deposits, loans, long-term investments, foreign currency, providing a ‘safe space’. 95% participants agreed they are now in a position to put the learning to practical use in their role.

Participants are rewarded for successful completion with CPD accreditation with the Institute of Bankers worth 1 hour.

Unique to AIB, the Skill-O-Meter is an innovative ‘visual barometer’ of participants’ progress through the course.

High demand: Although only mandatory for 600+ phone-based staff, the number of completions across AIB has now reached 2,037, a 381% completion rate far exceeding expectations.

98% would recommend: “I completed this last week and thought it was excellent.”. Aoife (Head of BCS phones-based staff).

Covid-19: Despite the impact of the pandemic, our customer service delivery continued uninterrupted, with the average time taken to close a complaint in 2020 maintained at the 2019 level of 14.5 days.

Customer impact: With staff reporting greatly improved skills and confidence, and focused on owning and resolving issues together, CHATs has had a direct impact on the Complaints Journey NPS, showing significant improvements across all areas year-on-year.

Future use: CHATs has now become part of a wider refresher week on improving customer service.

The video in Webpage Link 1 outlines AIB’s outstanding achievements as follows:

Long-term customer focus - AIB’s fundamental goal is to support customers, communities and economies, with Customer-First named as one of the AIB 5 strategic pillars. A core part of the bank’s strategy to 2023.

7 specific customer pain points were identified, with Covid-19 and Brexit compounding the challenge in delivering outstanding CX for customer-facing staff.

Two training interventions helped to set participants up for success, before they undertook Complaints Handling and Telephone Skills Training (CHATs).

The course structure was designed to feel ‘light hearted’ and interactive to achieve maximum learning in a ‘safe space’.

Course topics included exercises demonstrating ‘what good looks like’ and specific real-world scenarios, written and tested by members of the phone-based team themselves.

AIB’s unique Skill-O-Meter helps to guide and motivate participants as they progress, with a visual emoji-inspired barometer.

Regulatory resources: These guidelines are made available to refer to and download at any point.

8 learning objectives successfully delivered a shift in mindsets, building resilience and skill.

Results have included a 381% completion rate, beyond all expectations, as take up went beyond the 600+ mandatory staff to 2037 completions.

Unsolicited feedback from participants and key stakeholders has been outstanding with 98% participants recommending the course to others.

Customer Complaints Journey NPS has shown considerable improvement across the board, including almost 6 points improvement for solely phones-based staff, demonstrating AIB is truly putting customers first.

Webpage Link 1: https://360.articulate.com/review/content/9399e323-41c5-4429-9eb1-6d95b29340e7/review
Webpage Link 2: https://aib.ie/
Webpage Link 3: https://aib.ie/investorrelations
Web Page Link 4: https://group.aib.ie/content/dam/aib/group/Docs/Press%20Releases/2021/aib-group-plc-announces-2020-annual-financial-results-5-march-2021.pdf
Web Page Link 5: https://group.aib.ie/press-office
Web Page Link 6: https://www.irishtimes.com/business/financial-services/aib-s-colin-hunt-sticking-with-long-term-focus-through-the-crisis-1.4598667